As Western civilization deepens into the study of psychology, inherent similarities between it and eastern traditions are surfacing. In the field of expressive arts therapy this is particularly true. The emphasis on somatics parallels many of the precepts found in the ancient practices of yoga and meditation.
A team of holistic counseling students from JFKU, led by core faculty member Dr. Jacob Kaminker and world renowned expressive arts therapist Kate Donahue, traveled to India to further explore this connection. There they teamed up with Bangalore-based expressive arts therapy group SMArT to create SAMAGHAMA, a two-week residential workshop for the students.
“They’re license track therapists who are looking to bring a mind body spirit approach to therapy,” says Dr. Kaminker of the students. “I think they found it [the workshop] to be inspiring and also very challenging in a good and growthful way.”
Diving into the curriculum, the students explored the Indian expressive arts, along with yoga, experiential energy work and meditation – journaling as they went. They even ventured out into the city for internship experience, giving workshops in expressive arts therapy to local children.
“Partially it was a cross-cultural conversation,” says Dr. Kaminker. “Looking at similarities and differences in the perspective from here and there.”
One major takeaway was the importance of yoga in holistic therapy. An ancient and venerated practice, yoga has long been associated with full body health in that part of the world. Though it has undoubtedly gained a foothold in the States, it has only recently begun to be looked at as a viable tool in holistic counseling.
“I personally came away with a much deeper understanding of yoga as a wrap around holistic philosophy and how it supports and integrates with Western psychology,” says Dr. Kaminker.
Integration was central to the mission of the group, and they were able to come away with a new, more expansive perspective on holistic counseling. In addition, the team established a relationship with SMArT, ensuring that future JFKU students would be able to experience the same workshop.
“It was a strong collaboration and we’ll have an ongoing relationship with them for sure,” says Dr. Kaminker. “The idea is that this will be a trip that repeats and we’ll have other trips. We’ll be doing this trip to India again and continuing to develop it, but we’ll be doing a trip every year and we’ll have other trips that we’ll be taking to other places.”
Holistic counseling has much to gain from a worldly perspective. JFKU sends its students to the four corners of the globe in the hope that they will continue to innovate and push the discipline forward. The students benefit from the expanded worldview and updated perspective on holistic counseling, the field of psychology benefits from the addition of further enlightened practitioners, and John F. Kennedy University gets to continue being one of the foremost suppliers of forward thinkers and change makers in the world today.