Shamanism & Psychotherapy: A Powerful Healing Approach. ~ Abby Wynne

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I find myself in a desert landscape; it’s hot, there’s no life present.

I watch as my client drags an impossibly big rock off of the road and on to a flat in the ground. I tell her there’s another rock that she’s missing, about the size of a radiator. She finds it and drags it—this time, it’s a little easier—bringing it so it’s touching the larger rock. She sits down on the sand and surveys the work before her.

Only an hour earlier, I was immersed in the crystal waters of a bottomless lake, searching for a crevice or a crack that was affecting the lake’s structure. I was working with another client, however this time he knew just what to do and I was simply there to be a witness.

Both of my clients experienced great healing during these sessions. The first acknowledge the size of the pain she held inside her and existed with it. The second finally stepped into his own power and out of his parents hold.

These shifts, obtained through visualizations, are the journey of healing. The work, both psycho-therapeutic and shamanic, centers on the transformation of pain, the retrieval of life force and the empowerment of the individual.

Where Psychotherapy Fails

I find that people like to do the thinking part, some of them actually relish in it. There are so many books and workshops available that self-analysis could be considered a hobby by some. Some people will see a psychotherapist to help them make sense of their findings, but psychotherapy doesn’t heal. Psychotherapy helps you discover what needs healing.

My first client (above) had been to psychotherapy before and felt stuck. “I know I need to forgive,” she said, “but I don’t know how to do that.”

Where Shamanism Triumphs

“Think of a time in the past where you know you forgave someone—what was that like?” I ask.

She puts her hand on her heart and thinks.

“There was something there, and then there wasn’t anymore,” she says. “I felt free—lighter somehow.”

Using a version of the “shamanic journey” in our session, we travel together to a safe place in nature to discover how much pain she is holding onto through not forgiving.

We are in a barren land, faced with this rock, this monstrosity which is blocks her path. I am delighted—now, we have something to work with. In the shamanic landscape, my client can speak to the rock, listen to the rock, go traveling with it, to ultimately deconstruct it. Each time she connects with the rock it shrinks and she feels that little bit lighter.

This landscape never fails to amaze me in how it represents what is needed for each individual; also amazing is the speed at which most of my clients embrace working in this way. As practitioner, you must work with no attachment to outcome, no expectations; sometimes to witness, sometimes to guide and sometimes to step in.

We are required to be clear of our own issues and gain experience that teaches us what is appropriate…and when.

Why we need both the mind and the soul work

I disagree when people say that the ego edges God out. We have a physical body and we need our ego to keep us well, safe and protected. Our ego is a fundamental part of being here, on this journey of life; yet it seems to work against us for most of our lives.

Through logic, patience and time, we can make friends with our ego so it works for us, not against us.

I liken the ego to an enthusiastic dog which needs to be trained; a good dog will bring offerings to its master, and sometimes our ego proves its loyalty by bringing us remnants of the worst parts of our lives. Using psychotherapy, we can train our ego to bring us the good stuff instead, and it, like a dog, is usually happy to learn.

The spiritual part of us needs nourishing too, especially when it feels like a dry, barren desert. There’s no point having an intelligent, active, focused mind if deep inside there’s something not quite right.

The Healing Part

In our next session my client says, “I went to work with my rocks when I was at home. They moved, they are on a beach now. The big one looks much smaller and it has things living on it—starfish and barnacles.”

The presence of life, an ocean appearing in this once barren desert, you can see already that healing is taking place, even if you don’t understand exactly what it is. No attachment. No expectations.

“And where is the smaller rock?” I say to her.

“I smashed it, it broke into five pieces, each had a letter appear on them. It was much smaller then. The letters spelled GUILT.”

During our session she dropped one piece into a volcano in Hawaii, buried one in the sand, let a bird fly away with one, threw one into the sea and watched the other one shrink into a small pebble. Her face changed, her eyes were wider, and the sparkle began to come back.

“Do you feel like something you were holding onto has left?” I asked.

“Yes. Definitely yes.”

Still more work to do, there is always more to do.

I love this work.


Abby Wynne helps people open their hearts and find the path back to their centre. She is a gifted Shamanic Psychotherapist and Energy Healer in private practice in Dublin, Ireland. Abby is also a certified Reiki/Seichem Master Teacher and a published author. She blogs about her journey as a healer at, you can also find her on Facebook, on Google+ and on Twitter.

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Assistant Ed: Sara Crolick

Ed: Bryonie Wise


(Source: via Mary on Pinterest)








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anonymous Apr 4, 2016 3:40am

Psychotherapy does not heal itself but Psychotherapy helps you discover what needs healing. The concept must be corrected.

anonymous Aug 24, 2014 7:59pm

Well, honestly speaking, it might not be workable for all people. That is basic and important.
This one talks about general studies:

anonymous Nov 7, 2013 4:23pm

This is an interesting approach. Different labels attract different people.

anonymous Jul 23, 2013 7:18pm

I recognized that these shamanic approaches to healing could be reconciled with methods of intervention I had learned in my master’s counseling training.

anonymous Mar 15, 2013 8:09am

[…] Shamanism & Psychotherapy: A Powerful Healing Approach. ~ Abby Wynne ( […]

anonymous Jan 24, 2013 9:02am

Nice to read this here. It might be worthwhile to describe this as "shamanism" – or it might not. I'd offer that hypnotherapists have been using imagery, visualisation, experiential training/re-conditioning, accessing of internal resources, ego-strengthening etc. for a long long time – just as you've described. But I guess calling it "shamanism" adds some ancient note of mystique?

Infact historically hypnotherapy predates all other Western psychotherapies (e.g. prior to Freud – actually Freud was a hopeless hypnotist). However hypnosis arose out of the debunking of Mesmerism and "animal magnetism" – understanding that belief and expectation were paramount. I'm not sure that a return to "ancient" forms of talking about therapy is really a move forward (though I'm sure it sounds cool).

"Psychotherapy doesn't heal. Psychotherapy shows you what needs healing" – don't put all psychotherapies in the same basket! I think you mean to say that "gaining insight into patterns doesn't, neccassarily, heal" (because sometimes it does… and I think we can understand the processes whereby sometimes it does). However you are right that insight alone often isn't enough (although remember that there are many other factors happening in a psychotherapy session like acceptance, positive regard, becoming more emotionally expressive, positive feedback, expectancy factors… etc.)

My question here is: how do you you know this worked? Feeling good in the session, after the session or a week or two later is very common. Was there long term follow-up? Had patterns changed? In what way was that realised and experienced in terms of behavioural change? (i.e. lots of clients have lots of breakthroughs in therapy and in spiritual groups and paths… and then don't really change – and by change we have to mean that what they do changes.)

“Do you feel like something you were holding onto has left?” I asked. “Yes. Definitely yes.”
– ask the question six months later and see if that still holds – and where the evidence is of that change.

So I would say "insight alone or having an experiential breakthrough isn't enough – regular systematic work to retrain the nervous system back into healthy, simpler functioning is often required." That might be done through metaphorical imagery (like "shamanistic psychotherapy" or it might done through exposure therapy approaches – either systematic desensitisation or more modern Mindfulness-Based Behavioural approaches like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).

However in a vast majority of cases if you add hypnosis (and introduce it properly) you get better results (quite a collection of high quality research studies support that).
Or call it shamanism?

    anonymous Jan 26, 2013 5:33am

    Hi Mark,

    I love getting juicy comments to get discussion going! Thank you so much for your thoughts. The first article I submitted to the journal was an academic piece explaining the roots of shamanism, of psychology, and of healing in general. It was rejected ( I guess they prefer the nitty gritty than the academic tone!) So yes, hypnotherapy would most likely have roots in Shamanism, as you’re communicating at the soul level. (maybe on the back of your comment I could try to resubmit it!)

    However I still hold by what I said about psychotherapy – psychotherapy uncovers what the issues are and provides ways to heal, if you have a good therapist. No matter who what why or where, it’s still up to the client to embrace the process and allow the healing to happen. I believe this goes for any type of healing work, if the client is closed to it, or shut off, or for whatever reason refusing to expand or grow, they will not heal no matter where they go for help. Don’t get me wrong, I do see the value of psychotherapy, I invested quite a lot of time, personal work and money becoming a qualified therapist myself. I just feel that for a complete healing experience, the healing has to happen at ALL levels, not just with the mind.

    There is a difference between Hypnosis and Shamanism. Hypnosis as I understand it uses scripts for specific issues, during a session the therapist implants these scripts into the client’s subconscious mind. Shamanism is a journey into a landscape where the client enters the realm of their subconscious mind and, oftentimes, the minds of the collective unconsciousness. The journey speaks in images to us, rather than us choosing the images. It’s about listening to what is already there, and transforming that. It’s not scripted, it’s not predictable and it can be terrifying. That’s why Shamanic Practitioners really need to know the landscape, and really need to do their own work first.

    To answer your question about my client specifically without breaking confidentiality is impossible. All I can say to you is that I have been in private practice for 3 years and nobody has come knocking at my door asking for their money back. Client’s are so impressed with the results they refer their family and friends to me. Sending a loved one months, even years after seeing me is testimony to the work.

    It’s interesting what you say “regular systematic work to retrain the nervous system back into healthy, simpler functioning is often required.” This is an important part of the integration work after a Shamanic healing. My point of blending Shamanism and Psychotherapy is that Psychotherapy does this part better. That’s what I want to shout about!

    Maybe, if you still have questions, you would be interested in going on a Shamanic Journey for yourself? There is nothing like experience to truly understand the power and potential of this work.

anonymous Jan 24, 2013 3:15am

Hi Abby, Great to see you here too (I’m over on the Love & Relationships section) and wonderful subject! Yes, shamanic practices reach to places that traditional psychotherapy cannot reach – but it’s lovely to see the two practices getting closer in recent years. Freya.

    anonymous Jan 26, 2013 4:52am

    Hi Freya! Great to see you here too! I'll have to come over and visit your articles!! What are you using to log in and comment here? I'm not sure what's best, I'd love to redirect to my website just as your name does here. Thanks! xxAbby

anonymous Jan 22, 2013 9:03am

I love this! Thanks for sharing it. You are so right about the ego. Many New Age teachers put forward death to the ego, which would mean disarray in protecting the self. Balance is key.

    anonymous Jan 23, 2013 6:38am

    Yes balance is key – We have the ego because we need it to function. It's not our enemy and it gets a lot of bad press! It's time to make friends with it! Thanks for the comment.

anonymous Jan 21, 2013 2:10pm

fantastic! really loved it , so powerful just amazing you really are a gifted healer ..thank you…. I will definitely check out

anonymous Jan 21, 2013 10:44am

[…] Shamanism & Psychotherapy: A Powerful Healing Approach. ~ Abby Wynne ( […]

anonymous Jan 21, 2013 5:51am

Thank you for the beautiful feedback, the work is amazing and I am delighted that I have found a way to share it. I hope to write more like this!

anonymous Jan 20, 2013 8:18pm


I am *so* glad to see this shared here on EJ!

My most deep and lasting changes have been direct results from journeying / soul retrievals and days (weeks?) of recapitulations. As we shift our consciousness into other (often) sequestered realms, we become exposed to incredibly efficacious power tools, and, our magnificence.

Thank You!

anonymous Jan 20, 2013 12:41pm

This seems a very powerful way to work. I love the images. Wow. Thank you for sharing.

    anonymous Aug 9, 2013 6:00am

    I couldn't agree more, the images are very nice…