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.

Cost:

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.

Online Support During Lockdown

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Self-isolation is difficult. For many, it brings financial hardship, relational difficulties, loneliness, lack of daily structure and routine, difficult emotions. You do not need to go through this or figure it out on your own. Online connection is certainly possible and incredibly valuable. Anyone, from anywhere in the world, can engage in online sessions. I am continuing supporting clients during periods of self-isolation owing to covid-19. Online sessions assist in managing self-isolation and working with other difficulties arising during this time.

Support systems like therapy, mentoring and coaching need not fall away during this stressful period. Creativity and self-exploration need not be neglected as we look after our collective health.

Contact me if you would like to begin online therapy or schedule a consultation. All you need is an internet connection and a device that allows for video or at least audio. Online consultations are offered internationally.


I often felt Melissa was sharing the language of my psyche on a collective consciousness or shared consciousness level. She would intuitively understand the role of a defense mechanism and would share in a very authentic way some of her own processes and struggles. This aided me in feeling I was in the presence of a kindred spirit and helped so much with feeling deep empathy from her to assist my healing. I believe this is truly one of her most special gifts for this kind of therapeutic work with clients.

– Client


Are substance-free psychedelic experiences possible?

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Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: I have encountered surprisingly many people (older, younger and from all walks of life) who want to experience something of the the mind-manifesting nature of psychedelics without taking a substance. Some people are averse to the idea of substance-induced altered states of consciousness from pre-conceived ideas about “drugs”, some cannot explore any mind altering substances because of medications or psychological predispositions. Some don’t want to get entangled in something that is not legal. Some simply don’t like the idea of ingesting anything that affects their consciousness so profoundly. Some prefer to be in control. Some are fearful. These are all valid concerns.

Yet still, such individuals seek a transcendent (possibly spiritual) encounter that is different to everyday, waking life and that offers up something deeper, possibly holding more meaning, truth and authenticity than their ‘ordinary’ reality. In my experience, these individuals are usually on a voyage of self-exploration, igniting creativity, navigating a life transition and/or discovering meaning in life. My hope-filled and honest response is always yes, there certainly are ways to enter altered states of consciousness without any substances or plant medicines.

Psychedelic literally means ‘mind-manifesting’ or ‘mind-expanding’, the Greek root is psyche (mind, soul) dêlos (manifest, visible). Meditation is one avenue to such experiences, yet this usually takes a great deal of practice before potentially experiencing anything of a psychedelic nature. Still, I highly recommend a steady meditation practice for many, many reasons which I won’t address here. To get started with a meditation practice, the following apps are very useful: https://wakingup.com/ or https://www.headspace.com/.

I work with music and deep relaxation into an altered state of consciousness, eliciting imagery in the mind’s eye that allows the ‘traveller’ transcendent, even psychedelic-type experiences. However, the ‘traveller’ also retains complete personal control and is able to effortlessly emerge from the experience at any point. No substances or plant medicines are used and they do not need to be in order for the process to be effective. Guided Imagery and Music is a technique developed by Helen Bonny after working alongside the renown psychedelic researcher Stanislov Grof in LSD trials of the sixties. Bonny developed a “non-drug, psychedelic technique of music-listening for psychotherapeutic ends.”

This music-listening technique takes place in a 1.5 hour session, the traveller comfortably lying on a couch in an undisturbed, safe and comfortable setting (such as a therapist’s room). During the session, the guide will talk with the client/traveller and work toward setting an intention for the journey. A specific music program that relates directly to the traveller’s mental set and intention – a music program designed to elicit imagery, emotions, memories and even sensations – is selected by the guide. The traveller is taken through a deepening relaxation induction and reminded of their intention. When the selected music plays, the traveller journeys with the music in this deepened, relaxed and in fact altered state of consciousness.

Imagery, storylines and emotions may appear, sometimes sensations and memories, all emerging from the unconscious mind and guided by the music. During this process, the traveller is always free to ‘come out’ of the experience, should they want to. This is unlike a substance-based psychedelic experience, such as a psilocybin journey, where one is locked into the journey until the substance/medicine wears off. The guide asks questions and helps to deepen and intensify the experience. Afterward, the traveller makes marks on paper (creates a mandala), which is a creative output that helps to solidify and integrate the journey and is used for verbally processing the experience.

Guided Imagery and Music sessions are usually conducted once a week over a period of time, as personal narratives, archetypal material and images from the unconscious are developed and worked with.

If you are interested in exploring your consciousness through an alternative, experiential and substance-free way, click here. Offered in Cape Town, South Africa.

Note: BMGIM guides require extensive and rigorous training. I am currently in advanced training in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music.

How Guided Imagery and Music can transform your life

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Book a transformative session in the leafy Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa. Be kind to yourself, or offer the gift of self -compassion, creative exploration and self-discovery to a loved one. The Bonny Guided Imagery of Music (BMGIM) is a form of music and image based psychotherapy that requires extensive training in mythical, pathological, archetypal, practical and other modules over three years. The qualification has it’s roots in the psychedelic experimentation and training that took pace in the 50s and 60s in labs in the United States, effective therapeutic modalities which are being resurrected now. BMGIM (The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music), emerging out of this field and growing exponentially, borrows language such as ‘Guide’ and ‘Traveller’ and even ‘Journey’. Travellers are likely to experience altered states of consciousness, unlike a drug-induces state (far more controlled than a drug-induced state) yet still reap the benefits of accessing deeply unconscious, sometimes mythological and archetypal material. Currently, I am in advanced training in BMGIM and find that my client’s BMGIM encounters are potent and hold tranformative potential, as well as the potential for deep rest, growth and healing. This topic is certain to be discussed at the upcoming World Congress of Music Therapy in Pretoria at The University of Pretoria in 2020.
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Guided imagery is for adults and most teens, men and women. If you are unsure whether it is for you or are interested in finding out more about this transformative and creative way of working, contact me: https://melissaellse.co.za/contact/
Please note, no previous ‘creative endeavours’ are necessary, such as art or music etc. Come as you are.