The Therapist as Healer

Healers have existed from time immemorial in all societies all around the world. In Africa, in Europe, in Asia, in the Pacific, in the Americas and everywhere else in the world, every community has always had its healer or healers and they have always played a central role in those communities.


A healer is a person who uses various methods and tools to help others heal, whether from physical, psychological or spiritual ailments. In essence, healers were and are the healthcare providers in traditional and tribal communities – where we all come from. Traditionally, healers and shamans knew how to navigate the Astral realms, they knew how to connect with spirits and were a bridge between the physical and non-physical realms. Their role included divination, healing illness, bringing messages from the spirit world, cleansing negative energies, interpreting dreams, assisting with births and deaths (arrival and departure of souls), practicing herbal and traditional medicine, counseling others, and performing rituals for the community, such as for rites of passage, rain for the crops, and good harvests.


As societies have modernized, the role of the healer has changed, morphed, split into pieces and her titles have been dressed up. Psychotherapists are a modern incarnation of part of the role of the traditional healer. Doctors, nurses, others in the helping professions, massage therapists, chiropractors, guidance counselors, physical therapists, veterinarians, and even artists share parts of the traditional healer and shaman roles as well.


In her famous book, The Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Elaine Aron describes a subset of people who make up 15 to 20% of the population and share a number of attributes, all related to hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli. Many other books and studies have described a similar group as highly intuitive or empaths. These people are drawn to and often found in the professions I mentioned above. It is fair to imply that some of those people would have been the traditional healers of earlier societies as well as modern-day tribal and traditional societies.

The gap left by the community healer in modernized society has been partially – sometimes adequately, sometimes inadequately – filled by us. All too often, however, the spiritual aspect of the healing relationship is absent due to a modern worldview dominated by scientific dogma. This exacerbates the sense of disconnection from ourselves that so many of us suffer from and which is the source of many of the ills that afflict us today– whether physical, psychological or spiritual. But there are many approaches to psychotherapy as well as complementary therapies that are bringing back this sense of wholeness, of a connection to ourselves, to our communities, to nature and to all that is. It is comforting to see that despite the violent attack on spirituality and healing traditions we are still here doing what we do. Those of us who are healers in these modern times and contexts, and who do not, as a result of the erosion of our social fabric, have our natural mentors to initiate us into the healing professions, are reduced to going about it in the only conventionally acceptable way: getting a Western education as doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychotherapists and other helping professions.


The part of the traditional healer’s territory taken up by the therapist is healing trauma, emotional wellbeing and, depending on the therapist’s orientation, spiritual wellbeing of the individual, which contributes to the wellbeing of the community.


So, one way of looking at therapists is to see them (us) as reconnectors. They help us reconnect with ourselves, with our true essence, with the source of life and with other people and beings on this planet. Sadly, we can’t make the rain come, we can’t tell the future, nor can we navigate the Astral realms. But by helping people come into alignment with their true nature, which is a process that begins with ourselves, we are hopefully helping humanity one person at a time, one small group at a time to reconnect to itself and its source.

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