Julisa Adams, MA, Holistic Psychotherapy, Brainspotting & Hypnotherapy

Mindfulness and psychotherapy

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Mindfulness has become a real buzzword in the field of psychotherapy these days. The reason why is that it allows therapists to help clients access the deeper layers of their psyche without having to be trained as a hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapy was developed at about the same time that Freud developed his “talking cure,” actually before. Freud would meet with his clients usually four days a week and just let them talk freely and then analyze what they said, which is why he called his approach “psychoanalysis.” If you’ve ever watched a Woody Allen movie, you know that being analyzed doesn’t necessarily make you healthy. As time has gone on, therapy has endeavored to evolve into a method of healing that is available to people who aren’t members of the upper class and become affordable. Hypnotherapy became popular because it allows the therapist and client to go into the issue much more quickly, and get to the unconscious roots, which is usually where change is most powerful and effective. People experienced change with sometimes only one session, and this was a very exciting development in the field of psychology. However, hypnotherapy mostly stayed an alternative to traditional types of therapy.

Mindfulness, on the other hand is being integrated by a broad spectrum of psychologists, counselors and therapists. It allows practitioners to keep using their tools and training while also creating the space for the client to drop in deeper into themselves and access things which would normally be outside of awareness. This opens the door to work with what is called “implicit memory.” Implicit memory is stored in the body not as narrative, but more like gut reactions. Implicit memory includes what is absorbed from the child’s environment in a way which is familiar or normal, such as gender roles, patterns of attention, what parents don’t want to discuss, etc. It’s also a big component of trauma because of the mechanics of memory, especially when a person is in overwhelm and can’t assimilate what is happening. Then the experience stays more as body-memory, which is best accessed through mindfulness of the body, which is the essence of somatic psychotherapy.

Mindfulness is similar to mediation in that it is an internally focused state of consciousness in which the client is more sensitive to what is happening inside than outside his or her mind. It allows clients to pick up on subtle things, which may not immediately make sense to that person. It is a process oriented approach, as opposed to a content oriented approach. This means that that client is allowing internal awareness to flow in a process of discovery of the underpinnings of an issue. This is a stark contrast to the most common type of therapy, which is CBT, or Cognitive-Behavioral therapy in which the therapist helps the client solve issues by employing deliberate strategies for changing behavior. Mindfulness is a way to organically drop into a process of deepening awareness which allows change to occur naturally in the depths of the psyche which is then gently integrated into a person’s natural way of being.

I find that integrating mindfulness, body awareness and breathwork with traditional tools such as the CBT approach give clients the most profound shifts with the issues they want to resolve. I integrate mindfulness and body-awareness into every session that I do. Since I’ve practiced hypnotherapy since the early nineties, I include that rich tradition of working with imagery, metaphor, and hypnotic language along with mindfulness and somatic work. My intention is to work with the psyche in the most natural and organic way possible, creating the most effective shifts the person is able to integrate.


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I was inspired by the work of Buddhist psychologist Tara Brock to teach the tool, RAIN, which is an acronym meaning: Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Non-dual or No-self. Using this mindfulness tool which breaks you out of habitual defensive patterns, had given me a big break-through in my life. Guided by a powerful feeling of love in a dream, I started using RAIN in my personal life and teaching it to my clients. It helped me to shift a very challenging relationship by pausing and seeing that what someone was doing that was causing me pain was not really personal, just how she operates. It was in this context of being inspired to teach people this very useful tool, that I planned to teach a workshop at Dharma Ocean when the Boulder meditation hall first opened in December 2012.

I’d be presenting this to a group of meditators, and I started thinking about more ways to help these folks with the struggles they described in the discussion segment of the meditation group. I thought to myself, “Mabye these folks could learn to Brainspot themselves, since they are experienced in observing their inner, embodied experience in meditation.” I had had good results with teaching clients to use Brainspotting outside of sessions (called “self-spotting”) and I wondered if people who weren’t familiar with Brainspotting through therapy could also learn it. I could see that a lot of group members could use some tools for working with the pain and difficult patterns that they were sitting with in meditation. Listening to people talk, I observed how much of their suffering came from their own self criticism and judgment. In fact one woman at a weekend workshop my husband and I attended, explained that she had left her meditation practice because it activated her inner critic so much. This made me sad as I thought about what a big trap perfectionism and self-criticism is on the spiritual path. I thought I might help people by teaching them to use Brainspotting, RAIN and Non-Violent Communication (NVC) to shift the nasty voice of the inner critic, since I do this routinely with my therapy clients.

I decided to experiment on myself and find an eye position that felt resonant with my own experience of that judging inner voice. True to the power and magic of Brainspotting, within approximately 15 minutes of gazing into that eye position while meditating, I traced back to the experience to my mother’s pet phrase, “Shame on you Julisa Danae Adams!” From there it went on to the feeling of being in utero while she jumped quickly into a premature marriage under the critical scrutiny of both families. My father was 20 and my mother was 21 and they now had to struggle with getting through college and having a baby simultaneously. I could feel inside myself a deep sense of, “I should not be here. I’m just messing everything up. I’m a mistake. I don’t belong.” Sitting in the meditation hall, I could simply observe this very painful contraction deep inside my own core, and the fundamental sense of wrongness that seemed to be the seed of my being. I watched this experience internally with equanimity, knowing that it was simply a strong impression from the circumstances at that time, but not actually my deepest truth. In that state, even core impressions like this melt in the sunlight of pure witnessing consciousness. I moved my eyes back and forth between this shame/criticism spot and my Divine Mother/unconditional love spot. I knew it was clearing as I felt lightness, love and ease open up in that same core space (and eye position) which had been so painfully contracted.


Soon enough, I found myself with an opportunity to test how the shift I felt in the meditation hall translated into my daily life. Christmas vacation was shortly afterwards, and my husband and I went to Cozumel to go diving. The airlines lost our luggage for a few days, and since we went to Cozumel to SCUBA dive, I found myself diving with rental gear for the first time. I had never dived with lead weights strapped around my hips, and had no experience positioning them correctly or having all the weight so far down my body. My body fat is distributed much more toward my upper body, not below the waist, so while diving, my legs were constantly sinking. I didn’t realize that this what was happening for some time, though. What I noticed was that I was using my arms to try to stabilize myself and kicking incorrectly. But more importantly, what I noticed was that the big Mexican dive master, aptly named “Monster,” was coming over to me and doing the SCUBA version of scolding me for diving badly and grabbing my body and my gear, gesturing angrily about my bad form. When a diver swims like this, they use up their air and shorten the dive for everyone, which can spoil a dive master’s opportunity to get good tips. It took me some analysis as the dive progressed, and I was repeatedly corrected for diving inefficiently, to finally understand that the rental weight belt had completely messed up my “trim.” I stopped swimming and observed as my legs sank, my body went fairly vertical and I listed to the left. I was swimming like a idiot because my weight was off balance. What impressed me as this dive unfolded, with all the other divers watching this distracting scene, was that I didn’t criticize myself or Monster. I was just observing what was happening with a relaxed and curious mind. I decided I was pretty excited to share Brainspotting with my fellow meditators in the new year.

Six months later:
Last week I got a lot of negative feedback about my original DanceSpotting website which my husband and I spent many hours creating. I was told, in a nutshell, to start over. I thought, “That’s too bad, that will be a lot of work, but everything he said made perfect sense. Well, I know a lot about spirituality and psychology, but I don’t know much at all about advertising. I’ve never studied it.” I didn’t feel defensive or self-critical, just grateful that someone had finally explained why it wasn’t generating much interest. Once he told me, I simply had to agree and build a new website.