Integrative healing means looking at the whole system to allow the impact of healing to permeate all parts of what it means to be human. This can affect the physical system, psychological system, emotional system, physiological system, hormonal system, spiritual system, etc … By utilizing integrative approaches one is able to realize healing and better functionality across all of these areas of being.
Interviewing Hannah Braune Friedman, a relatively new addition to the Viva clinical team, brought a fresh perspective to the topic. Her experience as a social worker and therapist has spanned several continents and taken many turns over the past few decades. Throughout her career she has seen how integrative healing has produced profound and sometimes unexpected results in her clients.
For example, Hannah’s worked as a counselor with the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. She provided counseling and crisis intervention for students. This taught her the importance and power that integrative approaches can yield when faced with distress of any kind.
By interfacing with each aspect of her students, she was better able to move them out of crisis mode and into more healthful spaces.
While working in CT, Hannah noticed how much her students were positively impacted with use of a therapeutic sand tray and creative art activities. Many trauma symptoms were alleviated due to these expressive outlets.
“The holistic nature of the treatment approaches I’m seeing at Viva really allows for integrative healing,” says Hannah. “The focus on body awareness and using the innate healing potential of clients” appeals as a way to facilitate meaningful transformation in people’s lives. This alignment includes an overlay of a strengths-based perspective, which focuses on an individual’s capacity for growth, rather than emphasizing thoughts or behavior as problems to be fixed.
Emerging therapies that incorporate the clients’ bodily sensations as a means of understanding and healing traumatic experiences is an important aspect of integrative healing.
Hannah recalls her time in New York some 15 years back. She worked in domestic violence and sexual assault with SAVI: Mt. Sinai’s Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program. Time and time again, she recognized the improved outcomes. There was value in treating each client as a collection of the many different parts of the self. She recognized the importance of incorporating the body into the work at hand.
While at SAVI, Hannah found that play therapy for young children helped them tap into their own unconsciousness. As well, they released some of the traumatic symptoms they were experiencing. Play also gave children control over their own narrative in a gentle and familiar way.
The Spiritual Self
Hannah is careful to distinguish between spiritual and religious practice. “For me, spirituality encompasses a broad range of experiences and beliefs that help us make sense of our lives and the world around us.”
She adds, “for a lot of people, religious practice is the source of this understanding, but for just as many it isn’t.”
An important element for many, when seeking out integrative care, is finding competent spaces to explore the spiritual dimensions of their lives. Hannah shares that she has repeatedly witnessed how harnessing faith and belief systems as strengths can powerfully support change and healing.
Some of the religious clients Hannah has worked with will often refer to their Higher Power as their greatest support and strength.
Much of Hannah’s growth in the spiritual dimension of integrative care comes from coordinating a program to aid abuse survivors from New York’s ultra-orthodox Jewish communities. This experience followed Hannah’s time in Israel where she provided mental health services to children and adolescents living in ultra-orthodox families.
Hannah was moved by clients who risked everything to come forward about the abuse they experienced in the community. Religious communities often silence victims of sexual abuse and survivors risk so much when they come forward to speak out. Hannah worked closely with several religious victims who suffered greatly for leaving their own isolated communities.
Children and Youth Applications
In addition to play therapy, Hannah has used other methods that have shown specific effectiveness with young clients. Hannah has help sessions outside, used body movement and art as a way of helping children more easily express their emotions. Integrative healing can come in many forms including expressive therapies as listed above. Hannah recounted a child client who had trouble regulating his emotions in the classroom. He would spend time in sessions with the sand tray in the office. Being able to utilize the sand tray helped the client regulate his emotions and express his feelings through sand play.
At the end of the day we are all unique human beings with unique experiences. It’s important to understand that there are so many ways to affect change towards health and healing. They can incorporate many complex dimensions of the human system, and can provide significantly better treatment outcomes. Why? Integrative treatment allows for healing and growth along many different aspects of what it means to live this human experience.
The Viva Center is lucky to have Hannah join its practice, where she is one of a few therapists offering in-person appointments, as well as online.
To learn more about working with Hannah, please contact our Client Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regina Tosca, LICSW is a therapist at the Viva Center in Washington, DC. She works with people experiencing grief and loss, including from their work in animal welfare. Other blogs by Regina include “No Holiday Hugs: How can you cope with lack of touch?” and “Cognitive Tips for Chronic Pain Management.”