Lifespan Integration Therapy: A Christian Counselor Connects the Dots
Clients seek therapy for many reasons, but these can often be traced back to a need to resolve past losses, to grieve over them, and to find ways of moving forward in one’s life. Both the therapist and the client may puzzle together and talk about how to become “un-stuck” in order to live fully.
Therapists have different ways of dealing with grief and loss, and of enabling their clients to go forward in life. These can include talk and behavior therapies, which often require many sessions in order to produce results that may or may not be long-lasting.
What is Lifespan Integration ™ Therapy?Lifespan Integration therapy is a newer, body-based therapy that can help to resolve many of those life issues where the client feels stuck. It can help the client to gain a more coherent sense of self. Results are seen and felt within a few sessions, and repeated sessions continue to enhance earlier results. The changes also appear to be long-lasting.
This therapy was developed in the past decade by two Seattle-based therapists who sought ways to help their clients move beyond past losses. They have since trained therapists throughout the world in Lifespan Integration. Many applications have been added to the basic therapy in order to deal with PTSD, relational issues and attachment deficits.
A Body-Based Therapy
What does it mean to say that a therapy is body-based? Memory is stored in the body as well as in the brain. During therapy, memories are accessed by using a timeline of the client’s life. The neural networks that contain these memories are connected to the client’s present experience and integrated into this. By repeating the timeline, the present discomfort caused by painful memories is eased, and these uncomfortable memories are integrated into the rest of the client’s remembered life.
This is a therapy that uses the amazing plasticity of our brains, and their ability to be changed and rearranged, in order to create changes in our current responses to life. In cognitive therapy mode, the focus in on analyzing and puzzling through an issue in order to come to understanding and to create a strategy for change. However, in Lifespan Integration the dots get connected quickly, usually after several repetitions of the timeline.
Connecting the Dots in Our Stories
The “dots” in a timeline comprise the narrative of a person’s life. We all have a story of our life. In our early years, this is co-created with our parents or caregivers. A century ago, families and the social groups that those families were part of were more stable and settled than they are today. Family, group and individual narratives were co-created naturally. The pace of change in our culture, together with divorce, single parenthood and multiple relocations, make connecting to one’s past, to others and to a larger community difficult for many individuals. This, in turn, contributes to increasing depression, anxiety, empty relationships, and numerous behaviors and addictions that are adopted to fill the internal void.
What happens in Lifespan Integration therapy? After determining which variation of this therapy is most appropriate for the client’s situation, the therapist takes a written timeline that the client has brought in. This list contains memory cues from remembered incidents and times in the client’s life. It may include experiences such as “walking into Mrs. Statler’s second grade classroom at age eight” and “playing with Scratch, my white kitty my daddy gave me when I was four.” The therapist uses this to create a mental “slide show,” which touches briefly on each memory in a continuous sequence, and finishes in the present. The client “watches” their own life while sitting comfortably with their eyes closed.
Changing the Behavior Patterns of the Past
Can you remember using a View-Master toy when you were young? The View-Master is a good way to explain what happens in Lifespan Integration therapy. A circular cardboard disk of photo slides is inserted into the handheld viewer device, and a “story” is told as the viewer advances the photos by clicking a lever. In Lifespan Integration, the therapist “operates” the lever in order to move the client through the images and to help them connect to the feelings in the story that those pictures tell. The trained therapist can use the client’s timeline in several ways, depending on the issues that the client wants to work through.
Lifespan Integration Therapy can help the client to recognize and remove outmoded defensive systems and behaviors, which they may have developed early in life in order to deal with difficult situations. For example, a woman who learned to mentally defend herself against a controlling parent may not need to defend herself to the same extent against her husband’s irritability. But her defensive reaction to her husband is automatic and is out of proportion in an adult relationship. By using Lifespan Integration, the therapist can target that defensive behavior and help this woman to develop more appropriate adult strategies.
Christian Counseling Can Help You to Integrate the Story of Your Life
We all have issues from the past that can prevent us from moving forward with our lives and from becoming the people whom God created us to be. If you sense that the Lifespan Integration therapy that I have outlined in this article may help you with current impasses in your life, then you may want to consider speaking to a Christian counselor who is trained in Lifespan Integration therapy.
Lifespan Integration Material is copyrighted by © 2010 Lifespan Integration, LLC. www.lifespanintegration.com
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