“Soul Work is the wild, untamed sister of more traditional talking therapies, offering a sacred space in which ceremony, ritual, meditation, prayer, movement, and creativity can be included in the therapeutic process.”
Soul Work is the name that I give to my 1:1 counselling sessions and group work with people. It emerged from my longing to challenge and transform some of the beliefs and expectations we hold around talking therapy, my own included! Instead, I wanted to offer something that was more playful, creative and dynamic, which also drew on my diverse experiences and skills.
It also emerged from my longing to call forth a deeper way of working, and a deeper way of being with people – for myself, and my clients. I have always remembered the
first time I heard Joni Mitchell singing A Case of You, and how the words resonated inside of me as she sang, love is touching souls… Years later, I found myself wanting to create space for that, space for souls to touch.
And so Soul Work was born. It is a tapestry woven from many different threads, emerging from my training as an interfaith minister and spiritual counsellor, and from my professional experiences as a hospice chaplain and spiritual care practitioner. It is influenced by my own journey with shamanic practice, movement medicine, ecstatic dance, and creative therapies.
For me, Soul Work offers freedom and creativity not often found in traditional talking therapies, providing a meaningful space in which ceremony, ritual, meditation, movement, and creativity can be woven into the therapeutic process. Soul Work reconnects us to the wisdom of our hearts, the intelligence of our body-mind, and the essence of who we truly are.
Like many counsellors, I still provide a safe and confidential environment for people to talk through their thoughts, feelings and concerns; to focus what is important to them; to understand themselves better and find a positive way forward. But Soul Work also allows me to offer practical tools and methods to support people in their lives, and to deepen their experience and journey.
One such method is seemingly simple, but innately powerful – and that is the invitation to walk and talk together. Walking together in nature can offer inspiration, freedom, and a greater sense of connection to the world around us; providing a refreshing alternative to the formality of more traditional counselling arrangements.
For one of my clients, Louise, it was just the shake-up she needed, after years of difficult client-counsellor relationships. Walking in nature turned that relationship on its head, and instead, the world around us became her guide, her teacher, her source of wisdom and connection. I provided accompaniment, accountability, the occasional challenge or candid reflection – but really it was about supporting Louise to deepen her sense of self, and connect to her innate wisdom through the lens of landscape and place.
Our work together culminated in a rites of passage ceremony in the woods that we crafted together, which was witnessed by the trees and the birds. The work that we did together was woven seamlessly into the landscape, and that landscape – her sense of place and belonging – continued to support Louise after we completed our work together.
For another client, it was the invitation to include her body and encourage movement in our sessions together, which provided Patricia with the turning point she needed to move forwards with her life. Patricia had been living with a terminal diagnosis for a number of years, and struggling with not-knowing how long she had left to live. As a retired psychotherapist, Patricia felt she should have a better handle on her mental health and equilibrium.
By working with embodied practises, and explicitly welcoming her direct embodied experience, we were able to include the anger and rage Patricia felt at her situation; we could include her grief and despair, even the moments of humour and compassion. And especially the not-knowing, which ultimately was the deepest dive of all. We could include it all as part of an ever-changing and unfolding internal landscape. Working directly with her body and the her free-flow of movement allowed Patricia to explore the whole range of her experience, as opposed to thinking she had to hold it all together.
These are just a couple of examples from my Soul Work sessions. Others practices that I work with include meditation and mindfulness, guided visualisations and shamanic journeying. I also offer creative and intuitive practices such as painting, writing and divination (for example), to support people to access their inner wisdom and innate creativity. Similarly, I support people in co-creating personalised rites and rituals, which can provide a powerful framework for healing and transformation; an opportunity to celebrate, honour or affirm something in our lives, or invoke a blessing.
In all of this, what is also key is that my understanding of Soul Work is constantly changing and unfolding, as is life itself – which means that Soul Work is also responsive.
This has felt particularly alive for me during Lockdown. Initially, like many people, I experienced a real resistance to shifting things online – there was some deep belief in me that things would not be “the same” – whatever that meant. I wanted to hold, and wait until other options became possible.
And then my work continued, and I realised that I had been in training for this all along. As many interfaith ministers will attest to, we don’t just work across a spectrum of faith, but across a spectrum of time and physical distance too. We learn how to connect – not just in person, but on the phone and online – cultivating our presence beyond the limitations of physicality and geography. So although it felt very different to offer sessions by Zoom rather than in person, I found a new quality of aliveness and presence being called forth – in myself, and in my clients.
Of course, I miss the warmth and connection of sitting together with someone in a 1:1 session, or walking together in nature – and Zoom can present some interesting challenges when it comes to ‘listening’ to what’s being said between our words. But meeting my clients online has also brought a fresh quality of intimacy and depth to the work that we do, as we sit in our separate homes, connected by sight, sound and hearts, surrounded by our home comforts and discomforts. I’ve found that people are more relaxed, ready to drop deeper, and somehow more adept at integrating what we have shared into their daily lives at home. It’s not always easy – it has brought new challenges, but also new rewards.
And so, my understanding of Soul Work continues to deepen. Ultimately, I believe that Soul Work is an invitation for us to come home to ourselves, again and again. An invitation to remember, to awaken, to witness all that holds us back from recognising the truth of who we really are… It’s my honour to walk alongside people in that remembering; to enquire, to accompany, to invite, to challenge, to witness, to love, to celebrate.
**Please note, that names have been changed for confidentiality**
~ Written by OneSpirit Interfaith Minister, Rev. Bryony Wildblood