This interview will give a brief overview of the roots, motivations and methods of Ashley Ray’s therapeutic practice. She also provides us with a few ways in which we can implement these practices into our own lives to live a healthier, happier and fuller life.
Ashley S. Ray is a practitioner of the healing arts that incorporates both eastern and western therapeutic methods into her holistic psychotherapy practice. She holds a license in Clinical Social Work (LCSW-S), is certified in Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapy (TIYT), is a 200-hr Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), a Certified Reiki Healer and an active Shamanic Practitioner.
Her unique and highly effective method of integrating a variety of disciplines to promote spiritual breakthroughs and mental wellness can be beneficial for individuals, communities and clinicians alike. She attributes the lasting results her clients achieve to her ability to reacquaint them with their intuition and innate capacities for self-healing.
Alec Holmes: Do you remember the time you first felt drawn to Psychotherapy? Can you elaborate?
Ashley Ray: It started with a basic question, at about the age of 13… ‘Why do different people respond differently to similar situations?’ I was really curious about why people were the way they were. Perhaps, I was immersed in the family and school yard dramas of being an adolescent girl, and just needed to know why people behaved the way they did. ‘Why was one person happy while another one was sad?’ This basic curiosity lead me to study psychology, sociology, criminal justice and neuroscience in college.
In college, while going through my own coming-of-age experience, I found yoga and meditation; both of which contributed to the eventual realization that I have the power to shape my environment, my thoughts, and my feelings. My life, relationships, and sense of self profoundly changed; I had found my bliss and was actively manifesting the life and self I desired, in a whole new way.
With this revelation, teaching others how they too can achieve new depths of inner peace and personal fulfillment just made sense. It was like I had discovered some secret to living and felt an obligation to share it, teach it, and live it.
AH: What is the philosophy behind your therapy?
Ashley Ray: The perceived health, wellness and self-actualization of an individual is impacted by five aspects of being; mental, emotional, spiritual, physiological and communal; communal, referring to the relationships, environments, cultures, systems and networks we are immersed in.
When we look at dis-ease, it can be mapped across all 5 of these areas. An emotional ‘issue’ is rarely, if ever, just an emotional issue; e.g. Depression is felt emotionally, depressing thoughts are experienced in the mind, spiritual disconnection is typically present, biological factors may be at play, the body feels tired and worn, and even the environments, relationships and cultural standards surrounding the individual that feels depressed can be seen to play a role in the presence of depression.
As we begin to enhance the functioning of any one of these areas, we can map the ripple through the other areas. We can also see how rigid or static structures in one area cause resistance to change in another area. For example, intellectually understanding the value of forgiveness may do little to enhance the sensation of forgiveness emotionally. Often times, it is necessary to work with multiple aspects in order for meaningful and lasting growth to occur.
Further, I believe in each person’s innate power to heal and transform. Each one of us wields this power, and therapy should not create a reliance on the therapist. Rather, it should help the individual contact their own inner capacity to intuitively heal themselves. I do this by helping them strengthen their intuition and sharpen their influence over their mind, body, emotions, spirit, and community. When this is achieved, they experience freedom, peace, and fulfillment.
AH: Which schools of thought does your therapeutic method come from?
Ashley Ray: Integral Theory, Systems Theory, Transpersonal Psychology, Positive Psychology, Eco-Psychology, and Yogic Philosophy can all be seen to influence my therapeutic approach. It is important to note, though, that we are not only talking philosophy here. I use empirically tested and evidence-based practice methods.
AH: How do you incorporate yoga into your therapeutic process?
Ashley Ray: Yogic breath-work, meditation, mindfulness, concentration, postures and philosophy are all aspects of yoga that are used therapeutically to support healing and growth. Typically, some time is spent teaching new clients about the latest research on the brain and nervous system that demonstrates the benefits that these various yoga practices have on our physiological, emotional, mental and spiritual health. While you learn how to use yoga therapeutically, you learn Why it works.
Additionally, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), an evidence-based psychotherapeutic modality that evolved from CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), has a mindfulness component that yoga therapeutics compliments well.
AH: How it the therapeutic relationship is enhanced through the use of yoga in sessions?
Ashley Ray: Great question! When clients come to therapy, they can count on receiving and practicing yoga techniques in session that can begin working for them immediately. They will have the opportunity to feel the beneficial effects before they even walk out of the office. When a client experiences the work working, trust is built; they trust that I am teaching them skills that directly benefit their life. Without trust, there is no therapeutic relationship.
AH: Are there any success stories of yours that stand out to you?
Ashley Ray: Absolutely. A client approached me after having little success with a couple other therapists that utilized different trauma-based treatment methods, EMDR and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This client had been experiencing severe anxiety since childhood. After 3 weeks in trauma-informed yoga psychotherapy treatment, they indicated that the new breathwork techniques had lead to greater day to day relaxation than they could ever remember experiencing.
After 6 weeks, there were no more weekly panic attacks. Mindfulness and yoga postures were being used effectively to self-generate desired mental and emotional states. After 9 weeks, they could retell their sexual trauma story without any emotional charge. Week 12, they successfully completed therapy having transformed their relationship with their past, their family and their self.
Alec Holmes: What are some ways that clinicians and counselors can bring yoga into their practice?
Ashley Ray: They can start with their own personal practice and study the 8 limbs of yoga. When a therapist has in depth, prolonged, personal experience with yoga, they develop a more nuanced understanding of how yoga can be used therapeutically. Going through a 200-hr yoga teacher training program is helpful. Following my yoga teacher training, I participated in Sundara’s 70 hour Trauma Informed Yoga Therapy certification program. It is designed for licensed psychotherapists and certified yoga teachers.
In August, I’m bringing a yoga psychotherapist from Austin to conduct a 25-hour trauma informed yoga teacher training for therapists that are not currently yoga teachers. I also provide individual supervision and consultation to therapists interested in learning how to bring yoga into their practice.
AH: How can we incorporate these methods of healing into our own lives?
Ashley Ray: Mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness is much like physical wellness. In order to stay physically healthy and optimally fit, you have to attend to your diet and exercise. If you pay attention to your diet and exercise once a week, it’s better than never; 3 times a week is better than once; daily is even better. If you stop paying attention, the body declines.
In order to reach the full potential of your mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness you must not only know the right ways to nourish and exercise these other areas, but you must incorporate them into your daily life practices. Just as you would take an hour to workout, you take the time to do your ‘inner workout’ through daily yoga, mindfulness, emotion centered practices, and other therapeutic techniques.
I also recommend seeing a trusted holistic psychotherapist a couple times a year for a ‘checkup,’ much like going to the doctor for an annual physical, and if you experience a breakdown in wellness in any area, go receive more regular treatment. Ongoing holistic wellness coaching is never a bad idea. After a client has achieved the desired healing they first started seeing me for, it is not uncommon for them to then choose to continue working together for ongoing mentorship and holistic wellness coaching. These individuals end up joining the ranks of some of the most accomplished, happy and healthy people I know.
Ashley’s Website: AUMIntegralWellness
Ashley’s Facebook: Click Here.
Research that supports Yoga Psychotherapy and Mindfulness treatment Methods: