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by Michael J. Santangelo, ND, PhD, LMT

I’m writing this because I get questions. People that I work with therapeutically, as well as people I encounter, frequently ask me what exactly it is that I do. Fair question. In fact, it’s a really good question. In trying to explain, I’ve had to take stock of the methods I use, the knowledge I draw upon, and then (why not?) come up with a name for it all.

You see, I don’t do the usual, talking kind of psychotherapy. psychospiritualActually, none of the psychotherapists at Eastwind do strictly mainline therapy. That’s why they’re here, and why they’re in such demand. When it comes to me, I’ve put together a system based on all that I have studied in the areas of spirituality, Chinese medicine, and the Western mystical tradition, while dovetailing it with psychology’s understanding of personality, conditioning, thought processes, etc. What comes out the other side, while still psychotherapy, is an approach that is pretty much sui generis, if I do say so myself.

First, let me give you a little bit about my personal evolution. (I promise to be brief.) When I received my PhD in clinical psychology 35 years ago, I was traditionally trained, though I also picked up additional training in hypnotherapy and neuropsychology along the way. I began my career in community mental health, but five or six years down the road I became restless. While people were getting “better” under my care, it seems that something truly basic was missing. Assuming that private practice would allow me more freedom of expression in my therapy, I tried my hand in a couple of practices. While I did find this less restrictive, I left each practice after a couple of years, feeling that each one wasn’t the right practice for me. I eventually left psychotherapy altogether for a while, doing a stint as a researcher, co-directing a multi-state project on HIV and hemophilia. (I’m mentioning this part of my professional history to establish my bona fides as a “real” psychologist) Anyway, at this time my inner urgings could take it no longer, and I went to school to become a massage therapist, specifically an Asian-style bodyworker. I had always felt that emotional difficulties had roots in all levels of the being, not only in the mind. The body and spirit were also important. I had seen too often how a person’s mind could set up blockages and defenses to safeguard the emotional disorder’s existence. There had to be a way around that, I believed, and that way lay through accessing those other spheres through bodywork and energetic techniques.

Here’s where I began my own practice (in 1993), with my wife (Candida Maurer) joining me before long. I was finally able to explore change and healing in my own way. Picking up more training in Chinese medicine and herbalism, Reiki, Healing Touch, Bach Flower Essences, and other disciplines helped to round out my skill set. I combined all this with my long-term study in Western mysticism (with its incredible tools of Tarot and Qabalah), a school of thought that I had pursued since high school. Additionally, spending over 15 years working with The Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) formalized and immeasurably deepened my understanding of the Western Mysteries, while also accelerating my spiritual development and practice. All of this continues to inform and refine my therapeutic process today.

So, what does a session with PsychoSpiritual Energetics look like? The choice of interventions BOTA treedepends on several factors, including the over-arching reason someone is being seen, their salient problem of the day, and what my clinical intuition tells me might be useful. The reasons people come to see me vary from anxiety or depression, to trauma resolution or the stress of dealing with a chronic illness. These reasons span any and all of the four spheres of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. At any rate, a typical session starts with some discussion of a person’s current situation, such as how they are feeling that day, or if they have experienced any changes in symptoms or presenting problem. After catching up, I have the person lie on my massage table.

I begin table work with a repair/reconnection of the person’s hara line. This is a line of energy that connects each of us to Heavenly and Earthly energies (to use the Chinese medical terms). Then I assess the chakras and make energetic corrections to any that aren’t functioning up to snuff. Not only does this prepare the ground for any work to follow, but it also serves as an assessment of the person’s energy field, giving clues as to what may need attention that day. The main part of the work involves a variety of techniques, depending on the situation at hand. Chakra and energy meridian balancing, bodywork interventions, Reiki and Healing Touch techniques, visualizations, therapeutic dialogue, hypnosis, meditations, and other interventions may be used. I end virtually every session with an energy technique of my devising called Re-Integration of the Tree of Life, which is profoundly relaxing and healing all on its own. A final assessment of the hara line and the chakras, and the session is over. By the way, I explain these interventions in more detail in another post here.By the way, I don’t believe that I do all the work, by any stretch. The person being worked with is actively involved in the process, often via homework assignments such as meditative exercises, visualizations, examination of beliefs, and the like.

The results of these sessions are at times a bit mysterious. People return for follow-up and mention that they feel better somehow, that things aren’t as dire, that they have changed their way of relating to others, etc. What made the difference? I’m not always sure specifically, as there is a complex, energetic interaction going on during the sessions. Also, there is the effects of the person’s carefully fulfilling any homework assignments given. Nevertheless, the changes are genuine, deep, lasting . . . and often, quite painless. Now, I’m not claiming that this is some miraculous, never-fail process. After all, nothing works 100% of the time. Yet, it works a large percentage of the time, with a wide variety of problems. It seems to be, in part, the balancing the energies of the body and clearing away any blockages that interfere with the system’s natural affinity for that balance. It often places the individual in a position of being able to function in a more productive and effective way.

This post serves only as an introduction to my approach. Please call Eastwind or email me to find out more.