Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Meditation & Psychotherapy- Mental Health Counseling Services

Meditation and Psychotherapy

In today’s post-modern era, cutting edge understandings of mental health are emerging through an integration of both eastern spirituality and western psychology. Both traditions work with the mind, subjectivity and consciousness in different and complimentary ways. To do psychological work, one needs to be fully present in the moment and conversely, to do spiritual work, one needs to make peace with one’s personal wounds and traumas. Together like two wings of the same bird that move synchronically, they bring about self-knowledge and transformation. Combining meditation and psychotherapy will go beyond the individual limitations that shore up against each approach, namely, the shadow (i.e. disowned, split of aspects of one’s personality which are either positive or negative), which meditation does not integrate and conversely, the exaggeration of the wounded ego in conventional psychotherapy.
In my own therapeutic practice I have noticed that by both, supporting my clients in their mindfulness practice as well as facilitating psychological processing with some cognitive and behavioral shifts, has helped their capacity to self- regulate, become aware and integrate their rejected parts and most significantly, suffer less.

Nature As My Co-Therapist & Mindfulness Therapy for Depression


I always encourage my clients to grant themselves solitary time in nature and moreover,  like to do retreats or therapeutic work in the wilderness with them. Consciously, spending time in the natural world is one of the most healing presents you could give yourself. Being-in-nature with a client serves as a holding environment, where a client can let go, relax and go deeper into their process. Since most of my work is in urban environments, occasionally, just doing a session in a park has a profound effect on the therapeutic exchange.
Scientifically, research has shown that time spent in the biosphere helps lift depression, brings down blood pressure, alleviates mental fatigue, relieves stress and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, to name a few benefits.  Although, there are definite psychophysiological shifts when immersed in nature, if we are busy with our smart phones, iPods, iPads or are engaged in compulsive thinking the positive effects of being in nature are reduced.
Our minds in their habitual thought patterns often veer us towards the future or the past, dissociating us from our environment and diminishing our capacity to stay with what IS.  In order to prevent ourselves from unconsciously hijacking our nature experiences with nonstop thinking, I recommend practicing mindfulness meditation when immersed in mother Earth. Please use this link to read about different nature meditations you can practice.

Dream Remembrance, Practice Of Dreamtime in Mumbai, India

Remembering Dreams

Many indigenous societies, over space and time have given importance to dreams and have regarded them as messages from the Gods, oracles, spirit communications, a reservoir of important symbols, sources of deep wisdom and portals of spiritual experience. Different cultures, ranging from the Dream temples of the Hellenistic era to Tibetan dream yoga practices to the practice of Dreamtime, prevalent in many Australian aboriginal cultures, have given dreaming a central place in their religious and healing traditions.

Dreams represent the mytho-poetic and aesthetic processes of our psyches . . . Dreams are embodied images that reflect where we are in our lives, and what our most intimate and existential concerns, hopes, and fears are. Dreams don’t tell us what to do, but point us towards where we need to give attention to in our waking lives.

Bridging the dream life to the waking life, then, is an important kernel of psyche-therapeutic work as dreams are, as stated by Freud, “ the royal road to the unconscious.”

I always encourage my clients to remember and record their dreams in a dream journal and often facilitate them in processing their dreams in sessions so as to allow for a deeper, self-illuminating process.

Yet, often clients complain that they cannot remember their dreams, if this might be the case, please refer to the below link to allow for dream remembrance.

Health Psychology- Mind, Body, Stress & Anxiety Disorder

Health Psychology

The term “health psychology” pertains to our emotional and psychophysiological responses to our personal conditions of health and illness as well as thoughts, emotions and  behaviours  that either contribute to or hinder our well-being.
Often in the  Cartesian world of conventional  bio-medicine, individuals are split up as bodies and minds, implicitly  implying that the mind and the body are separate entities and not connected. This is because whatever the ailment whether it is cancer, auto immune diseases, irritable bowl syndrome, obesity etc.  the physical body is always treated with surgery and pharmaceutical drugs but the mind or rather the psyche is often left out and rarely given therapeutic attention.
This is unfortunate on two accounts, firstly,  people have very strong emotional reactions to their illnesses and physical disabilities,  which need to be treated as individuals could spiral into clinical depression, severe anxiety, anger or frustration in relation to not “feeling well,” which could hamper their recovery.
Secondly, our bodymind is an integrated system whose reciprocity needs to be acknowledged. Today, illnesses  such as fibromyalgia as well many neuro-endocrinological disorders are all pointing towards psychogenic causes of these conditions, as is the whole field of psychoneuroimmunology which emphasises the inter-connections between the psyche, nervous system and immune system.
The role of stress and anxiety in the cause and proliferation of illness ranging from cancer to coronary disease to diabetes  is getting highlighted, as last year in the US alone more 300$ billion dollars were spent on stress-related medical ailments. It is interesting to note that in contrast to conventional western medicine,  nonwestern medical systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine have always given importance to and have inquired into the subjective states of those who were sick and have underscored a deep connection between the mind and the body.
Drawing from Eastern philosophical  systems of understanding the psyche-sensorium, I often work with people who are suffering or surviving from cancer or have recently recovered from heart attacks or those who have had Bariatric surgery with mindfulness-based cognitive therapeutic interventions. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helps  facilitate my clients to regulate their disturbing emotions regarding their physical conditions and enables them to tolerate  distress with more ease. Accepting and working with our emotional reactions to dis-ease has a huge impact for our recovery and ongoing maintenance of health. While not a substitute for medical attention, health-oriented psychotherapeutic attention is a very important complement and adjunct.

2 thoughts on “Health Psychology

  1. Mauricio
    I have a LOT of experience with “mindfulness.” Did it for 30 years. Taught for a while. But that’s not the imtnaprot point. The imtnaprot point is study design.Where are the controls? What’s the demonstration that the subjects were doing anything other than sitting around? How much of the time they were practicing were they actually being “mindful?” Did they receive any other training (often, mindfulness studies include various types of group teaching or therapy or other support)? Are there any counterfactual cohorts (e.g. people who get a massage, or take some drug, or watch a comedy on TV)?In other words, while I’m a fan of the practice, I’m NOT a fan of almost all of the studies that have been done.At a recent cognitive psych conference, the Dalai Lama was a special guest. Many of the researchers were ecstatic, because they’re true believers in meditation (and, often, Buddhism). Only a few of the attendees pointed out the bias of many of the researchers and asked why it was imtnaprot to have a Tibetan Buddhist at a cog-psy conference.
    • I think your raising some very important points here. Yes, there is always a researcher bias – true objectivity remains a fantasy, but phenomenologically and qualitatively, individuals (including myself) have felt shifts in their attention, concentration, awareness of “when the mind is running off” etc and this has enabled people(my clients and myself) more choice and the ability to dis-identify with unwanted or unproductive thoughts and behaviours. There is a lot of work done by Dan Siegal and others where MRI’s and PET scans of advanced meditator’s brains have been undertaken which show enhanced activity in the pre-frontal orbital complex. While I can understand that you may not agree with the methodology of double blinded random trials, there is evidence that mindfulness facilitates new ways of knowing and garnering novel neural pathways. . . . of course, this is subjective to practice. Yes, subjects could be just “sitting around” but not those who really get and understand the value of watching their mind . . . I don’t see any harm about the Dalai Lama being a special guest as I appreciate inter-cultural dialogue.

How to work with Low Self-Esteem in Romantic Relationships

Self Esteem in Romantic Relationships

Low Self Esteem in Romantic Relationships
Often we think that relationships, especially, personal, intimate and romantic one’s, would nurture and nourish us and in turn boost our self-confidence. However, sometimes, this is not the case, if we have inadvertently spiraled off into a destructive or passionless or simply dead and boring relationship quagmire. What drives one to persist in (and with) a painful and unsatisfying set of circumstances, in what was once a romantic relationship that was supposed to give you pleasure and joy? As when we get into a relationship, we are generally not signing up for prolonged physical, emotional and sexual neglect or abuse.
What then could be the motivation to subject oneself to the agony of continuing to be willfully involved with a violent alcoholic or a sex addict or an emotionally unavailable workaholic who just does not have time for you? In other words, what is that kernel within ourselves that enables us to remain, consciously and unconsciously, in self-damaging situations with a dysfunctional partner while staying frozen in a maladaptive relational pattern?
How we embody low self-esteem
On some level, the reason why we choose to persist, and I would reiterate the choice in the matter, is perhaps, on some deep level we believe that we deserve no better, having a low opinion of ourselves and our capacities to be an independent and likable individual. These kinds of negative assumption of ourselves tantamount to a subliminal form of self-hatred. Latently or even manifestly, the voice of one’s inner critic, ensures that we remain embroiled in emotional anguish ad nauseum, while we continue to live our lives as gluttons for punishment as we feel that we deserve to be slapped, cheated on or mistreated because we might be ugly, fat, old, stupid, unattractive, unintelligent etc.
We make excuses about why we cannot leave a painful and harmful dynamic which is anything but romantic because we have a fear of being alone, that we are financially dependent, that we have children with the person who abuses us or that we nurse a fantasy that our partner will change. However, over a period of time, these assumptions show themselves as examples of self-defeating delusions and fears that undermine ourselves. Bluntly put, the foundational core for these emotionally unintelligent assumptions is low or very low self esteem that sabotages us from living a better life and fashions a self-fulfilling prophesy of victimhood. Low self esteem is a requirement to tolerate unpleasant relationships because in some sense one is habituated to being treated badly and may at other times actually be a license for one’s partner to treat one shabbily.
Reasons why we develop low self esteem
Perhaps we grew up with an absent or an emotionally unavailable parent or experienced damaging developmental trauma that destabilized our sense of self or we were simply bullied at school. Admittedly, there might have been pain in our lives but to blame ourselves for bad things that happened to us or to wallow in them indefinitely and play the victim is self-destructive. Often the roots of low self- esteem lie deep in a wounded child within us who feels “not good enough.” As children we feel accepted only to the extent we feel unconditionally loved and supported by our parents. If we felt conditionally accepted or constantly criticized by our caregivers we started believing that we were not adequate and begin to develop an inadequate sense of self.
The persecuted child grows up into a battered adult who stays paralyzed in the face of abuse, retarding her sense of agency or self-efficacy, which is the ability to take control and transform one’s life. The crux of the low self esteem issue is that when we let ourselves remain in a situation that harms and destroys our last remaining shreds of our self, health and well being, it reflects a great deal about how we feel about ourselves and about how we let ourselves be received in the world by others.
Psychophysiological Consequences of Low Self Esteem
Over a period of time, continued low self esteem and sense of victimhood will grind us down both psychologically and physiologically pre-disposing one to suffer from clinical depression, high anxiety, and stress. Chronic low self-esteem may lead onto more severe mood disorders ensuring that one has very low life satisfaction.
Since the mind and body are intimately connected from a psychobiological perspective, prolonged relational stress will wear down our immune system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, neuroendocrinological system and set us up for potentially harboring carcinogenic cells or auto-immune reactions. Apart from taking serious tolls on our mental and physical health, low self-esteem prevents us from living the life we would want which is a happy well-adjusted life with a partner who loves and cherishes us.
How to work with Low Self-Esteem
If you identify yourself as having low self-esteem, which in turn keeps you, locked in an unhappy romantic situation start doing something about it immediately! It is good to begin to create scenarios and experiences that give you a sense of self worth. Below is a list of activities that help bring up one’s self esteem
1)     Cultivate an attitude of self acceptance and self care
2)     Take some space and time away from your partner
3)     Create independent activities with your friends or start socializing sometimes separately from your partner
4)     Make new concrete life style shifts in your life – – e.g. start exercising, loose weight; become healthy; get a job
5)     Create a new self image by changing your hairstyle and fashion sense
6)     Develop your hobbies
7)     Practice yoga and meditation
8)     Travel alone or take a holiday with friends
9)     Create new social outlets such as joining a book club or a NGO or even a dance class
All the above suggestions are to allow and curate a sense of self- confidence and enjoyment where you feel good about yourself and validated and appreciated by other people. However, despite trying all the above suggestions, you do not feel better because of overpowering feelings of helplessness, it is beneficial to speak with a qualified therapist or mental health professional about how you can either emancipate yourself from the relationship or shift your emotional reactions in or to the relationship.
Since low self-esteem is in fact a psychological problem to deconstruct low self esteem one needs to pursue psychotherapeutic interventions that create cognitive and behavioral shifts. By doing psychological work one can trace and ultimately dis-identify with the wounded inner child and discipline the inner critic within one’s thought processes. Where one learns to replace negative thoughts with more self-affirming ones, and where one learns to create boundaries against abuse as a form of self-care.
I, personally, feel a combination of psychotherapeutic work with self-awareness practices works best with my clients with low self-esteem. By supporting them in their mindfulness practice and psychodynamically engaging and challenging their unconscious core beliefs and assumptions about themselves, clients are able to eventually dis-identify with their negative assessments of themselves. Conversely, they generate more self-acceptance and self-compassion for themselves and in turn translate this into wholesome actions in their lives and relationships.

Depression and Persistent Depressive Disorder Therapy in Mumbai, India


Understanding the Dangers of Depression
Our lives are colored by numerous textures of feeling ranging from deep joy to being down in the dumps with many shades of grey in between. It is but natural to feel sad at the death of a loved one, or to be melancholic to be leaving a familiar place or to be upset when we have disagreements with people or get laid off from work.
In fact, there are many instances in life where we feel the blues and this is but natural. However, what is not psychologically healthy is to remain in a perpetual state of dysphoria, which could be described as a “profound state of dis-ease, unhappiness and dissatisfaction,” day in and day out.
According to the DSM V, the following symptoms would help you identify Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) in yourself or a loved one:
  1. Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, as indicated by either subjective or observation by others
  2. Poor appetite or overeating
  3. Insomnia or hypersomnia
  4. Low energy or fatigue
  5. Low self esteem
  6. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
  7. Feelings of hopelessness
If a person embodies having a “depressed mood for most of the day” day after day with two or more other symptoms one can be said to be clinically depressed. Being clinically depressed, in turn, will have negative consequences on one’s health, well being, relationships, work, productivity and bring down the overall quality of one’s life. Research has shown, that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been found in the blood stream of people who identified being depressed, this in turn reduces immune function and makes any pre-existing medical disorder worse or may perhaps even create new ones. What we can gauge from this is that depressed people are more likely to be easily stressed and in turn, people who have a low threshold to stress are more susceptible to becoming depressed.
If an individual is in an intimate relationship or has small children their having depression would impact their loved one’s in very harmful ways. There is a progressive diminishing of real interpersonal contact and closeness since the depressed person is no longer present to anything other than overwhelming feelings of sadness. Spouses of depressed individuals report very low relationship satisfaction as depressions gnaws away at the fabric of intimacy where emotional connection, sexuality and simply having fun together is greatly reduced or becomes non-existent. Studies have also shown that children of depressed people have a higher risk of being depressed themselves, as well as having a vulnerability to addictions and exhibit behavioral disorders.
It is extremely harmful to the self and to one’s loved ones to ignore constant negative ruminations and feelings about one’s life, as they could transition from being pathological to fatal, where individuals driven by disturbing thoughts and emotions could end up taking their life. Another alarming point regarding depression is that it has a propensity to recur once a person has suffered from it before. Depression, in essence, is a thinking dis-ease, which is premised on habitual negative thinking, perceiving and evaluating one’s self and the world. This tendency to think pessimistically, in turn, creates neural pathways in the brain, literally grooves in our psyche, which get easily activated when certain triggers are present. Over a period of time, even small mundane disappointments may set off disproportionate feelings of anguish and hopelessness.
Although, ironically, depression is extremely common, with 20 percent of the population suffering from it at any given time; literally,  one in every five people experiences depression, it remains, unfortunately, ignored, undetected and untreated. While awareness is increasing regarding the importance of mental health globally, in India, historically and perhaps even to some extent today, psychological issues have been ignorantly stigmatized. Individuals are made to feel ashamed of themselves for having life traumas and upheavals and are marginalized for seeking help. Contemporarily, this is a very unfortunate set of circumstances, as historically in ancient India, dukkha was greatly acknowledged by all philosophical traditions as a profound existential state. Especially, highlighted by the ultimate healer and therapist, Gautama Buddha, who stated that “Life is Suffering.”
If you or anyone close to you is depressed it is extremely important that you seek professional psychotherapeutic attention. While exercise, yoga, mantra,  meditation and good nutrition are useful adjuncts and supports, they do not go the whole way in dispelling depression, which is a deep rooted psychological pattern. What the depressed person really needs is a facilitation to cognitively and behaviourally  re-frame and dis-identify with negative thoughts and to  develop the ability to tolerate distress and work through disturbing affects felt in the body.  Depression does not automatically alleviate itself or diminish with family support nor disappear with self-affirmations to be happy, it needs to be confronted and worked through psychosomatically.

Psychotherapist, Depression therapy, Health Psychology in Mumbai, India

Sonera writes on diverse issues in her blog that ranges from cognitive behaviour therapy, meditation therapy, marital counseling, depression to Stress Coaching and various other topics

Visit Our Website : http://www.sonerajhaveri.com/blog/

Psychotherapist, Psychologist, Counselling Psychologist in Mumbai, India

Sonera has a private practice in South Mumbai working with individuals, couples and groups. She also offers Skype sessions and gives lectures and workshops locally and globally.
Get in touch for an appointment or additional details.
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Mindfulness Meditation, Cognitive Behaviour & Somatic Therapy in Mumbai

What is Integral?

Integral theory, as conceptualized by Ken Wilber, is an all-inclusive framework that seeks to bring into deeper dialogue all the wisdom traditions from across the world through all phases of time and history, spanning the pre-modern, modern and post-modern.
Integral theory harmonizes disparate, separate and sometimes anti-thetical paradigms and assimilates them in ways that are mutually supporting and enriching, yet not reducing any one discipline in light of another. It is based on holistically engaging the four dimensions of one’s existence namely the subjective (mind), inter-subjective (relationships), objective (body) and inter-objective (environmental, societal).

What is Transpersonal Psychotherapy?

The Transpersonal has been described as experiences in which individuals extend beyond the personal realm of ego consciousness to a cosmic consciousness that can be described as a feeling of oneness with the universe.
The Transpersonal approach describes and accommodates spiritual experience within modern psychological theory. It is concerned with esoteric mental experience, mysticism and altered states of consciousness beyond the usual limits of ego and personality.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness Meditation derives from ancient Buddhist and Yogic  awareness practices where one is paying attention moment to moment in a nonjudgemental way.
The core of  Integral Psyche-Therapy and Integral Coaching is based on learning and maintaining mindfulness, which allows one to become fully conscious of one’s experience in the here and now. Being present to the moment,  in turn, facilitates therapeutic work towards self-transformation.

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga Therapy  weaves in traditional yogic concepts and techniques, such as mudra ( hand gesture), asana (posture), pranayama  (breath control)  and dhyana (concentration) to facilitate psychological processing.
Yoga Therapy does not necessarily involve mat work and could be done sitting in a chair. Clients need not have a pre-existing practice of yoga to reap the benefits of Yoga Therapy.

What is Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic Therapy is synonymous with depth psychology and has its roots in the work of Sigmund Freud. Its primary focus is to make conscious the unconscious content within the psyche in order to make sense of symptoms and behaviors which obstruct the optimum functioning of the individual.
Post Freud, there have been a number of approaches such as Jungian, Post Jungian, Object Relations, Bionian and Lacanian that address the dialectic of the conscious and unconscious.

What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy?

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is based on the premise that our thoughts play a fundamental role in influencing our behaviour. Through this course of treatment, an individual is likely to learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behaviour.
The aim of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is to teach individuals that even though they can’t control situations themselves, it is possible to take control of how they interpret and react to them.

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy combines standard cognitive-behavioural techniques for emotional regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance and mindful awareness, largely derived from Buddhist meditative practices.
This approach works towards helping individuals increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by becoming aware of triggers that lead to reactive states. It also helps assess which coping skills are best applied in the sequence of events, thoughts or feelings that lead to the undesired behaviour.

What is Hakomi?

The Hakomi Method of Experiential Psychotherapy was first created in the late 1970′s by the internationally renowned therapist and author, Ron Kurtz.
At its most basic level, Hakomi is the therapeutic expression of a specific set of principles: mindfulness, non-violence, unity and mind-body integration. Hakomi helps people change “core material.” Core material is composed of memories, images, beliefs, neural patterns and deeply held emotional dispositions. It shapes the habits and behaviours that define us as individuals.

What is Somatic Experiencing?

Somatic Experiencing is a method created by Dr Peter Levine to assess, work with and release traumatic shock and early childhood and developmental attachment trauma. The method is an integration of Dr Levine’s multidisciplinary studies on neurobiology, psychology, indigenous healing practices and biophysics.
Somatic Experiencing allows one to release post-traumatic stress that remains stuck in the trauma survivors nervous system inhibiting his or her capacity to live a fulfilling life. Once the trauma has been released the person can reclaim parts of his or her life, which were implicitly informed by the traumatic experience.

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a technique that involves gaining control of involuntary body functions. This therapeutic repertoire demonstrates that the mind and body are interconnected and that people can be taught to harness the power of this connection to change physical activity, thereby improving overall health and wellbeing.
Sonera may use biofeedback to help individuals control their response to stress.

What is Ecotherapy?

Ecotherapy seeks to address conscious and unconscious human alienation and destruction of the natural world, while simultaneously facilitating and nurturing the inherent bond human beings have with the biosphere.
Ecotherapy also encompasses exposure to the wilderness and various other natural environments by asserting that the environment we inhabit has a direct impact on the psyche.

What is Dreamwork?

Dreams provide a wealth of information to help gain a nuanced view of our unconscious thoughts. Sigmund Freud saw dreams as the royal road to the unconscious.
In Dreamwork, dreams are approached as embodied images reflecting our most hidden and deepest desires and fears. Integral Dream-work excavates the subtler recesses of the dream for self-knowledge.

What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy integrates psychotherapeutic techniques with the creative process in order to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of an individual.
Art Therapy is based on the belief that self created images and symbols reflect emotional states. It harnesses the creative process involved in artistic expression to facilitate individuals resolve conflict, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, release emotions, increase self-esteem and self-awareness and achieve insight.

What is Existential Psychotherapy?

Existential Psychotherapy  is concerned with the totality of the human predicament and the embodied experience of the individual in time and space and in relation to others.
Existential psychotherapy has its roots in the philosophies of diverse thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heideg Website ger and Sartre. Special attention is given to themes of personal responsibility, authenticity and freedom.