Holistic Counseling in Saratoga Springs, NY • firstname.lastname@example.org
Integrated Mind–Body Counseling
Donna Bird likens her role as counselor in mind–body therapy to that of a coach. She provides a safe, secure environment where she teaches people to communicate and align with their body and unconscious mind on a conscious level. This process allows people to move quickly to the core of their being and change their limiting behaviors instead into helping behaviors, thereby allowing for deep, meaningful, personal transformation.
For many clients, successful counseling is like stepping out of the darkness of a cave and into the full light of day.
Mind-Body Psychotherapy operates with the understanding that we create much of our own experience by the specific ways that we see, hear, and feel things in our mind and body. Some people call this experience "thinking"; yet actually what we do is a complicated interaction between the conscious and unconscious mind.
Donna’s professional, holistic approach to psychotherapeutic counseling has helped clients suffering with:
- eating disorders
- troubled relationships
- personal loss
- health crises
- child-rearing problems
- lack of self-confidence
- poor self-esteem
- weakened immune system
- and more.
To schedule a counseling session, please contact Donna Bird through email, or by phone at (518) 584-0698.
Theory Behind Holistic Mind–Body Psychotherapy
“Old Brain” vs. Conscious Mind
Most of us greatly underestimate the scope of the unconscious mind, which is sometimes referred to as the “old brain.” The old brain is concerned primarily with physical self-preservation. Because it evolved to survive in a world full of hidden dangers (animal predators, rival human groups, earthquakes and tsunamis, potentially poisonous foods, contaminated water sources, etc.), it is largely governed by fear.
Thus, the unconscious mind constantly asks the question: “Is this safe?”
Since prehistoric times the old brain has attempted to insure our safety (although it appears to have little concept of time and only a vague awareness of the outside world). Renowned relationship therapist Dr. Harville Hendrix explains it in this way:
In the daytime, we can’t see the stars. We talk as if they “come out” at night, even though they are there all the time. We also underestimate the sheer number of stars. We look up at the sky, see a smattering of dim stars, and assume that’s all there is. When we travel far away from city lights, we see a sky strewn with stars and are overwhelmed by the brilliance of the heavens. But it is only when we study astronomy that we learn the whole truth: the hundreds of thousands of stars that we see on a clear, moonless night in the country are only a fraction of the stars in the universe, and many of the points of light that we assume to be stars are in fact entire galaxies. So it is with the unconscious mind: the orderly, logical thoughts of our conscious mind are but a thin veil over the unconscious, which is active and functioning at all times.
While the instinctual old brain is aware of what lies beyond its borders only through sensation and feeling, the new brain takes in and processes the data of the external world. The old brain is simple and primitive, and makes broad distinctions regarding its safety and survival primarily by the symbols, images, and thoughts relayed to it by the new brain.
Problems Arise When a Prehistoric Brain
Tries to Cope with a 21st-Century World
Eternally concerned with survival, the old brain identifies particular patterns that it has learned to relate with “anger,” “fear,” “rejection,” or “love.” The old brain cannot make subtle distinctions according to the circumstances; and its overreactions are deeply ingrained and exaggerated in comparison to the stimulus. To the old brain, all threats, however minor, are potentially life-threatening. Even the slightest frown could be interpreted as a form of rejection — or the prelude to mortal combat.
Both old and new brains are considerably different, but somehow manage to constantly exchange and interpret information outside our awareness. In most cases our conscious mind is practically powerless to permanently change those behaviors, feelings, and responses that are automatic and unconscious.
One example of old and new brain (unconscious and conscious) interaction would be if a child were in a play at school and forgot his lines. If the audience laughs at him, he may feel shame and embarrassment, but is forced to remain on stage until the end of the play. The old brain may register this uncomfortable experience as “unsafe” and therefore connect being unsafe with speaking in public.
Although in adulthood the conscious brain logically knows that public speaking is not really dangerous, the unconscious mind has imprinted the unsafe feeling with the act of public speaking. Consequently, this event may cause some adults to become afraid of a simple task like speaking in front of a group, while other adults are pleasantly stimulated by it. Sometimes this failure of the unconscious mind to distinguish between real and false danger causes some people to reach a dead end in their lives.
Dr. Bernie Siegel’s best selling book, Love, Medicine and Miracles, is based on what he learned from his exceptional patients who suffered from “terminal illness,” yet who lived much longer than expected, or who even became completely free of illnesses. Dr. Siegel discovered that some people were able to transform their lives and become disease-free in part because of an altered thinking process.
In the same way, mind–body therapies have evolved from the study of the mental processes of those who have emerged from trauma, changed their behaviors, or completely recovered from personal difficulties.
Why Settle for the Old Patterns…If You Can Change Them?
Some of us may think of mind–body therapy as unconventional, or believe that change can only be achieved if the client has special awareness or talents. In truth, the process is about connecting with various “parts” of the self, which is really connecting the unconscious/old brain with the conscious/new brain.
At times we refer to a “part” of ourselves that controls our behaviors and make us act out inappropriately. We eat food indulgently, work in excess, become unmotivated, or act impulsively. The reality is that when we make references to these kinds of “loss-of-control” actions, we are admitting we don’t have conscious control over our behavior. It appears that we have many “parts” that control our behaviors, when really it is the unconscious/old brain that controls these parts, and thus limits our functioning.
Because the conscious part of our thinking is not in charge of running the unwanted behavior, feeling, or response, it makes sense that the first step in changing that behavior is learning to access the part of ourselves that is responsible for running it. When we learn to communicate with our mind and body, they become allies; and in that way we achieve a sense of wholeness and an awareness about ourselves that is necessary to make lasting changes in our lives.
By learning to work with the unconscious parts of the mind that may be holding us back, we can transform those inner parts into wise and reliable counselors — ones that are able to function effectively at the deepest levels of our being and then communicate with our conscious mind to make vital and positive life changes.