[Admin] Minor Tweaks

A couple of things:

  • I’ve made a few minor tweaks around the site and upgraded our content manager and theme, so let us know if you have any problems.
  • We’ve added a twitter feed so that we can make comments/referrals that are not suitable to whole posts by themselves, indicate when previous posts get updated, and help anyone who wants to be notified of posts through twitter.
  • Which, on that note, Charities Engaged in the South: Tornado Relief has been updated with additional charities and information on lost and found animals.
  • After a long absence, I’ve readded the comments RSS feed to the front page.
  • Some of the pages around the site (e.g., the links page) have received minor updates.

Let us know if you have any questions or comments and thanks for reading!

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Charities Engaged in the South: Tornado Relief

Following the spree of tornadoes killing potentially 350 or more people in the southern United States as part of the 2011 super outbreak of tornadoes. These are some of the charity organizations I know are engaged in helping in the area:

I will update this list when I hear of other highly rated charities that are engaged.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army (text GIVE to 80888 to make a $10 donation) are also engaged in the area.

On the animal side of things:

There is also facebook page for information on animals that have been lost or found in Alabama. The Alabama SCPA facebook page has also been posting local impromptu volunteer opportunities.

The Charity navigator blog has also been keeping track of who is responding.

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Book Review: Journeying, Where Shamanism and Psychology Meet

This is a revised version of a previously written book review.

Journeying : Where Shamanism and Psychology Meet by Jeannette M. Gagan (✭✭✭✬✩, 3.5/5)

One of the key areas of interest to a lot of spirit workers, myself included, is the link between shamanism and psychology. The role of a shaman, be it core or traditional, is service to the surrounding community, frequently in the capacity of a healer. Raven Kaldera states that, since putting out his shingle as a Shaman, health has become the #1 issue that people ask about (as opposed to love or work, the other two frequent topics for readers). Harner states that the purpose of Shamanism is healing.

Given this association, it is natural that psychotherapists are starting to take an interest in Shamanism, and specifically in journeying, as a mechanism to encourage healing in their clients. Outside of some of the resources provided by the Institute of Shamanic Studies, there simply aren’t all that many good, published resources on the relationship between Shamanism and Psychology. Especially not from the psychotherapist side.

Journeying: Where Shamanism and Psychology Meet is an initial attempt to bridge this gap. After reading the effusive praise of the book Amazon, most of it from the point of view of a psychotherapist approaching shamanic practice, that I was eager to read it from the perspective of a spirit worker.

This book is not–and does not claim to be–an introduction to how to incorporate journeying in a psychotherapeutic context, nor is it in any way a “how to.” Really, there are many books out there on that already, and so this book is attempting to enter a much-needed void: discussion of the actual link between them, and discussion of how one can facilitate and help the other.

The chapters of the book are as follows:

  • Chapter 1: The Apple and the Orange
  • Chapter 2: Shared Slices
  • Chapter 3: How the Cradle is Rocked
  • Chapter 4: Little Red Riding Hood Meets the Wolf
  • Chapter 5: The Alchemical Connection
  • Chapter 6: The Meeting Place

The sequence starts by showing some of the history of Shamanism and Psychotherapy, and then slowly working their way together over the following chapters. The final chapter, The Meeting Place, attempts to draw a synthesis between the two.

History

From the standpoint of introducing people with a psychotherapeutic background to journeying, this book is reasonably good. It attempts to present the argument that there is a missing core of a “Soul” from Psychology, and establishes through some discussion what role this concept of a “Soul” has had in the history of Psychology and Psychotherapy. It describes Psychology as a navel orange, with no clear center and with a vestigial second “fruit” inside–representing the role of the soul–and a variety of clearly delineating slices representing different schools of thoughts.

Shamanism, on the other hand, is compared to an Apple–with a central set of core techniques, concepts, and practices. Very different on the one hand, and the author is attempting to establish that they are basically both forms of fruit.

To do this, it launches into a discussion of third and fourth force psychology, transpersonal psychology, and covers the history of psychological thought including some notes for Aristotle, Freud, Descartes. She goes on to discuss Jung’s Collective Unconscious, the role of visualization in both physical and mental health, and how Altered States of Conscious (ASCs) can be used as part of the healing process.

While generally interesting, during this discussion the author’s inherent biases come out. I expected a Core-Shamanist Perspective with an emphasis on psychological healing via journeying (as the title suggests, and as opposed to other things that Shamanism can and has been used for over the years), what I didn’t expect would be that the author would be unable to separate her own cultural biases, which appear to be based on her Christian background. These show up in several places throughout the book, but nowhere more clearly than when she discusses maladaptive ASCs, where she states that:

The emergence of unconscious conflicts may also be acted out in insidious rituals of possession, witchcraft, or other power-laden altered state ordeals; in life, as in fairy tales, such activities hint at evildoings and can elicit a sense of foreboding.

While it is easy enough to filter out the author’s own biases in these situations, it makes me want to say Really? You could shift your mind far enough to accept journeying, even as practiced by tribal shamans, did you really have to throw out other things practiced by traditional shamans in the process?

How Journeying Can Heal

Later chapters the author starts to talk about the origin of psychological distress and how journeying can help. This, which to me should represent the core of the book, instead ends up as the weakest part. The author spends an inordinate amount of time talking about childhood sources for these problems, which I feel is less important for the purposes of journeying and shamanic healing than that the problems exist.

My own bias in these things is that I tend to be relatively pragmatic: understanding the source of the problems can help tremendously in finding a cure, but the source of such problems can be (and is already represented as) numerous other books, and the solution frequently works independent of the precise source. We don’t really need a discussion of all of the various ways that these problems can and do form in childhood, we need a discussion of how journeying and shamanism tie into the therapy of the conditions regardless of their source.

Here, I feel it would have been better if it had taken Emotional Alchemy’s approach and acknowledged the source, but then moved on to how journeying has been used to treat it, or a Shamanic view on the treatment of the problem.

To this end, I really wish the author had included more case studies and talking about specific circumstances where journeying has helped someone, rather than front-loading with the potential origin of psychological conditions, and then a couple of illustrative case studies on the topic.

Containment

The final chapters present a synthesis between shamanism and psychology and represents the strongest–and most useful–part of the book. Here we see the author talk about how journeying helps clients, how it offers a contained, safe, and non-judgmental space in which to work. Here we see the benefit of how journeying helps keeps the transference from happening on to the therapist, and situations for which the author says journeying is counter-indicated. This is all excellent stuff, and forms the start of where I want to see research in this field start to lead.

Conclusion

The unfortunate problem with this book for spirit workers and psychotherapists is that most of us are not in the target audience. For psychotherapists who are already using journeying, this book won’t give them anything new to work with. For those who are skeptical of journeying, the book doesn’t really give anything that might sway them or convince them otherwise even if they have a relatively open mind to the process. For the spirit worker, it might be an interesting read, but there isn’t much here that we don’t already know and use.

This leads me to think that there are two groups who would benefit the most from this book:

  1. Psychotherapists and Psychologists who are curious about journeying and its application for healing, along with some context on it.
  2. People who have a TV Shamanism view of what a Shaman is, and could use a little context.

For people in these situations, I can see how it would be a really useful book, and I will keep it on my shelf to loan out for just these purposes. Otherwise it is an interesting read, but I really wish the author had taken it just that one extra step farther and removed some of the less-useful bits about how childhood and other circumstances contribute to our current psychological state.

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Reflections on Earth Day, 2011

I remember when I was very young Earth Day being something of a big thing at my school. We’d go plant trees, have talks about helping the environment, and a long list of other things along those lines. As I grow older, I consider that the things that really matter can’t be constrained to a single day, but it makes for a good day to sit back and reflect on what we can do to lessen our impact.

I would be the last to say we should drop it to zero, but many times there are things we can do within easy reach that will reduce our consumption and help the environment. Some of which take virtually no effort, others only a little, and some varying additional levels of effort depending on how far you are willing to go.

It is also not lost on me the significance of what Howling Hill points out about Pagans and the environmental movement, where she says:

Many a ritual and festival I see a total lack of regard for Mother Earth. SUVs, styrofoam food containers, processed food, and wares made in far off places of plastic, poisonous enamels, or unsustainable practices, hair dyes, makeup, and other personal care items.

One caution, however, that I’ve found worth mentioning is that it is extremely difficult to make a huge change in one’s routine, and that it is more likely in many cases for someone to continue doing bad behavior while berating themselves for it if they attempt to change too much at once or make too large of a change.

So, this Earth Day, take a moment and reflect on where we can improve things, if only by a little bit. That little bit still matters, as even those small changes can end up making a big difference. In other cases we aren’t going to be willing to give something up, but it is important to acknowledge this and try to understand the reasons we can’t give it up, maybe seeing if we can in the future.

Rather than getting caught up in changing the world, let’s try and change small things, and maybe only one of those at a time.

Some things to consider:

Cut down on single-use plastics
To quote Cat Chapin-Bishop’s essay on Environmental Mindfulness: I’m noticing more and more how much plastic actually (*ahem*) wraps my daily life. We are surrounded by this stuff. Plasticware (among other considerations) in fast food restaurants, styrofoam cups, plastic lids, the cup you get your coffee in, plastic bottles of water… even the handle on many cat litters. The list goes on and on. You probably aren’t going to get rid of all of it, but it isn’t hard to make a start here.

Mitigation Strategies for incremental improvements:

  • Use cloth bags (including produce bags) at the grocery store.
  • Get a reusable cup. Starbucks is planning to serve 25% of beverages in reusable cups by 2015, but you can get ahead of the curve and get a 10¢ discount to boot.
  • Carry your own reusable utensils. You can get them made out of bamboo or metal. You can even go further with glass, metal, or paper straws.
  • Instead of plastic ziplocs use glass containers, cloth bags, paper bags, Blue Q bags, aluminum foil, or even a rigid and reusable plastic container as appropriate.
Use LED-based or CF light bulbs.
This is an easy one. Current incandescent light technology is exceedingly inefficient. This inefficiency means that–even factoring in the mercury in the lightbulb–CFLs still place less mercury into the environment. They last a very long time as well, requiring fewer back-and-forth trips to replace them.

The picture here is not all rosy, however. Many times CFLs are packed in plastic, there are some concerns about mercury, and not all areas offer reasonable recycling programs. Still, these should not pose significant deterrents.

LED lamps, may address some of these problems, but are still very expensive and have some kinks to work out for indoor use.

Mitigation Strategies for incremental improvements:

  • Check if you have a way to recycle CFLs that you are willing to use.
  • Look for packaging with little-to-no plastic.
  • Replace bulbs as they burn out. Focusing on lights that stay on for long periods of time.
How much do you drive? What kind of car do you drive?
This is a hard one in part because it is something that a lot of people take for granted. Of course you own a car, that car needs to be large enough to fit your family+pets in, and you live well out in the superb and need that car to get to work.

Or do you?

If you are the only one in the vehicle, then cars are extremely inefficient. They also cost a great deal in gas, maintenance, etc. I structure my life in ways so that I don’t need a car, but this does limit my options when it comes to where I live and where I work, and I still find that I occasionally need to hitch rides with friends. This is also a pretty serious commitment, but just because you aren’t ready to give it up entirely doesn’t mean that that there aren’t steps you can take to reduce your impact:

Mitigation Strategies for incremental improvements:

  • Carpool with at least 2 other people. The more the merrier, but if you have at least 2 it starts to get more efficient than many other forms of transportation.
  • The next time you are in the market, purchase a smaller and/or more fuel-efficient car.
  • Take the bus or the train, especially if you can’t carpool. If you live close enough, consider walking or bicycling a few days a week.
  • When you are in the market, get a used car that still has good gas milage.
  • When in the market, consider where you live relative to where you work and common things like the grocery store. It is amazing what a difference even a few miles can make when you consider the amount of time you will be on that property.

These are just a few areas and ideas, but there are many more. From line drying your clothes to buying fresh instead of frozen. Carrying a water bottle instead of buying bottled water, and taking the extra step to recycle when we can. Keeping fewer lights on, or recognizing how much time we let the (hot) water run for when doing dishes, brushing teeth, or taking a shower.

The goal isn’t to get to reduce our impact to negligible levels overnight, but to do two very important things:

  1. Reflect on what we are choosing, so that we are choosing it mindfully and not because it is easy, expected, or convenient.
  2. Make small, incremental changes to reduce our impact on the environment and encourage others to do the same.

Is it enough? It won’t be for some people, but I believe there is a huge gap between making a small change and doing nothing. That the hard part is making those first, small, changes. Start there, and maybe making the next small change will be easier, while each of these small changes adds up to mean big change in our environment and our environmental consciousness.

Further Reading

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Are We Professionals?

One of the key questions in the matter of professionalism is whether having these discussions is even necessary. Are we actually acting in a professional capacity, one where we need to be talking about a professional ethics?

For many people in our community the answer is going to be clearly not. Most Pagans–and, indeed, many spirit workers–are going to be cleanly on the side of the line where the questions are ones of personal responsibility and individual ethics. These are important, but for them, this section on professionalism is going to seem a little strange. Questions such as dual relationships and ethics of divining over someone else’s health simply aren’t issues that they have to deal with, at least on the giving end. For people in these situations, this section can be treated as a thought experiment or–possibly–as a guide for what you should look for in the professionals and semi-professionals that you deal with in the community.

For others, the question is extremely clear cut in the other direction. They make a living giving talks or teaching classes. They may have gone on to achieve a Masters of Divinity from a school such as Cherry Hill Seminary or Naropa. They may be members of professional tarot organizations or possibly even pastoral counseling/spiritual guidance groups that already have codes of ethics in place.

These are topics that such people deal with regularly and that they–hopefully–know that they are dealing with and have put considerable thought into already. While the quality of those groups varies, they also have the benefit of a group of like-minded professionals to discuss professional ethical situations with.

For most of the rest of us, however, we exist somewhere in a nebulous and uncertain middle. That is where the danger lies, and that is where I believe we need to be having the most discussion. We slowly start inching our way into acting in a professional capacity, and people start listening to what we have to say, but–unless we make time for it–we never take a moment to step back and reflect on the ethical quandaries involved.

So where do we draw the line?

To me the cleanest and clearest place to draw the line is when one individual starts using their abilities for another person or group at their behest or at the behest of someone else. Even when you take no money or other forms of compensation: if they might listen to your advice as a result, then it is my stance that you have a professional obligation.

So the tarot reader at the metaphysical fair, the spirit worker who offers shamanic readings, the medium who investigates houses for ghosts, the person running a metaphysical store or teaching a class, and the person in charge of an open ritual are all acting in a professional capacity. The spirit worker who delivers messages for the gods and wights or who performs soul retrieval is also acting as a professional.

At least for the time that they are in that role.

For many of us–spirit workers especially–this means that even if we are not acting in a professional capacity most of the time, we still need to be mindful or professional ethics for those handful of occasions that we to step into that role. We need to be mindful of our dual relationships when they come up, and be mindful of our personal boundaries for how much we should reasonably be willing to give.

None of this means don’t. It mostly just means that whenever we start doing things that have an effect on other people, then we need to be mindful of our impact on them and their impact on us. No matter how many qualifiers we put up, people take our advice and listen to what we have to say.

So we owe it to them–and to ourselves–to only do things when they are within our competence, to be mindful of how dual relationships impact both our advice and how that advice is received, to understand where our obligations begin and where they end.

Of course, none of this means I have the answers or that what I post here is viewed (even by me) as any sort of absolute word, and most of my writings in this regard are based on what I perceive to be best practices throughout multiple different professional communities from their posted ethical codes and texts. So please do not view this as me laying forth any sort of judgmental dogma, but rather my theoretical discussion on the matter of how we interact with clients and students.

What I do believe, however, is that this is a conversation we–as a community–need to be having and that these are topics we desperately need to be mindful about. That, more than anything, is why I started this series.

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Dual Relationships and Ethics

This is a revised version of an essay that I have previously written.

As members of a profession that takes clients we frequently run into one of the pitfalls of other such professions: having more than one kind of relationship concurrent with, prior to, or subsequent to our professional relationship as spirit workers, occultists, or clergy. This relationship may be professional (e.g., someone comes to you for a soul retrieval who also happens to be your dentist), social, or financial in nature.

Many helping professions–from counselors and psychotherapists to clergy to doctors–have struggled with professional and emotional boundaries as they relate to dual relationships. As spirit workers our difficulties are not that different from counselors or psychotherapists, as we deal with many of the same forces in our client’s lives.

Even so, we are faced with a variety of problems that make certain classes of dual relationships nearly unavoidable, and as spirit workers we operate in a realm with relatively undeveloped codes of professional ethics. Ellen C. Friedman, writing on the topic of the ethics of dual relationships and Wiccan clergy, states:

The lack of professional training for Wiccan clergy and the adolescent development of Wiccan ethics is a considerable problem. Wicca is a young religion and has yet to develop in these areas to the extent found in older religions.

In truth these problems are not unique to Wicca, and we could substitute Neopagan for Wiccan and be very accurate for most of the available trads and clergy out there. This is not to demean those who are out there and who are operating relatively in the dark, and there are some great programs, such as Cherry Hill Seminary out there, but there are very few good, comprehensive analysis of dual relationships in a pastoral setting.

I personally believe that it would serve us well to follow a similar code of ethics to that employed by counselors, psychotherapists, and pastoral counselors, or at least to use their practice as a starting point.

Dual Relationships Defined

The American Counseling Association’s (ACA) 2005 Code of Ethics gives a great deal of guidance around relationships with clients, but–in a departure from previous versions of the guide–does not actually use the term dual relationships. This wasn’t because the concept is no longer important, but rather because the term itself was problematic. To quote Dr. Rocco Cottone, who was on the ACA Ethical Code Revision Task Force:

When you sit down and analyze the concept of dual relationships, you will find that it relates to three different types of relationships: sexual/romantic relationships, nonprofessional relationships and professional role change. The first category, sexual and romantic relationships with current clients, is banned by the code of ethics because we have evidence of the damage that results. The second type of relationship, nonprofessional relationships, encompasses those activities where you might have contact or active involvement with a client outside of the counseling context. The third type of relationship that the old dual relationship term encompassed is a professional role change. An example is when you shift from individual counseling to couples counseling. Moving from one type of counseling to another with one client can be really confusing and ethically compromising.

So, in the end, moving away from the concept of dual relationships was really about the analysis of what the dual relationship term meant and the confusion it caused because of multiple meanings. The new ethics code addresses all three types of roles and relationships with clients.

Despite the split into three separate categories, there lacks an effective term–other than dual relationship–that covers all three under some other heading, and the term is still in common use among other therapeutic organizations. For example, the American Association of Pastoral Counselor’s Code of Ethics echoes previous versions of the ACA’s ethics codes, and states outright:

We recognize the trust placed in and unique power of the therapeutic relationship. While acknowledging the complexity of some pastoral relationships, we avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of clients. We avoid those dual relationships with clients (e.g., business or close personal relationships) which could impair our professional judgement, compromise the integrity of the treatment, and/or use the relationship for our own gain.

Due to the widespread nature and lack of a better term, I will continue to use the term in this blog to refer to all three categories mentioned by Rocco Cottone, without attaching any specific stigma to properly conducted dual relationships. These may, in fact, be beneficial or even necessary and this should be recognized where appropriate to do so. I will also break them down into separate categories where appropriate, so that each may be better addressed separately.

Separation and Boundaries in Pagan Society

One of the challenges that face modern day spirit workers is that it is difficult–if not impossible–to maintain strict separation from our clients. First, it is not uncommon for our client-base to come from within our chosen families, and for the groups that we teach or work for to be our close friends as well.

Some shamans live on the outskirts of the society they are part of for various spiritual or practical reasons, which can help provide this separation. For those of us who are not in that position, however, this poses quite a problem.

Friedman, speaking of Wiccan psychotherapists, says that:

Wiccan clergy psychotherapists appear particularly vulnerable to ethical dilemmas caused by dual relationships. Complications unique to Wicca include the intimacy required of its clergy within the ritual context and within their covens. Covens serve not only as congregation, but also as seminaries and in some instances as family of choice.

She then goes on to offer four alternatives: Avoid clients within the community, practice low-power relationships, negotiate each relationship on a case-by-case basis, and use established best-practices that involve consultations with others.

For spirit workers the first two options are clearly untenable since we tend to serve the communities that we are part of, and while we can occasionally do low-powered work for clients some of what we do (e.g., soul retrieval, serving as a medium to the gods) is much deeper and requires relations that are closer to that of a therapist.

What I suggest is that we approach things with a hybrid of the last two. This means:

  • Adopting our own ethics guidelines and best practices from those of other helping organizations, such as the ACA.

  • Document our agreements and the dual relationships that we have.

  • Consider how our dual relationships might be unintentionally exploitive or otherwise harmful to our clients.

  • Openly discuss–and negotiate–our boundaries with our clients, both from their perspective and ours, documenting the results.

  • Use lower powered but still professional relationships where appropriate–keeping with all of the above points–and not being afraid to refer people to others when we feel that our position compromises our relationship in some way.

Conclusion

This is merely scratching the surface. I am going to go more into each of the three types of dual relationship (social, sexual/romantic, and professional) and the challenges and guidelines for each of them in the upcoming posts. Feedback or suggestions, as always, are welcome.

Further Reading

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No Unsacred Place

I’ve recently added the new blog No Unsacred Place to our blogroll here.

Part of the Pagan Newswire Collective, No Unsacred Place explores the relationships between religion and science, nature and civilization from a diversity of modern Pagan perspectives.

The site is well designed and so far the content is well worth reading, along with being very topical to the idea of Paganism in the modern world. Check it out when you get the chance, and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

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Professionalism

This is a revised and expanded version of an essay I have written previously

One thing that I believe we as Spirit Workers need to be discussing in more depth is the nature of working with clients in a modern world. We are not the only form of spiritual or psychological healing out there, and this changes the nature of how we interact with our clients, how our clients interact with us, and how our clients find us. People who are troubled do not necessarily know who or what we are, what services we offer, and whether those services can work with their other options or are strictly antagonistic in nature. We are not the new kid on the block, but as more and more psychotherapists are drawn to shamanic techniques for their clients it is likely our skills are going to be in higher demand and our visibility is going to increase.

Further, as Spirit Workers, we struggle regularly with clients on issues of the Mind and Soul. We should be developing and discussing what our professional, ethical boundaries are with our clients and students and what our standards of care are when working with others. We are also going to be dealing with people who have serious problems–both psychological and physical–and we need to understand both where we can help and what our limits are.

Dealing with such issues, we are also going to start seeing the same issues in our group that psychotherapists deal with regularly: Burnout, Countertransference, Vicarious Traumatization, and Compassion Fatigue. We need to be having conversations about what these are and how we, as helpers, can deal with them in ourselves and others when they arise.

These are not an area to be treaded lightly into, because we are dealing with people’s very souls (both ourselves and that of others), but it is something that we need to be having a conversation about. Part of my purpose in this blog is to start that conversation, and my Boundaries series has been part of that. I am going extend the concept and start writing a series of Professionalism essays, and encourage others to do the same. Under this heading I will discuss issues with being a Spirit Worker in modern society and the issues that come up in the course of acting in a helping profession.

Some possible topics that I want to eventually address with this series:

  • Professional Ethics/Boundaries
  • Limitations of Practice
  • Advertising
  • Shamanic Countertransference
  • Burnout

Essentially all of the aspects of being a modern helping profession that we must deal with moving forward.

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Ethics in Divination: Health

In John Michael Greer’s The Art and Practice of Geomancy one of the topics is something that has deeply concerned me in the Neopagan community for quite some time.

Many diviners get asked to do divinations for health. Raven Kaldera indicates that it is one of the top questions that he gets asked, and anecdotally several other diviners have said that it is one of their more common situations. Spirit Workers of all sorts also get asked these questions as a matter of course.

This means that diviners–and spirit workers–are under frequent pressure to answer questions that fall firmly outside of their domain of expertise. They are asked questions such as when will I die or about someone’s cancer. Possibly not even the health situation of the party that is asking the question.

This is a serious–and nontrivial–issue. There are a few things that we need–as ethical spirit workers need to do:

  • Recognize things that are outside of your ability.
  • Know when you can give a qualified yes… and know when to say no.
  • Be able to provide referrals.

Dealing with Limitations

Limitations on Ability

Your abilities as a geomancer, in addition, don’t qualify you to practice medicine, psychotherapy, or any other professional discipline. (Greer, The Art and Practice of Geomancy)

A serious issue in the psychology community are the ethical limits on one’s domain of expertise. If you aren’t familiar with the treatment of PTSD it is probably best not to learn it by experimenting on your clients. The same is true of massage therapy: Using massage to treat muscle tension is one thing, using it as a primary treatment for cancer is quite another. You might be able to help, you might be able to provide some relief, but you cannot be their primary source of information or treatment, and you should not be doing anything that interferes with that treatment.

Most of us are not qualified health professionals. Those that are have a set of professional prescribed methods for diagnosing problems that do not involve pendulums, astrological charts, tarot cards, or geomancy.

So if someone comes to you with a health problem, I believe the first words asked should be have you seen a qualified professional for this problem? For mental health (e.g., divination in preparation for a soul retrieval) that should be a mental health professional of some stripe. For physical health, that should be a qualified doctor of the appropriate type(s), and possibly a mental health professional as well.

This doesn’t mean I can’t do anything or that I am immediately forbidden from doing a divination. It does mean, however, that I should recognize that I am walking on shaky ground. I neither want to be practicing medicine without a license, nor giving people advice with regards to their state where I lack the expertise to do the analysis.

When you can give a qualified yes

So you have established that they are seeing the appropriate care providers. This doesn’t mean that our hands are completely free, but now we can take a step back and see how we can help and what our divination might actually do.

For example, there might be something energetically off with them in addition to anything else going on. Divination may help provide some insight into how they can better cope with the illness or injury, or may help them with spiritual direction in the uncertainty of the situation. They may simply be looking for which professionals might be best to contact, having exhausted their available avenues for such. It may indicate what approaches a spirit worker might take in addition to (and, preferably, coordinating with) their other treatments.

Sometimes they refuse to see a medical professional for other reasons, but are willing to look anywhere else for help.

There is a lot in this that each individual has to work out for themselves, and exactly where your boundaries of comfort are here are one of them. The question–and the trick–is being entirely upfront and honest about your limitations, knowing how to qualify your answers, and knowing when to provide a referral.

When to say no

You cannot help someone who cannot help themselves. So as a basic guideline, if they aren’t willing to work on their issues, your divination will go in one ear and out the other.

Past that it is a judgement call and depends on the nature of the question. I refuse to do readings for third-parties if the third party is not aware of and consenting to the reading: Their health is their business, and if they choose to share it is up to them.

I refuse to answer questions on when someone will die, duration of an illness, or anything else that might sow the ground with false hope or unfounded despair. No matter how good I am, I am not perfect (and even if I can read the message, the water tastes of the pipes).

Providing Referrals

It is generally a good idea for anyone who acts in a professional capacity with respect to the public cultivate a list of references. Get to know a couple of therapists in your area (one of which can be yours), learn your local crisis center hotlines along with any local clinics. Be able to get the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number if you need it.

It is always better to have the knowledge and never use it than to need it and not have it.

Conclusion

This is not meant to be comprehensive, but just a few general guidelines scratching the surface of the much deeper issue of professional ethics in spirit work. Everyone needs to determine their own boundaries here, but what those boundaries should be is a conversation that we as a group should be having.

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Call For Submissions – Ancestor Veneration Anthology

Picked up from Syncretic Mystic:

Asphodel Press

Working Title: Calls to Our Ancestors

Description: An anthology of prayers, poems, devotional pieces, essays, personal experience, and/or artwork in honor of our Ancestors. This anthology draws from a variety of sources and authors, and may include Ancestors worship in the form of spirits and/or Gods as well, for those whose beliefs encompass this.

What is not desired: fanfic, ego-stroking, self-aggrandizement. It’s one thing if you believe you’re sired by a God/dess, it’s another to treat other humans as lower than yourself.

Word Length: 800—1500 words minimum for essays. No specialized fonts, please. All formats for written pieces should be in a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file format. Any devotional pieces, artwork, etc. in visual format needs to be submitted in no less than 300 dpi format, preferably .tiff or .png for lossless quality.

Contributors will not be paid for this contribution. This is a one-time publishing opportunity, so you retain all rights to your piece and can use it as you wish after publication.

Any contributors need to give their legal names and addresses in the email for a release form for their work.

The deadline for submissions is June 2nd, 2011 at 11:59pm.

Emails for interested parties can be sent to Sarenth AT gmail.com.

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