Author: Melissa McWalter
9 Reasons Why People Seek Out Alternative Therapies
“I have been to so many different therapists, psychologists and helpers but I have not found what I need.”
“I haven’t found anyone that I can really connect with.”
“I need to connect with a real person, not a blank face.”
“I don’t feel like I can relate to my therapist.”
“I don’t want to blindly follow a conventional medicine model, but I also don’t want to ignore important medical advice.”
“Traditional therapy is just not working for me.”
“I am desperate for my mental health or my child’s mental health to improve, and nothing seems to be working.”
“I’ve tried everything.”
“Just simply talking isn’t helping me.”
These are some of the most common reasons my clients look for alternative therapies, and often why they come to me. I highly value the fields of psychology and psychiatry, which is why I work collaboratively with other professionals. However, traditional therapy approaches are not for everyone.
Sometimes, people need a different approach in order to feel seen and heard. The traditional therapy models tend to allow less transparency, real-ness and openness from the therapist, with the focus remaining exclusively on the client. This works really well for many people.
For others, the core element of safety in therapy can only be found in an imperfect, somewhat irreverent approach that allows relationship and connection to unfold between two real human beings. I bring a valuable expertise to the relationship pertaining to the areas of therapy and skills I offer; however, I am not an expert on life. This is a journey we undertake together. The relationship we form is the vehicle for growth and healing.
The integrative nature of this approach means that we may use talking, music, art, movement, trauma-informed yoga, breathwork, lifestyle modification, creative process, symbol work, nature, writing and/or mindfulness in a way that feels safe and appropriate for you.
I like to take 1 – 3 sessions to get to know you and to allow you to get to know me. From there, we can decide whether we would like to work together and if I could be helpful.
If you are interested in integrative therapy, an alternative approach, please contact Melissa by clicking here
16 week psychedelic assisted therapy program
This program is informed by the John’s Hopkins psychedelic research protocol. It also draws on tools from MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) and the Center for Psychedelic Research at the Imperial College London.
Week 1-8: weekly preparation sessions including assessment, verbal and non-verbal therapies, intention setting, examining our narrative, trauma-informed yoga therapy and implementation of tools and strategies for the process. Importantly, this preparatory period helps establish a trusting relationship, consistency and a safe space.
Week 9: day-long psychedelic experience including preparatory yoga, nature immersion, creative arts therapies, Hero’s Journey walkabout and individually curated music playlists. The journey is facilitated indoors with eyeshades.
Week 9-16: weekly integration sessions in order to extract the most meaning and insight from the process and connect it to daily life. Verbal and non-verbal, creative processing and re-storying.
Cost: R20 600 total
Preparation sessions: R850 (60-90 minutes)
Day long experiential session: R7000 (6-8 hours)
Integration sessions: R850 (60-90 minutes)
Payable weekly. Upfront payment discount offered.
Transformational journey and psychedelic integration: a beautiful testimonial
“In a time of my life where I had no idea how to start dealing with my trauma, Melissa offered me a safe haven by teaching me about myself and showing me where my power lies. We worked very closely together in thorough preparation for my psychedelic journey as well as the integration of the impact it had on me afterwards. Years later Melissa is still the person I call on for guidance on how to manage the inner storms that arise, and her hunger for knowledge ensures that the most suitable methods are used for my ptsd.”
Sarah worked in therapy with me with her difficult relationships, cPTSD, depressions and anxiety. She went on a psilocybin journey to help catalyze her process. This was well planned, prepared for and integrated. She is an incredibly brave and bold soul who has shifted so much generational trauma as well as personal blocks. I am grateful to work with such special humans on a daily basis. (Name changed for confidentiality purposes).
Why MDMA in therapy?
MDMA-assisted therapy allows for the re-experiencing of trauma, remembering and feeling within a uiniquely safe and ‘warm’ container. Events and feelings can be revisited without the intense level of shame, pain or terror associated with them. Difficult feelings can emerge, but MDMA allows one to move into the feeling, if chosen, without being overwhelmed. Facing these challenging feelings and allowing them to unfold can be the catalyst for great healing and change. MDMA also increases a sense of empathy, in this work often toward oneself, and a sense of self-acceptance. Things can be viewed from different perspectives without the same level of defense. MDMA is also a highly somatic substance, enhancing one’s sensations and the physical experience of emotional states.
MDMA reduces the fear response in the amygdala, which allows challenging or traumatic content to be visited without necessarily being overwhelming. MDMA also increases oxytocin, which promotes trust and a sense of love, and wellbeing. This means that challenging or stuck parts of ourselves can be received and understood with greater compassion. Essentially, we can visit more challenging places/spaces/parts with greater capacity, resilience and love.
MDMA-assisted therapy is used for various reasons including PTSD, couples therapy and cPTSD. It can be a profoundly insightful experience for individuals working with their self-love or self-worth. It is also perfectly positioned to allow dialogue between different parts of ourselves that don’t usually interact with each other, parts that may feel shame, anger, guilt or pain for example. The mechanism of MDMA allows these parts to speak or emerge with much less fear of fragmentation and opens channels of conversation within ourselves with love and compassion.
MDMA is a synthetically produced psychoactive substance. Often thought to be the same as Ecstacy, MDMA is a pure compoud, whereas Ecstacy may contain any number of other compouds, or sometimes no MDMA at all.
MDMA-assisted therapy is not yet legal in South Africa and the author, Melissa McWalter, does not endorse the recreational or illegal use of MDMA.
For more information, visit the contact page.
Memories and psychedelic experiences
Some of us have had memories emerge during a challenging psychedelic experience, memories that weren’t there before. Often these are traumatic memories. What happened? Has something been unlocked? Is it fabrication?
There is no one size fits all approach to this problem. One important part of my approach is to address all feeling states as real – because they are – and to allow the actual memory material to slowly unfold, if it needs to.
Trauma is a physiological experience. If there is a trauma response to a memory experience when using psychedelics, that is an indication that there is unprocessed trauma stored in our body. The content of the imagery or memory material is not essential for healing. It is actually not necessary to ascertain the veracity of a memory in order to recognise trauma and to heal.
Psychedelic integration therapy is one avenue to healing. In this process, I use verbal and non-verbal therapies, such as trauma-informed yoga, movement and creative processing, to process material and to work toward integration.
Contact Melissa to book a session by clicking here
Small trauma-informed yoga groups: spaces available
Hi everyone 🙂
Because there has been such a keen interest in my trauma-informed yoga (TIY) classes, both individual and group, I am opening another small TIY group. The group is almost full, if you would like to reserve a place, please contact me directly.
The group will only facilitate a maximum of four people. Location is 3 Belsay Road, Kenilworth.
If the group is full by the time you contact me, I will waitlist you for the next group which should be opening soon.
Please note that because of the sensitive nature of this work, anyone joining a TIY group must have 1-3 individual assessment sessions with me first. Individual sessions can continue until the person is ready to join the group.
There are no strength, flexibility or fitness requirements. The classes are at your own pace. The TIY groups can be seen as a body-based version of group talk therapy. While we do not spend much – or any – time talking, we are learning to be with one another, to synchronise with our own bodies and the bodies of others, and to eventually feel more supported and calm in the presence of others. All this while exploring important aspects of ourselves in and through our bodies.
Individual session: R790, hour long.
Group session: R350, hour long. (Group sessions can be discounted if paid upfront for the month. The cost for a month is R1000, one class per week, if paid upfront. However, I encourage each person to try a few classes until they feel ready to commit to the monthly payment.)
Contact by clicking here or Whatsapp 0834129768
It Begins With The Body
People who come into therapy have often (arguably always) been traumatised. This may be an overt traumatic incident or more subtle and complex traumas over a period of time. Often, the trauma is in childhood and possibly outside of our ability to recall or consciously work with. Sometimes, we repress traumatic memories, even in adulthood. Trauma blocks our connection with ourselves by disrupting the connection between our minds and bodies and disallowing connection between various parts of ourselves. This means fragmentation is always around the corner and estrangement from one’s own self may become a familiar experience.
The body is where we begin. The body holds an immense amount of knowledge and tries to communicate with us all the time. However, we are frequently so shut off to our body’s intelligence, that we live in a conceptual, intellectual, ego-consciousness state of being. As if everything that exists and is of import in our journey is upward of the neck. This is untrue.
Our bodies hold vast wisdom and memory, storing information from nourishing and meaningful events but also storing trauma, holding it for us until we can look at it. Until we are able to bring our mind and body together – to engage the trauma on a bodily level – trauma held in the body may manifest all kinds of symptoms such as diagnosable illness, inexplicable symptoms, depression, anxiety, rage, fear, tight muscles, postural difficulties, sexual problems, addictions, loss of confidence and more. So many people coming into body-based therapy cannot feel their bodies, and definitely cannot feel their feelings in their bodies.
This is a slow process of learning to reclaim the body, to become aware of it’s existence, what it actually is, and to form a relationship with it. To learn to listen to it and allow the inner dialogue between mind and body to continue unimpeded by blocks.
For individuals who have suffered trauma, the body can be a frightening place. A place to escape from – not to. The body may have let us down or even turned against us, and coming into relationship with it may be overwhelming. However, verbal dialogue without the complement of coming into one’s own body can stay simply conceptual. However, verbal psychotherapy with body-based, non-verbal therapies can also be of great assistance to those are are trying to come home to their bodies and take control – a way to conceptually and emotionally process the increasing awareness of the body.
Breathing, trauma-informed yoga, cold water therapy and similar practices, when facilitated professionally, are non-invasive yet powerful ways of coming into the body.
The body is where we begin. If you are interested in body-based therapy or body-based therapy complementing psychotherapy – a brilliant combination of processing styles – please click here.
Making Meaning of a Bad Trip – a case for psychedelic-assisted therapy.
A bad trip can leave one extremely traumatised and/or re-open traumatic experiences from one’s past. It can appear as if no meaning whatsoever can be made from such a horrific and challenging experience, and after the fact one may want to push it as far way from consciousness as possible. In fact, the opposite is true.
The so-called ‘bad trip’ is a doorway to another experience of consciousness that may be extremely painful but offers just as much – if not more – raw and deep psychological and spiritual material to harness for personal growth and for awakening to a fuller consciousness.
Often individuals who have experienced a terror-trip are left feeling as if they have lost their minds. They may feel that the world is unsafe and innocuous things scare or re-traumatise them. They may have disturbing flashbacks or hallucinations. Speaking to an integrative therapist or a practitioner who is skilled in the nature of plant medicine and the human mind and soul can not only alleviate the difficulty, but bring light and meaning into what can be a very dark and lonely place.
Skilfully integrating the emotions, bodily sensations, memories and the imagery elicited during the trip is an effective way to work with trauma. A bad trip can allow direct and cathartic access to repressed traumas without necessarily needing to remember the content. Processing these emotions is essential for reparative work and healing, and it often allows access to previously inaccessible childhood traumas or losses. Further repression may only exacerbate the underlying pain and difficulties.
Integrative psychedelic therapy can also shed light on transgenerational patterns that are in play in the family system. The individual may gain a glimpse of just how much she or he is holding for the family, as well as the nature of this systemically repressed content.
As bad as your trip may be, there is always an opportunity for growth and new life in it. Imagery containing decay, evil and malevolent themes may bring one into a startled, stunted feeling of death-like consciousness. With this comes the call to awaken again, re-birth oneself and better understand your place and power in the world.
Ideally, you would be fortunate enough to begin an integrative process before your journey. However, if not, working in integration as soon as possible afterward, i.e. the next day or two and consistently over a period of weeks (if not months) is extremely helpful. Complementary, somatic therapies such as yoga are highly recommended and assist in grounding and re-entering the new phase of life. Joining a retreat program in Cape Town for a few weeks is another excellent way to process and recover, heal and energise.
For post-trip integrative psychotherapy please click here.
Yoga classes: private and semi-private
Having acquired my yoga teachers training more out of an interest in developing a deeper personal yoga practice, I find myself absolutely loving teaching small classes and private students. I am always amazed at how individuals with little to no yoga experience can develop strength and flexibility so quickly with regular practice.
One of my favourite parts of teaching is encouraging people to show themselves love and compassion, listening to their bodies and doing what feels right for them. This is all about embodied self-care and self-compassion, as well as learning to regulate or calm our systems through movement and intentionality.
Another favourite part of teaching, almost paradoxically, is encouraging others toward their ‘edge’, a place of discomfort that they are able to push through and past. In yoga we really strengthen the mind-body connection. In conjunction with integrative therapy, yoga creates a fuller, more holistic way of developing, emerging and being in the world.
Classes on offer currently are held in the Conservatory at Roodenburg House, 74 Campground Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:30 – 9 am, yoga including meditation and optional cold water therapy. Tuesday and Thursday from 5-6pm, yoga.
Classes are small, so booking is essential. Class rate depends on how many yogis are in the class. Morning classes usually between R200-R300, afternoon classes are currently 1-3 persons, and cost is between R300-R350; enquire for individual/private class rate. Please contact me to book a mat.