We speak to two of our columnists, psychotherapist Douglas Holwerda and alternative therapist, Karen Gay, about how both conventional and unconventional counselling can create change and help you resolve issues.
How long have you been living in Vietnam? Where do you work? How long have you been in your profession?
I have been living in Vietnam for almost seven years, six of them in Hanoi. I currently see clients at Family Medical Practice in Hanoi. I have been practicing as a psychotherapist since 1996.
How can counselling help people?
Sometimes clients have experiences in their past which have influenced how they feel in negative ways. These can become core beliefs that, unwittingly, shape a person’s day-to-day choices. By looking at one’s life and bringing awareness to what we are feeling, what we believe, what we expect, and how we make choices, we can create change.
What kinds of cases have you dealt with while living in Vietnam? What are the most common issues?
People seem to be coming to me most these days with anxiety. Then there are people who are suffering, struggling, lost, angry, depressed. Most of them are dealing with intense emotion. These are all normal people from everywhere in the world.
What methods do you use with your clients / patients?
Psychotherapy works best when people feel safe and trusting of the therapist and the process. When that is true, clients can more easily open up to share why they are there and what they are feeling. It allows them to go to deeper levels of insight and understanding. It is never about getting “fixed”, it is always about growing through increased awareness and acceptance of what is true.
On average I see clients eight to 10 times. Some clients I have seen for several years on a weekly basis. Many clients come for two or three sessions to find out how it is for them.
What would you say to people who are considering counselling but aren’t sure if it’s the right thing for them?
I would say make an appointment with the idea of giving it a try. Tell the psychotherapist that you want one session and then you will decide whether to continue on or not.
Sometimes counselling fails. Why do you think this is the case?
The truth is that life is hard, it is harsh, it is painful and, sometimes, there is no one or nothing that can change that. But, more than anything else, psychotherapy is for the purpose of saying “we are in it together” and you can bring your problems here. It would be wrong to think that a psychotherapist can fix a person or the state of the societies that affect us.
How would you describe what you do?
People usually come to me with physical issues and if I sense they are open to it, we explore beyond the symptoms and look at metaphysical reasons for the challenge they’re having.
Examples of this are their relationship with others, (family, friends, co-workers, etc.), with their body, with their emotions, thoughts, etc. From there it’s a process of shifting perspective — recognizing that they are greater than the story that surrounds them, which is in fact one that they create.
Because emotions get locked into the body, in the cells, bodywork becomes helpful in releasing trauma showing up as symptoms. The sessions start to resemble a counselling session for some part of it, if not the whole thing.
A lot of it is getting them to change the relationship they have with their body, to listen to what it might be telling them and perhaps figure out connections in with other aspects of their life.
This topic gets deep really quickly and it also goes beyond conventional thinking, so I expose people to other ways of seeing things, help them to unload the burden of guilt, self-blame, inadequacy, etc.
The following is what a client wrote about why they’d like to see me: “I’d like to work on my belly/gut as related to emotions and loyalties linked to my family, my neck is also often blocked.”
This is a classic case where undoing the social imprinting/programming is necessary for healing. How this gets done takes various forms by different practitioners.
How do you help people realise where their issues are coming from?
I listen to what the person tells me, I listen to what they don’t tell me. I observe their body language, their way of carrying themselves, their speech, their environment, etc. and from there I draw the established metaphysical correlations for disease.
Not everybody is ready to hear that their sore back could be related to some deeper-rooted emotional issue, or that their anxiety or depression could be coming not only from a biochemical imbalance but from societal or ancestral imprinting or programming.
Those who are open to those concepts recognize that there may be something deeper going on, especially if they have chronic or recurring issues.
What body work do you do to release trauma?
Emotional Freedom Technique, (EFT) also known as tapping, craniosacral therapy, jin shin jyutsu, reiki, deep tissue massage, shamanic energy healing.
For a list of holistic practitioners based in Hanoi, click on issuu.com/hanoiholistichealth
To read about some ideas for personal change, click on the following links:
Get Into Stand-Up Comedy
Take Art Classes
Get Professional Help
Nutrition and Vietnamese Food
The Power of Habit
The following stories are about people who have made substantial personal change. For some inspiration, click on the following links:
Todd Gilmore, The Triathlete
Sophie Pham, The Introvert
Ha Minh, The Woman
Laura Sheehan, The Mentor
Robin Babu, The Fitness Dude
Sheereen Amran, The Pastry Chef
Mitch Brookman, The Hairdresser