Counsellor and Shaman - Are they the same?

I find myself mesmerized by the apparent threads between the two. It appears on inspection that there is as an inexplicable link that whispers of an ancient well of knowledge that sits right at the centre of the two. It may be that only the names separate them but this would need far more extensive research and knowledge than this reflection offers up. I offer up this personal observation as an invitation for further exploration and reflection on what it is that actually heals. It may offer up a union between what for the most part is still seen as two disparate parts. Shamanism appears to sit quite beautifully as both foundation and expansion to the field of Counselling and Psychotherapy, wrapping around it like a glove. I imagine this symbolic image arises as no coincidence.

Looking to the common factors we find that both are often open to misinterpretation, sharing the same mysterious veil that shrouds the actual healing process itself. I’m sure we have all heard, ‘Well how exactly does it work then?’ A question that may be common ground for both Counsellor and Shaman and indeed common ground for us all. Do we ever truly know that magical ingredient that enters so silently and allows for the healing presence to be seen? Is it not the mystery of this process that has been both fuel and source to our desire for further study, leading us to this rich and abundant sea of ideas, theories, disciplines and approaches that we see today? It’s to wonder if Counsellor and Shaman are in effect disciples of mystery. 

The Shaman, undergoing initiation and years of study into the nature of all things was seen as someone with an expanded consciousness who was able to offer up wise counsel when one was in need of insight and healing to redress physical, psychological and spiritual imbalance. Shamanism today, as then, still stands as a great teaching of consciousness, encouraging an active and enquiring relationship into the nature of self and the world we live in. 

The counsellor undergoes a similar period of study as they are encouraged to delve deeply into the personal and collective experience of humanity. One could certainly say that the trainee counsellor undergoes an initiation process throughout their training. What goes in does not come out in the same manner in which it entered. Shall we call this an expanded consciousness? 

I want to set up a hypothetical session by both Shaman and Counsellor, seeing a male client suffering with a sense of powerlessness and depression and explore the similarities. Both are a brief synopsis of the proposed sessions and do not allow for the number of sessions it would take to achieve said results. 

The shaman welcomes our male client who speaks of feeling powerless. The Shaman having listened and heard, may be spiritually or intuitively guided to offer a Soul Retrieval, journeying into the collective unconscious to connect with a soul part or energy that has become trapped in a past trauma, returning it to consciousness so the client can take back the power in the proess of re-membering and integrating the experience from their current perspective. The Shaman completes the healing bringing in a powerful symbolic messenger as a power or spirit animal that has been shown to be what the client needs to support the healing process. A reflection follows on the animals qualities and traits enabling the client to recognize these as being an inherent part of themselves and a source of power they can draw upon. 

Our client arrives complaining of feeling powerless and depressed. The counsellor offering a warm and empathic space encourages an open reflection to help uncover any beliefs or experiences that may still be holding power for him and feeding into the presenting depression. Identifying the source/s of lost power, the focus falls to supporting the client to withdraw the power that had become stuck in the past/future event, bringing both power and awareness into the present. The counsellor intuitively senses that it would support him to incorporate mindfulness techniques, helping to gain an awareness of his instinctual and intuitive responses to both his inner and outer world. The client develops a knowing from this inner guidance and is able to draw on this to support him.

To conclude it would appear that both Counsellor and Shaman offer counsel, a listening ear, and a safe space for healing to occur. Both journey to the root of the concern to aid release of the energy held there. Both work to enable the client to retune to his/her natural responses and instinct. Are the Shaman and Counsellor the same? Historically we know that the Shaman would have been approached for counsel, so how and when did the two become seperated? Shamanism appears to have been pushed into the shadows while Counselling and Pyschotherapy came to light. Are we living with an unspoken pervading fear that is causing a division of what at least in essence feels the same? 

Lisa Woods

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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