Holistic Depth Psychotherapy - Nicole Ann Ditz, MA CMHC

Musings on the Metamorphosis of a Psychotherapist



"It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair's breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance… to perceive freshly, with the fresh senses is to be inspired."

~ Henry David Thoreau

Becoming Butterfly:

Extensive psychotherapy research has revealed that a robust factor across schools, modalities and techniques predicting effective change is the strength of the therapeutic relationship. This obviously involves two people and the personhood of the client is a very important variable: ego strength, internal/external resources, motivation level and so on. However, the personhood of the therapist is also highly predictive as a vehicle of change. This includes dozens of personality factors and skills such as empathy, acceptance, compassion, warmth, depth of understanding, presence, attunement, genuineness and wholehearted attention amongst many others.

I entered the field already with a certain degree of natural attributes well suited to being a psychotherapist as well as an intense amount of passion and determination to keep evolving as a person and in my skill set. One of many ways I have matured from my early student therapist days is in my capacity to hold my concepts, assumptions, beliefs, expectations more lightly and to see my clients with wide open attention or beginner's mind. This demands I drop my heavy internal bookcases of knowledge and theories and try to see each client anew and with fresh eyes during each and every session.

Beginner's mind is not easy for I am a self-confessed obsessive intellectual junkie. I adore the life of the mind and mentally figuring things out: the more obscure, abstract, esoteric and complicated the theories and concepts, the better. So when I learned the importance of holding my concepts loosely and analyzing less frenetically in my Buddhist psychology training, I, at first, protested. Over time and with daily difficult cultivation, I am learning. My knowledge doesn't evaporate nor do my cerebral stacks, but rather more space is created for a broader flowing stream of perceptions that glitter with sensations, emotions, ideas, intuitive and imaginative flashes.

The curiosity aspect of beginner's mind is innate to me. My natural inquisitiveness with which I was born has never abandoned me. Contrary to my clients' frequent concern that I may be "bored" after so many years of repeated issues and themes, I am fascinated. I climb out from the cluttered content of any given session and watch: enraptured at the subtle shifts in the way this person slants her head as the wing of her mouth tilts slightly skyward this time instead of pointing poker straight along flat plains of defenses. What could this mean? I listen as this part of his speech swoops and gathers bits of new language, slicing the air between us like the sharp wings of a swallow. Where is he heading? Between us lies a vast continent of wonder and enchantment.

Monarch buttefly


"Metamorphosis is the most profound of all acts."

~ Catherynne M. Valente

The quality of therapeutic presence is another studied attribute of effective psychotherapy that has been researched more thoroughly in the past decade. Therapeutic Presence is something they definitely don't teach you in grad school because it is a "quality of being" rather than a set of techniques. Presence is for me a grounded, steady, calm, centered, energetically full, deeply attentive way of being with myself, the world and my clients. It is a mindful attitude of compassionate engagement one brings to the present moment. This involves an ability to both attend closely to one's own internal physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual experiences as well as the experiences of the other . It also involves the wisdom to see oneself and others clearly. No small feat is this!

Learning how to be more genuinely present is a moment by moment practice for me. The years I spent since childhood becoming familiar with my insides has definitely helped me to observe my own internal responses fairly seamlessly while sitting with clients. I am quite intimate with my habitual reactions, emotional triggers, and bodily sensations, and therefore I don't become as lost and confused as I might have without years of inner travel. My first response is generally to be intrigued with what is going on within me and between me and my clients rather than being defensive or withdrawing from them. I have grown quite comfortable in my own psycho-bio-spiritual skin, and I am not nearly as afraid of suffering as I once was. This is all tremendously helpful in alleviating obstacles to being present with myself, others, as well as with the complex creature called 'suffering' itself.

I choose to spend the rest of my life becoming a butterfly. I don't want to reach a static state of being a butterfly anytime soon. Butterflies only generally live one to two weeks after all that long, hard growth. For me, the journey is the destination: a rich and fulfilling one for me and those brave ones emerging from the ever changing chrysalis. Psychological metamorphoses is mystical, mysterious and profoundly meaningful. It can be a way of conscious living. I believe it is fundamental to the process of being fully alive.

Nicole Ann Ditz, MA CMHC, Holistic Depth Psychotherapist

Voice Mail: (401) 573-6396  Email: info@holisticdepththerapy.com

Serving Rhode Island and Southeastern Connecticut