In Search of Soul in Psychotherapy

One man’s relationship with his profession in psychotherapy

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 | 9:16 pm

As we all know, life is marked with setbacks and challenges. Sometimes experiences in our past can hinder us from living the full, productive, and enriched life that we deserve. We are stumped with so many questions: How to move on? How to deal with life’s roadblocks? How can we achieve our goals and gain our confidence back?

Kellum Lewis, a Pasadena-based licensed psychotherapist, is trained to help his clients handle such concerns and overcome such problems. A graduate of the MA in Clinical Psychology Program at Antioch University, Los Angeles,, he obtained his license in 2006. He once worked as a Social Work Case Manager then eventually became Manager of the Mental Health Department at AIDS Service Center in Pasadena, before pursuing his private practice full-time.

His appreciation of psychotherapy and drive to help others stem from personal experience as well as experiences in the field that have left lasting impressions. Here, he shares some of his reflections:

A lot of people’s only view of psychotherapy is that it addresses “mental illness.” To them the goal is to correct problems with thinking and create a healthy mind. While this is often important, for me, psychotherapy is much more interesting when seen as a way to create soul. This may sound strange. Let me explain.

Psychotherapy comes from the Greek word psyche, which translates as both “mind” and “soul.” Psyche was the name of a young woman who wandered the forest in search of her lost love, her soul-mate. The search for love involves our hearts, feelings, and connection to our selves, which we call soul. To bring about a sense of relatedness and belonging inside is the most meaningful aim of psychotherapy, as I see it.

I’ll offer the following story as an example: Conrad, a nice looking gay man in his early 40s came to see me a few years ago. Right away I could see the stress in his face. He told me he was “worried all the time.”

One day while we were talking about relationships, I asked him what he feared most. “That someone will see I’m a fake,” he responded. His answer didn’t surprise me. A lot of us are afraid others will see us the way we feel inside: needy and hurting. Our culture tells us to “put your game face on” and “never let them see you sweat.”

Conrad’s early life had been a constant exercise in covering up his feelings so his family wouldn’t know he was gay. His conditioning told him it was better to hide who he was and “succeed” than be authentic, in touch with his needs and expressive of his feelings. This kind of conditioning hollows us out, robs us of our souls, and turns us into robots existing primarily to compete with all the other robots around us. We call this living.

Over time Conrad learned to accept himself as a person with feelings and to value them. In turn, he started to value himself more and to appreciate how being gay affected his view of himself. His life became richer and more satisfying as he began to relate to his feelings rather than trying to get away from them. He learned how to talk about them with important people in his life and his relationships deepened and became more rewarding for him.

I became a psychotherapist because of my own relationship struggles. After beginning a new romance in 1998, I quickly saw patterns of feelings and behavior that had thwarted previous connections: jealousy, unexpressed anger, shutting down emotionally. In therapy I began to heal emotional wounds similar to Conrad’s. Eventually, I felt a pull to do this work full-time and went back to school to become a psychotherapist.

In 2008 my work for a local hospital brought me to Pasadena and I decided to move my practice and home here as well. My work is a unique blend of psychodynamic approaches (which has to do with how our minds manage inner conflict), relationship-building (such as practicing emotional honesty), and gay-affirmative/gay-centered ideas (I’ll write more about these in a future article).

I work with adults, especially gay men and lesbians, but am open to working with all whom I think I can benefit. I see people struggling with their partner or in conflict with their kids, struggling with long-term addictions or going through temporary setbacks like job loss or grieving the death of someone they love. I see people whose lives are working fine but they want more joy out of life or want to set and achieve some specific goals.

If you feel I could be of some benefit to you or someone you know, I hope you’ll contact me so we can discuss the possibilities. My wish is for everyone to enjoy lives of meaning and satisfaction. This sometimes comes with some difficulty as we confront those injuries that tell us we are smaller than we truly are, those places that feel like there’s “no soul.” The good news is that, with help and hard work, meaning, satisfaction and soul can grow.

Kellum Lewis is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Old Pasadena. He can be reached at (323) 860-8782 or through his website www.kellumlewis.com.

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