By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Should you go to a therapist to learn mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or spirituality?
Some therapists and counselors incorporate the teaching of meditation, mindfulness, spirituality, and a whole host of other things into their practice. Clearly, there are times that these techniques can be helpful to clients. It is equally clear to me that you do not need to be a licensed therapist to teach a meditation class.
There are also times when some of these things can be harmful if done incorrectly. Meditation can be very bad for someone with PTSD or complex trauma if every time they try to close their eyes they have a panic attack. Another practice called grounding is recommended for those clients. (That topic needs another post.)
When we start mixing things up, professionals and clients need to be really clear about what is going on. Readers have asked some questions about this and I can see some professionals may be headed for problems.
What if I decide to teach a Wednesday night class in blogging? Can I sign up my therapy clients to come to this? Sure blogging can be a great way to express yourself and some of my clients might benefit from learning to write, but if I start mixing these two activities up we are headed for trouble.
Could a “Christian Counselor” teach a Bible study? Probably no reason why not. Except if they are doing their Bible study on Wednesday nights and competing with my blogging class this is not very therapeutic for either of us. (I picked Wednesday because I teach at the College on Tuesdays and Thursdays, not because of the traditional Wednesday night prayer meetings that some churches have.)
A counselor can have outside interests. We can and should do other activates. But when the lines between therapy and those other topics get blurry, there are lots of risks to clients. Maybe my Blogging class needs to be taught at the adult education school and the Bible study needs to take place in a church or someone’s home? Then the two roles are kept separate.
By the way, any therapist that tries to bill an insurance company for these other activates under the guise of them being “therapeutic” is probably headed for big trouble.
The role of the counselor or therapist is to help you get over, recover from, or reduce the symptoms of a particular emotional, mental, or behavioral problem. This role conflict becomes a problem when a therapist starts signing people up for a yoga class.
Yoga can be helpful in managing certain emotional problems. (My understanding of Yoga is that it is an exercise done slowly and purposefully while managing your breathing.) So yes any exercise may be helpful in treating depression. Working on your breathing can be helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety and a therapist might spend a few minutes even a session teaching a client how to control their breathing to reduce anxiety. But when the therapist starts signing up clients for a weekly yoga class, they have crossed a line in my book.
Sure any therapist can have another interest. Say the therapist likes to play baseball and they start a Saturday baseball team. Is this therapy and should they be doing this with their therapy clients?
If I was working with a group of severely impaired people, those with no friends and no jobs, a weekly trip to the park to play baseball could be therapeutic. I could teach them how to take turns, follow the rules, and how to resolve differences. We could even do some work on social skills, picking a team captain, how to talk with each other, and so on.
But if the course of this baseball therapy included people with friends and jobs and we began to talk about baseball skills, bunting, and sliding into base, this is no longer a therapy group and we are becoming a baseball team. That is not a function that requires a therapist.
This example I hope is easy to see. There are not many times a sport is likely to be a part of traditional therapy. When therapists start talking about meditation, yoga, mindfulness and a host of spiritual and self-awareness techniques the lines get blurry.
My thinking is that there are times that I may use a particular technique briefly to help a client reduce or manage symptoms but if I stray into teaching them another topic I am no longer in my “scope of practice.”
So if your therapist avoids working on your past traumas or other current issues and wants to spend a lot of time on these other topics that are not specifically designed to reduce or control your mental health symptoms, think this through.
You may need to find another yoga teacher and then restrict your therapist to doing therapy. If they are uncomfortable with that, you need to talk with them about this, or eventuality you will need to change providers to get the help you need.
Having a therapist teach a meditation, mindfulness, or yoga class, can be another of those dual relationship issues that we therapists need to be careful about. If a therapist does do those activities there needs to be a clear connection to treating the client’s symptoms.
A therapist can use these techniques to help their client recover but they can’t use their client to support their other interests.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!
My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.
Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.
Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.
As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.
Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?
Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller
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