Bookpleasures.com today is excited to once again have as our guest Judith Anne Desjardins. Judith is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Board Certified Diplomat in Clinical Social Work, a Master Social Addiction Counselor and a Holistic Private Psychotherapist.
She is the author of two award-winning books: Our Journey with Prostate Cancer: Empowering Strategies for Patients and Families and Creating A Healthy Life and Marriage: A Holistic Approach: Body, Mind, Emotions and Spirit, which we will be discussing today.
Norm: Good day Judith and thanks once again for participating in our interview.
With so many different types of counseling to choose from, what drew you to becoming a Holistic Private Psychotherapist? What was it about this speciality that really interested you?
That’s actually a challenging question to answer, Norm. The short answer is that I didn’t choose it, it chose me. It was my destiny and had a lot to do with my individual spirit and inquiring mind.
When I was in graduate school for my MSW, there was no specialty called “holistic psychotherapist.” In the 1970’s a social worker could choose to specialize in individual work, group work, or community organization. I chose to specialize in individual work. At that time, the term “holistic” did not even exist.
The path that led me to becoming a holistic private psychotherapist – a therapist who treats the body, mind, emotions, and spirit - was circuitous and lengthy. In my first jobs out of graduate school, I worked at a county community hospital (helping patients and their families on the neurology and general medicine units, dealing mainly with people who had had strokes or who needed to be placed in nursing homes) and at an in-patient psychiatric unit (dealing mainly with patients who suffered from severe, crippling depression or chronic pain.)
The medical institutions were mainly concerned with the region of the body that was affected: Patients who had strokes were rehabilitated in physical therapy and sent home. Older patients who had no families to take care of them and no money to pay for assistance in their homes, were sent to nursing homes that provided minimum care. People with depression were treated with individual, family, or group “talk therapy,” psychiatric medication, and sometimes, electro-shock therapy. With chronic pain, the main treatment was biofeedback, medication, or surgery on the spine.
In all these circumstances, the main objective was to get the patients relief from the presenting symptoms, without exploring the factors which caused the symptoms.
As a young therapist, I listened to my own inner voice and decided there must be a better way - that treated the whole person.
That hunger to do more led me to seek out future positions that would enhance my learning and knowledge base. I moved from Arizona to Los Angeles, to study at the Gestalt Therapy Institute. In Gestalt therapy, I learned techniques to engage clients in experiencing their emotions within the therapy setting, not just to talk about past experiences. These techniques got clients out of their heads and into their bodies, releasing pent-up emotions and physical tension.
In my next job as an oncology social worker on a cancer unit, I learned more about the body-mind-emotions connection. Through training with O. Carl Simonton, I learned that there was a connection between stress, unresolved emotional issues, depressed functioning of the immune system, and the development of cancer. Likewise, I learned techniques like visualization, body relaxation, guided meditation, and art therapy that could explore the unconscious issues within the person and release tension from the body – all of which enhanced the functioning of the immune system and boosted the body’s ability to fight the cancer.
In 1978, after working for five years in hospitals, I decided that I would open my private holistic psychotherapy practice. I wanted the freedom to formulate my own theories and techniques and I did not want to be hampered by the restraints of an institution. My focus was the entire person – body, mind, emotions, and spirit. I coined the phrase “holistic psychotherapist” at that time. I worked with individuals, couples, families.
During this period, I sought further training at the C. G Jung Institute in Los Angeles. Carl Jung was the first psychiatrist to consider the “spiritual side” of man and believed that each person has an individual spirit that seeks connection with the Higher Spirit. My studies led to understanding the destructive power of unresolved issues in the unconscious, and the healing potential of dream analysis – information and techniques which I added to my therapeutic arsenal.
My next learning occurred when I suffered soft-tissue damage in my neck after a car accident and became frustrated with the limitations of traditional physical therapy. It wasn’t until I was referred for acupressure treatments that my problem was solved. Acupressure, like acupuncture, concentrates on circulating energy or “chi” throughout the body, along an intricate circuit of pathways, which restores balance within the entire body and reduces chronic medical symptoms such as pain, as well as enhances the functioning of the immune system. I was so impressed with acupressure that I trained at the Jin Shin Do Acupressure Foundation and began incorporating acupressure in my therapy with clients.
Another area that influenced me becoming a holistic psychotherapist was my spiritual journey with God, which began in 1976 and continues to this day. This relationship and the wisdom I learned from it led to a deep inner healing of the trauma that occurred during my early developmental years and held me captive as an adult. Traditional psychotherapy, body work, and study had not been able to completely heal me. I needed the help, guidance, and power of God to fully transform my life. Because of my experience, I encourage my clients to explore their own spirituality – however they define it.
Norm: How would you describe what you do as a Holistic Private Psychotherapist and what does it entail?
Judith: No matter what presenting problem drives a client to my practice - be it depression, anxiety, panic attacks, a troubled marriage, divorce or a break up, the desire to find a mate, the difficulty of a child to function at school because they have undiagnosed ADHD or problems at home, poor self-esteem and self-loathing, addiction to food or substances or self-destructive behaviour, co-dependency, the search to find the authentic Self, poor parenting skills, desire to start the spiritual inner journey, dissatisfaction with their field of employment – it is my desire to treat the whole person.
My treatment philosophy is: “I believe we are a “four-part” person: body, mind, emotions and spirit. Each of the parts is important and requires attention. If you neglect one part of your Self, you will create a state of “dis-ease” or “imbalance.” I work with adults and teenagers.
I am interested in learning everything I can about each new client: description of their family of origin and its impact on their development, description of their current relationships and problems, their medical and prior therapy history, analysis of their mental health symptoms and a diagnosis of their specific disorder, how they take care of their body, mind, emotions and spirit.
I ask each new client two questions:
#1. Why do you think you are here today?
#2. What do you hope to achieve in therapy?
Based on their answers, we draw up a treatment plan. I explain to my clients that I am trained to deal with each area of their lives – body, mind, emotions, and spirit – and that I would like to train them how to take care of each of these areas, via such techniques as journaling, guided meditation, dream analysis, deep abdominal relaxation, art therapy, education about how key areas in the brain affect emotions and physical responses, learning healthier coping mechanisms, problem solving techniques, stress reduction and enhanced communication skills, education about healthy diet, and incorporating relaxation exercises such as yoga and meditation.
Generally, I do long-term work with clients. For most people, what propels them into therapy runs far deeper than the initial problem. I give my individual clients and couples assignments of self-exploration in my book, Creating A Healthy Life and Marriage, and we discuss the information they uncover in our therapy sessions. We discuss the problems that occur in their jobs, school, and personal relationships and I teach them techniques for achieving a healthier outcome. We discuss diet, exercise, self-empowerment, fears and resistance to change, their relationship with their bodies, minds, emotions and spirits.
I provide a safe environment for their inner exploration, release of past trauma, and discovery of untapped potential and dreams. We develop a close personal relationship, built on authentic communication and trust, which transfers to every area of their lives.
Norm: What education, schooling, or skills are needed to practice this profession?
Judith: As a minimum, you need a graduate degree in social work, counseling, or psychology. In addition, you need a certain number of hours of supervised employment by a licensed therapist. Finally, you need to pass the state examination to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or Marriage Family Therapist (MFT). Psychiatrists are also certified to do psychotherapy, but many only do medication management.
Norm: Considering marriage and family issues can be so unique, maybe you can help us by describing what your responsibilities were as a therapist in that area? What sort of things did you do to try and help your clients? What sort of problems are you listening for?
Judith: What I see in many relationships is a fear of emotional intimacy, coupled with poor relationship skills and poor self-esteem, as well as internal wounds from their childhoods. These couples say they want emotional and sexual intimacy, but they are ill-equipped to establish and maintain it. As parents, they will pass their unresolved issues onto their children, who are likely to develop anxiety, depression, fear of intimacy, and similar poor coping skills.
If both partners want to learn, grow, and change their relationship for the better, the prognosis is good. If only one person wants to work and improve the relationship, the prognosis is poor.
It is very important for me to get an in-depth assessment of any trauma from their families of origin, a medical, substance abuse, and psychiatric history, information about problems in past relationships, a history of their relationship with their own body, mind, emotions and spirit, and an analysis of their coping skills. I assign them to complete the questionnaires in Creating A Healthy Life and Marriage and we discuss their answers in our conjoint sessions. I coach them on how to develop healthier coping skills and improved communication and problem solving.
I teach them that they cannot fully love another person if they do not love themselves. Many times I advise them to work on their own personal issues in individual therapy with me or another therapist, prior to doing couples’ work.
The bottom line is that each person must be willing to do the work. I am only the guide and teacher.
Norm: What do you like and dislike about what you do?
Judith: In short, I will say that I LOVE what I do. Each person is unique and interesting. I learn something from each person. Sometimes I am challenged to find a technique that will reach them or work for them. That’s fine, because I love learning and digging deep within myself.
For me, it is a blessing to have a positive, healing effect on another person’s life. To help a person recover from being lost and hopeless and see them emerge as a powerful, positive, capable being who achieves their dreams and potential is amazing and gratifying. I have hundreds of success stories.
Many times people who came to me when they were single will come to me for brief therapy when they get married and have children. I have the honor of blessing the entire family and teaching them skills for healthy living.
I don’t take it personally if a client chooses to prematurely end therapy. Some people do not want to do holistic therapy; it is too much work and too much personal responsibility. Perhaps they are not ready. Perhaps they choose to remain the same. Perhaps they want to work with another type of therapist. It is their choice.
Norm: What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Judith: The most common misconception is that I will do all the work and the client just needs to show up for therapy. I quickly dispel that myth.
Another misconception is that I will be overwhelmed by clients’ problems. To be a therapist over a long career, it is very important to establish personal boundaries and maintain good personal self-care. I am not afraid of clients’ emotions and traumas because I have worked on my own personal healing and transformation. I understand them because I, too, was once lost and suffering. I share my story of transformation and healing in my book and in my therapy sessions. Clients trust me because I have “been there” and changed. This gives them hope and optimism.
Norm: What purpose do you believe Creating A Healthy Life and Marriage: A Holistic Approach: Body, Mind, Emotions and Spirit serves and what matters to you about the book?
Judith: Primarily, Creating A Healthy Life and Marriage was designed as an educational and self-help tool/ guide for achieving a healthy relationship with yourself and other people.
The book presents the theory that we are a four- part being – body, mind, emotions, and spirit - each part needing to be nurtured and cared for, yet each having the potential to provide us with a healthy life. If we experience trauma to one of these parts when we are growing up, we will have internal wounds and confusion that prevent us from developing our authentic Self—identity, and we will have difficulty establishing a close, intimate relationship with ourselves and others.
In the initial chapters of the book, readers are guided to understand their own developmental process, from early childhood. through school years. to young adulthood, and helped to pinpoint the problems that prevent them from achieving self-acceptance, success in relationships, health, balance, and abundance in every area of their lives.
Successive chapters provide a guide for healing and transformation.
What matters to me about the book is its holistic approach. We live and are raised in a society that is very one dimensional. Emphasis is on productivity and achievement in the material world. Little attention is given to the intrinsic value of each person as a special being, with special needs.
Most people hunger to find love, within themselves and in relationships, but society does not teach us how to achieve this. No one educates us about our emotions, the functioning of our brains, our spiritual potential, how to heal our bodies, how to maintain healthy relationships.
It is my sincere desire that Creating A Healthy Life and Marriage will inspire, guide, and empower readers in every area of their lives.
Norm: What was the
most difficult part of writing your book?
Judith: The most difficult part of writing the book was that I wrote it over a fifteen- year period. Each chapter was written in conjunction with lessons I was learning in my personal and professional life. Writing over such a long period of time required commitment, determination, and trust in the learning process.
Another element that was difficult was taking the risk to disclose so much about my personal life. In the end, I felt it was essential to share my own experience with healing and transformation, as my theories evolved from that process.
Norm: What would you say to people who may be skeptical of the “inner child” concept that you fully examine in your book?
Judith: I would tell them that I developed that theory as the result of my own inner healing. Over the course of many years of journaling, doing art therapy, and recording my dreams, images of children began to appear. Sometime they were babies, sometimes they were young children.
When I did creative writing about them or analyzed them, I came to understand that they were parts of my personality that had been wounded in my childhood, at various ages. The children had their own personalities and coping skills to deal with the trauma they experienced.
As a therapist, I realized that in order for me to transform my life and acquire healthier coping skills, I had to bring these Inner Children out of the basement of my unconscious and get to know them. I had to hear their stories, release their fears and hurt, care for their unmet needs, love and protect them. They were, after all, parts of myself.
The work I did with my Inner Children was transformational for me. I no longer felt like a “lost child.” Through them I understood and accepted my developmental process. I understood why my life had been so difficult and perplexing. I released my past and embraced the “whole person” that I had become. I found joy, energy, creativity, courage, and love dwelling within me – which enabled me to love myself and others.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Judith: For more
information about me and my books, please visit MY WEBSITE
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.