By Alzak Amlani June 16, 2014
The East/West roots of CIIS are branching in unexpected and exciting ways at CIIS in the last couple of semesters. The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) is in the process of merging with CIIS, and CIIS has been invited by Beijing Forest University (BFU), Zhejiang University (ZJU), the Sinrong Group, and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) to offer lectures, courses, certificates and degrees as well as to engage in collaborative research in integral education and psychotherapy.
Recently Joseph L. Subbiondo, CIIS President, indicated that there is significant need (and Chinese government support) for the education and professional development of counseling psychologists in China. Chinese academics respect U.S. higher education and their universities are identically structured, administratively and academically to U.S. universities. Given CIIS's integral and Asian roots, it is set apart in U.S. higher education. This Spring marks the first wave of CIIS professors, administrators, and trustees in creating this bridge with China. I was one of the first faculty members to travel to Shanghai and Beijing to offer workshops at BFU and the Sinrong Group.
“Marked by this workshop in Shanghai, integral psychology and psychotherapy at CIIS officially and successfully landed in China, which has drastically increased the visibility and credibility of CIIS in China.”
My trip to China began with enjoying a morning visit to a tranquil Buddhist temple. In the afternoon we walked around ponds surrounded by gardens and sculptures and rested at a tea house in the outskirts of Shanghai. This was respite after a twelve-hour flight and landing into one of the largest and busiest cities in China. I was escorted by two representatives of the Sinrong Group. This is a training and educational center for counselors and psychotherapists in Shanghai, introduced to CIIS by Jeremy Zhu, Ph.D. He is a graduate of our East-West Psychology program and is heading the China Initiative from Beijing.
On Saturday May 24, I was immersed in teaching a three-day workshop to over twenty participants, primarily women, on "Integral Approaches to Counseling and Self-Growth", hosted by the Sinrong Group. Jeremy was present throughout the three days, translating the entire workshop into Mandarin and English. The participants ranged from professional therapists working in private and community settings, teachers, counselors in training, university students, and various staff at Sinrong, including the Dean. It was a group of curious and reflective students, eager to understand CIIS's integral perspective and educational model and the practice of integral psychotherapy. After speaking briefly about the integral approach at CIIS and the training in Integral Counseling Program, I shared my personal journey of having Indian ancestry, being born in Uganda and coming to the U.S. as a refugee in the early seventies. Through my own South Asian background, I have been able to understand the familial-self, strongly embedded in the extended family and cultural and ethnic groups. This theme of deference to the family's needs, elders and male authority kept arising throughout the workshop.
Given my western psychological education and having lived in the U.S. for most of my life, I had to acknowledge my biases and how I may not fully understand their specific family backgrounds, cultural frames, issues and philosophical traditions. I was also approaching them with "beginner's mind", curious about their actual experiences, knowledge, as well as their reactions to my presentation. Below are the main themes I presented at the workshop:
• Seeing an individual as a multi-dimensional being-mind, body, heart and spirit on a journey of unfoldment and self-realization.
• The journey of ascent (waking up) and descent (waking down), requiring shadow work and embodiment.
• Big listening a person's soul into existence.
• Incorporating multiple approaches and practices from humanistic psychology, contemporary psychoanalysis, transpersonal work, multi-cultural frameworks, somatic psychology and cognitive-behavioral techniques within a larger, integral organizing framework.
• Personal psychospiritual work as essential for the depth psychotherapist as part of the training and ongoing inner development.
• The spectrum of empathy, unconditional positive regard and compassion.
• The spectrum of evenly hovering attention, awareness and unconditional presence.
• Role of psychotherapy in modern culture.
• Ways of opening to and listening to the unconscious through dream work, body movements, symptoms and inquiry.
• Moving from the superego to inner truth.
• Gestalt exercise on a dialogue between the I-self and the we-self.
Alzak Amlani with a Beijing University student at the Great Wall.
I presented two clinical cases. One was a Chinese-American woman in her mid-thirties struggling with moderate depression and anxiety who was able to utilize transpersonal approaches to find a deeper ground for her individuation process. The second case was a man from India with an arranged marriage dealing with significant work stress and loss of self. This case illustrated the use of talk therapy with a strong focus on attuning to and expressing feelings, cultural differences in identity, art therapy and developing interpersonal skills to create more intimacy in his marriage.
It wasn't until I did a live psychotherapy demonstration with a participant of the workshop, the Dean herself, that they got a clearer and dynamic picture of integral psychotherapy in practice. The client made some profound shifts, particularly in contacting her inner flow of love and recognizing the various ways her family cared for and loved her. After the session, we discussed the work, describing the range of approaches used and the issues that we addressed. This was a moving and exciting moment of illumination and resonance for many of the participants observing the session.
In Jeremy's words: "Marked by this workshop in Shanghai, integral psychology and psychotherapy at CIIS officially and successfully landed in China, which has drastically increased the visibility and credibility of CIIS in China." The Sinrong Group is requesting ongoing collaboration with CIIS, to begin offering more workshops for therapists and laypersons and create a joint master's degree in counseling psychology. This is an exciting time of building bridges, furthering our East-West mission and inviting the exchange of students and faculty between Shanghai and San Francisco.