I met Bobbi Courtney on a trail in Newburyport this winter just after the coldest days of the year; I think it was in the teens or maybe the low 20s. She was walking her beautiful dog Mia, and I was going stir-crazy from having stayed indoors for days. When she told me that she was a holistic psychotherapist, I knew that she’d be a great candidate for this blog, because what she does is a little different from the mainstream: holistic help isn’t covered by most health insurance companies, but for some people that means it might work better than those that are. Bobbi is starting a new group in Newburyport and Amesbury now; contact her at BobbiCourtney.com or look her up on Facebook if you want to learn more.
I’m a holistic psychotherapist, and that really includes being a shaman and a flower essence practitioner. All of that has to do with being connected into dimensions that are just a bit beyond the normal reach of normal psychotherapy. I run groups too. People are searching for answers to reconnect to themselves [and] to ask the questions again in their life. Who am I? How can I access my wisdom and answers? What’s going on in my life? Why is everything so messed up?
A simple brand new relationship that somebody might have started is into maybe just five dates, and it doesn’t work out, and the person feels like they’re completely falling apart, and they’re totally confused as to why, because they have already slayed those dragons of loneliness or relationship issues. But there’s a lot happening cosmically as well that is affecting our consciousness.
I think we are being required to have a new perspective on life and what we’re really doing here, and what each person is really doing here. What we’re doing in groups, for instance, is exploring how fluid can we be without our own perspective, which gives us a lot of freedom; which can free us from our problems, because. . .at some level we’re not as attached to them as we were in the old way.
Say a spouse has died, especially a young person, just married for a few years, and we as a culture would get very attached to what that would mean to that person, but in this context it has to do with understanding your life journey better. Then you’re looking at that death through a different perspective, not just that this is a horrific loss with a lot of pain and grief, but it’s also a chance to look at the medicine that might be in the loss. Sometimes that medicine is passed on to the surviving spouse. If we’re truly here for our own soul healing, even the most horrific and painful things that happen to us contain medicine—or in our culture, there can be good that can come out of anything.
Thirty years I’ve been doing this work. I have a master’s in social work from Smith—I love that school—and it was a great place to learn a lot of traditional work, and understand a lot of mechanisms that play a huge role in how we can come to understand and heal the things that are troublesome to us. Also, I have ten years experience studying with one medicine man and another shaman, both in Massachusetts. Also several years of training, most of which took place in Switzerland, thought of as somatic-based work, but I put it in the context of shamanic work because it’s psychotherapy that was taking place in the water, and it really dealt with a lot of depths of consciousness. That can happen very readily in the water under the right circumstances.
[My groups are] all ages: one group may have a 19 year old and a 65 year old and everything between. It’s always been very synchronistic how those groups got started. In both cases with the groups that I’ve had the longest, those people wanted to host me. [The longest group has been going for] three years. I’ve been doing groups forever, but this particular work that I’m tuned into right now has been going for three years.
I do individual sessions, which can be very necessary; each person has different needs. I also make some alchemical products that are an alchemy between intention and essences and oils and gems that are put together through the mystery of nature into bottles where they’re infused together into harmonic medicine to help…they’re particularly useful for all types of mood issues.
I feel like I was born into it. I felt like I was already in training by the time I was five. There was a neighbor who was an older person who [taught] me about plants and nature and also I had a lot of experiences from the age of five on, where I was in more expanded states of consciousness and then crossed over into different dimensions of experiencing reality.
When I turned off the dimensional part, because I needed to fit into society, I decided to become interested in psychotherapy and art therapy, things like that. In high school I was interested in those subjects, and I ended up doing a graduate program in art therapy as well because there also you’re sort of entering different realms in order to do the artwork; it’s sort of a mystery.
Trance Work is that frozen part of ourselves that was traumatized [and we don’t] have the resources to deal with the particular situation that’s going on, because maybe the 2 year old inside of us wouldn’t have the intellectual cognitive resources to sort things out, so that’s the trance. Say somebody was 2 years old when their sibling was born, and all of a sudden they didn’t have what they felt was the love and attention of their parents. [Trance is being stuck.] Say now they’re 30 and their in a relationship; that partner makes a new friend, and [suddenly] that 30 year old is in a surprising emotional situation where they feel ridiculously jealous and angry. In group process, I give certain essences that alter your consciousness slightly. Not drugs, it’s plant medicine, just plants, flowers. We take a few drops of that, getting ourselves in a meditative state of mind.
There are always things that happen, and people don’t understand while it’s happening in the journey. But when they come out and start writing it down and start talking about it, they realize how they may have tapped into a wounded part of themselves that was causing them to act angry and jealous. The person can say to themselves, okay I know this is coming from when my brother was born when I was two, and they can settle down. Now they can see and feel the answer, which is a really important part of shamanic work, which is the experiential part.
It’s not just the cognitive, and that’s why we go to all that trouble. In order to really change, we have to deeply experience something inside ourselves. It’s not a textbook kind of thing that we can do.