The healing process The healing process

The course I follow in the therapeutic process moves into the four directions of human development, not necessarily in a linear fashion, but more cyclically. In other words, the human journey towards the discovery of a more complete and authentic self requires the ongoing regression, progression, internalization, and externalization of the self. The client decides when this process of cyclical maturing will continue out of the therapeutic alliance with the therapist, and thus, terminate treatment.

Following are the areas that I emphasize in the healing process according to the Medicine Wheel. It is important to note, however, that the meaning and the way all components are arranged in this universal symbol of the Native American people can differ from one tradition to another. Without overlooking or changing its inherited teachings, I designed this particular adaptation to serve my own orientation and emphasis as a therapist.


THE SOUTH is symbolized by the element of earth, the season of summer, the child, and the mouse. In this direction we encounter wild nature, the body, the magical, innocence, playfulness, spontaneity, wonder, sensuality, joy, pleasure, trust, grounding, symbiosis with others and with the soil, and sanctuary.

This direction represents our "home base." This is a kind of "psychic womb" we all need to feel safe, protected, accepted, and loved. Ideally, this is provided at home by our caregivers when growing up but often enough, for many of us, this is not the case (due to trauma, loss, abuse, neglect, etc.). Consequently, we lack the ability to internalize this sense of safety and protection as adults.

Fortunately, the compromised experience of the "home base" can be repaired by working on these issues and by expanding our sense of safety, belonging, self identity, and purpose. This can be done by reconnecting (among others) to our partners, our own family, our circle of friends, our mentors, our ancestral roots, to nature, to our bodies, and/or to our private experience of the "divine" if we hold such beliefs.

In the process of repairing and recreating the experience of a more complete "home base," it is critical to explore how the client has learned to compensate for this deficiency. In other words, what "defenses" have been acquired to protect the self from feeling exposed and vulnerable, and how to overcome them.

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THE NORTH is symbolized by the element of wind, the season of winter, the adult, and the wolf. This is the direction of mind, thinking, analyzing, logic, organizing, learning, knowledge making, problem solving, experience, creativity, self-sufficiency, mastery, empowerment, and freedom.

Intellectual development and learning are critical components in this direction to acquire the tools necessary to our survival. Moving in this direction is what happens when we leave our "safe haven" to explore the world and to seek to understand it. Most of us develop a general sense of how the world works but we tend to specialize, particularly in a few things that we feel passionate about or that we see as our means to our livelihood.

Not knowing what we feel passionate about,not having discovered our hidden talents,not being given he opportunity of education,being disempowered by others to exercise our own "calling" in the world, or not believing in our ability to take control over our destiny—these are some of the obstacles that can hinder our development in this direction. These issues are fully considered in the therapeutic process to empower the client to discover and develop new tools of survival if the existing ones are no longer working.


The forces of the South move us to seek refuge in the sanctuary provided by the giving Earth, the people who love us, and the internalized (unconscious) experiences of being cared for, protected, and validated. We move into the direction of South when we ask the question: "Where do I belong?"

The forces of the North move us to develop our intellect and to acquire valuable knowledge essential to our survival, as well as our participation in the creation of an efficient society capable of ensuring our integrity and freedom. We move into the direction of North when we ask the question: "What do I have the power to do?"

The forces of the West move us to find balance and integration between our acquired intellectual knowledge, which defines what we have become, and the manifestations of our unconscious self, which possesses the wisdom to our much deeper sense of individuation. We move into the direction of West when we ask the question: "Who am I?"

The forces of the East move us to understand the interdependence of all life, and to seek peace and harmony between the ways of nature and the many social structures (cultures) we have created to reassure our existence. We move into the direction of East when we ask the question: "What is my calling?"


THE WEST is symbolized by the element of water, the season of fall, the adolescent, and the hibernating bear. This direction is synonymous with soul, darkness, interiority, privacy, dreams, descent, the mystical, suffering, destiny, self-reflection, insight, inner balance, uniqueness, and individuation.

This is the direction that guides us into the private world of the inner-self. From this place of memories, fantasies, imaginations, beliefs, perceptions, emotional wounds, personal shortcomings, feelings, hopes, and dreams, we attempt to find balance and a sense of who we are.

This sense of inner-balance and self-identity, however, is formed out of our good fortune to have a reliable "home base," and our ability to acquire useful tools to our survival (the internal integration of North and South). As we solidify our sense of personal safety and self-empowerment, our "selfhood" continues to be transformed as we continue to discover new facets of who we are.

In the therapeutic alliance, both client and therapist work not only on resolving obstacles to personal safety and self-empowerment, but on assimilating and accommodating new "layers" of the self as they surface (e.g. discovering one's artistic abilities).

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THE EAST is symbolized by the element of fire, the season of spring, the elder, death and rebirth, and the eagle. This direction will lead us into spirit, wisdom, light, ascent, faith, hope, love, service, renewal, vision, interconnection, interdependence, transcendence, and oneness.

This is the direction that moves us toward the reality we all share out there and prompt us to find our place in it. While the North is about acquiring the tools of survival, the East is about applying them in a way that we become contributors to the functioning of our shared communities and our world.

Although for some this simply means fulfilling a work and/or a social role (i.e. teacher, father), to others, "the calling" is to take a more active role in the creation of a more harmonious world. This could mean protecting the natural environment—which is perceived as the shared "home base" of humanity—and advancing human civilization towards a safer, more tolerant, just, and self-sufficient society (the external integration of North and South).

In the therapeutic process, the client has the opportunity to explore the level of satisfaction felt as a contributor to the running of his/her community, and to make the necessary changes to improve or develop other roles as desired.