Online Health Chat with Kellie Kirksey, PhD and Jennifer Dudich LISW-S, CHT

November 14, 2012


Holistic psychotherapy uses traditional methods of psychotherapy along with non-traditional therapies of holistic healing to create a fuller integration between the mind, body and spirit and accomplish the deepest level of healing possible. Non-traditional therapies tap into different levels of mind-body-spirit healing. They have a strong spiritual component, incorporating elements of transpersonal psychology, energy medicine and other traditions of healing.

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On Cleveland Clinic
At the Center for Integrative Medicine, our holistic psychotherapy clinicians specialize in the treatment of physical illness and disease, emotional issues, family dynamics, stage of life issues, work-related issues, sexual abuse, trauma, addiction (substances, food and unwanted behaviors), and stress and anxiety. It does not take the place of traditional medicine, but does work in conjunction with it to help the healing process. Holistic psychotherapy primarily looks at specific areas of the body from an emotional, spiritual and energetic perspective and is designed to help heal the origin of the disease.

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For Appointments

To make an appointment with Dr. Kirksey or Ms. Dudich or any of the other specialists in our Center for Integrative Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, please call 216.448.4325. You can also visit us online at

About the Speakers

Kellie N. Kirksey, PhD is a certified heart centered hypnotherapist and a licensed clinical counselor with more than 25 years of experience counseling and teaching both nationally and internationally. A long-time advocate of healing through creative avenues, she is a holistic psychotherapist with the Center for Integrative Medicine, as well as the director of the Live Happily Foundation.

Jennifer Dudich, LISW-S, CHT is a clinical social worker and clinical hypnotherapist. She integrates many years of experience working in a variety of private adolescent mental health settings as a therapist, supervisor, and administrator. She also has extensive training in social responsibility therapy (SRT) and has provided training to licensed therapists and foster and biological families in this modality at a number of national conferences. Jennifer holds a masters degree from Cleveland State University and continues her postgraduate training in heart centered hypnotherapy through the Wellness Institute in Seattle. Jennifer is also a registered yoga teacher, 200-hour level.

Let’s Chat About ‘Holistic Psychotherapy: Beyond Traditional Talk Therapy and More!’

Cleveland_Clinic_Host Welcome to our Online Health Chat with Cleveland Clinic experts Dr. Kellie Kirksey and  Jennifer Dudich, LISW-S, CHT. We are thrilled to have them here today to discuss holistic psychotherapy. Let’s begin with some of your questions.

Holistic Psychotherapy

Nystr: Can you explain holistic psychotherapy?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT: Holistic psychotherapy (HP) uses hypnotherapy, breath work and relaxation to assist patients in identifying the sources of disease in their life.

Nystr: What is the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT: Both are a deep state of relaxation. Hypnotherapy, however, allows for the patient to have corrective experiences to past hurts. Hypnosis is based more on hypnotic suggestions while in the deep state of relaxation.
Dr_Kirksey : In hypnotherapy, actual therapy is conducted while the patient is in a trance state. It is dynamic, and utilizes the same or similar therapeutic techniques as in traditional therapy. Hypnotherapy in more impactful because you are working in the realm of the subconscious where true change occurs.

ejackson1200:  How many sessions of holistic psychotherapy are typically necessary for a patient?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT: This varies depending on what the patient is coming in for, and how severe the problem is. I often start my patients with scheduling four appointments after the initial intake session. At that time, we evaluate the course of treatment and current progress. Often patients find that the original symptom is actually masking a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. Once a satisfactory amount of progress (per the patient) has been made, some patients continue treatment, but come less often.

dawgs  Can you talk about using the holistic approach to assist individuals with healing the body?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHTEssentially, the body holds memory of all of our experiences. These memories include physical reactions that have become patterns. The easiest example is tension in the shoulders becoming an automatic reaction to stress. We don't necessarily think about tensing our shoulders, but when we feel the pain—we know something may have been wrong. We begin to identify what to attribute the tension to. We want to connect with the body and find out the message it may be sending. This can be done through breathing techniques and use of hypnotherapy.

Sarsey:Do you need a doctor referral for holistic psychotherapy? Is it covered by insurance?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT:You do not need a referral here. Patients can come in for holistic psychotherapy as they would for any other type of mental health therapy. It is covered by insurance companies as individual therapy. However, I do not know if that is true for everyone.

Judy: If I have kept some past memories buried and do not want to get into this past baggage, how would holistic psychotherapy be effective? I mean I put it on a shelf for a reason.
Dr_Kirksey:I always believe that when a patient has the courage to schedule an appointment and show up they are ready to do some serious work.

It is really important to make the subconscious material conscious, so that the issues can be resolved at their genesis. We go back to where the problem behavior or thoughts began. We work to clean out the wound by looking at the situation as our adult self. Next, the old negative decision from the past is removed, e.g., ‘I am not worthy of love.’ Strong emotions are expressed, and a new decision is made from the perspective of the strong wise adult. A new positive affirmation is created and the patient is guided in

flutieI live in the northwest Indiana area, what type of specialist should I be looking for regarding credentials if I were to consider this approach to my mental health.
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT:If you search for the Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy website, you will be able to search for a therapist in your area. There are other types of hypnotherapy trained therapists, but I highly recommend the Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy approach. It should not be difficult to find someone in your area. You can visit the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute website or call there, and they will help you find someone in your area.

Hypnotherapy Effects and Applications

Spencec:During deep relaxation, are you still able to think normally and answer questions as you would if you were not under hypnosis?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S:_CHT Absolutely! Actually, when you are in a state of deep relaxation, you are actually ‘hypersensitive,’, which means that your senses are heightened. You are able to think, speak and move your body in any way that you choose.

ejackson1200:Does the patient sit, lie down or do anything else to prepare?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT: Patients can sit if they prefer, but I offer a massage table for patients to lie down on. Most prefer lying down. There is no real preparation for it, but once we begin working together, there are relaxation techniques that are taught, which are then practiced at home.

ejackson1200: Is there a website to learn more about hypnotherapy?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT:All of the holistic psychotherapists here have been trained in Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy by Diane Zimberoff at the Wellness Institute in Seattle.

Spencec: Since the senses are heightened, could that be the reason I had an uncontrollable urge to laugh during my attempt to undergo hypnosis? Or do you think that I wasn't really relaxed?
Dr_Kirksey: Hypnosis does heighten your awareness. People have a variety of responses to hypnosis, and it is a personal journey. Sometimes the laughter is a way to mask emotions and avoid the deep work or maybe you had a funny moment. Try it again.

Lsoussan:  Do you see good results with people suffering of claustrophobia or fears?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT: Yes, we do. We assist patients with getting in touch with the actual fear that they are having. For example, being afraid of tight spaces might actually be a fear of death. We would explore the fears, and experience times in your life when you had these fears and make new decisions (affirmations) about how you perceive the stated fear. A new decision might be, ‘I am safe in any environment.’

lenax  How does hypnosis help with weight loss?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT Ever notice how you sit down to eat, and then, the next thing you know, you’re stuffed? This is called trance eating, and many of us do it. Especially in an era where we mindlessly eat at our desks with our computers on, while we are driving, and while we are watching TV (all of which are forms of being in a trance). Hypnotherapy assists in helping patients change their relationship with food. We actually have a four-week program called Trim Life that uses hypnotherapy amongst other tools to assist in making healthier choices and release extra weight.

Spencec:  I've noticed that at the end of hypnosis, the therapist goes through a set of instructions that seem to escort the patient out of the deep relaxed state. What happens if this step does not happen?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT:As a general rule, people are in and out of a trance state 80 percent of the day. If for some unforeseen reason, the therapist does not do a wake up with you, your subconscious mind will naturally switch back to the conscious mind.

Flutie: I would like to know if this is a good alternative to medication in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT: In my opinion, this is the best approach to treating depression and anxiety. There may be other supplemental therapies suggested, such as acupuncture, seeing a holistic practitioner about vitamin deficiencies, and so on. However, our approach will help to release the emotions that impact our relationships and patterns in our life. This approach will also help the patient reach a higher level of self-awareness, which increases the patient’s ability to make healthier decisions in his or her daily life.

nystr:  Is hypnosis mind control?
Dr_Kirksey: Not at all. All hypnosis is self hypnosis. You allow for the relaxation to occur and you take yourself there with the practitioner facilitating the process. You are fully aware, actually intensely aware. You can come out of hypnosis whenever you choose.

Integrative Medicine: Other Treatment Modalities

Lsoussan: What other methods beside psychotherapy do you use?
Dr_Kirksey: I personally use movement therapy including yoga, dance and body awareness techniques. Percussion instruments are sometimes used to get beyond words and ‘over’-thinking. Journaling is another important modality to assist in moving the emotions out and charting personal progress. Journaling involves using drawings, words and photographs. Energy work may come into play using Reiki and moving the energy through breathing.

Dawgs: Do you do past life regression?
Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT: Yes, we do. We do not go into the session with that intention though. If the subconscious mind takes us there, we proceed and do whatever healing needs to take place and separate from that life before ending.


I'm sorry to say that our time with Cleveland Clinic experts Kellie N. Kirksey, PhD and Jennifer Dudich, LISW-S, CHT is now over. Thank you both for taking time to answer questions today about Holistic Psychotherapy.

Ms_Dudich_LISW-S_CHT: Thank you for your interest in holistic psychotherapy. Namaste.

Dr_Kirksey: Thanks so much for the great questions. It is wonderful working in holistic psychotherapy because people expect something different and it is always an interesting journey.

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