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Therapeutic Shamanism - how reconnecting to ancient wisdom can help heal today's wounds

Psychotherapy is often considered a fairly new profession. Sigmund Freud, the so called father of psychoanalysis who framed the beginnings of what is now contemporary psychotherapy died only 85 years ago.

Following my training as a UKCP practitioner I was interested in how what we now call psychotherapy existed before Freud's development of the 'talking cure'.

Therapy involves and awareness of the processes that occur between people which is often not considered within contemporary everyday life, but there is nothing new or inherently modern about the skills psychotherapists use to work with their clients.

I became interested in understanding my work within a wider historical context and after some googling found a book discussing therapeutic shamanism






This book is written by Paul Francis, who has practiced as a psychotherapist and now teaches shamanism and animism through his college, The Three Ravens College: https://www.therapeutic-shamanism.co.uk/


Over the past few years I have read Paul's books and undertaken online courses to develop my understanding of how hunter-gatherer cultures ensured the mental well-being of themselves, their tribes and the environment in which they lived.


Our hunter-gatherer ancestors held animist principals, understanding that animals, plants, rivers etc, all have agency and importantly, that there is no hierarchy of importance between any things in our environments.


This means that they opposed any sense of supremacy over other beings. No sense that one tribe was better than an other, no sense that one gender was better than other, no sense that adult was better than child, no sense that human was better than other animal, or any plant or stone.


This belief connects to Carl Rogers' (a founder of humanistic psychology and person-centered therapy) core condition of Unconditional Positive Regard,

Most therapists are taught during training about how important holding unconditional positive regard towards our clients is.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn't need to be taught this, they knew it, their tribe knew it.


Our current problem is that modern society has lost connection with the importance of valuing all beings and we are all grappling with the drive to fit into a supremacist hierarchical frame and becoming disconnected from our embodied selves. Soul and soulfulness are undervalued and driven underground whilst we are driven to frame success as the accrual of financial wealth, social status and the display of intellectual capacity.


Animist shamanic practices support a re-connection with soul and celebrate a connection to all beings from a place of equality.


Understanding more about hunter-gatherer cultures and the role of shamans and shamanic practice to the heath of tribe and environment has supported me to deepen my own therapeutic practice and also understand the ancestral roots of modern humanistic psychotherapy.



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