What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world? Can you embody the Holy Spirit alongside your client to transform healing? How exactly can you incorporate spiritual practices into your private practice?
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with Paula Staffeldt about incorporating spiritual practices into your private practice.
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Meet Paula Staffeldt
Paula is a former organizational development practitioner, with over 20 years of experience in corporate training, leadership development, and coaching. She earned a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology with a cognate in Theology from the University of Denver. Paula’s expertise includes Reality-Based Leadership, Crucial Conversations, and Contemplative Leadership.
As a board-certified coach, an ordained ministerial counselor, and a certified Focusing guide, Paula brings a wealth of expertise and understanding to her work.
In her study of transpersonal and nondual psychology, Paula discovered how the practice of Focusing freed her of being identified with the ego, allowing her to live more consistently from a state characterized by wisdom and grace. This is why Paula shares this practice with others, so that they may also experience a transformed way of being in the world.
In This Podcast
- Developing an identification with presence
The basic focusing practice involves leading someone inside where they experience this felt-sense of what is going about whatever their issue is and allowing it to be and keeping it company and basically working with it through the process to move towards a sense of release and resolution. (Paula Staffeldt)
For Whitney, the process of focusing started with a basic sense of mediation; becoming aware of one’s body, mind, and surroundings.
Once you have settled into this newer and more sensitive awareness, bring up a concern that you have and acutely notice which emotions come up in the mind and body, and where you feel any tension or sensation in your physical being.
Focusing, in this way, works to dissolve a block that you may have, mental or emotional, giving you the emotional strength and space to then move forward and create newness in the space you have cleared.
Developing an identification with presence
Having the ability to sit peacefully in an emotionally turbulent present moment will help you to work on what needs attention without getting caught up in the whirlwind of emotion.
Through focusing and identifying with the present, you are able to see that the issue or block you are trying to dissolve is not you, it is something separate that needs your time and attention to notice and move through.
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Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
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[WHITNEY OWENS]: Is managing your practice stressing you out? Try Therapy Notes. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. Check it out and you will quickly see why it’s the highest rated EHR on Trustpilot with over a thousand verified customer views and an average customer rating of 4.9 out of five stars. You’ll notice the difference from the first day you sign up for a trial. They offer live phone support seven days a week so when you have questions, you can quickly reach out to someone who can help. You are never wasting your time looking for answers. If you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. Therapy Notes will import your clients’ demographic data free of charge during your trial so you can get going right away. Use the promo code [JOE] to get two free months of trying out Therapy Notes for free, no strings attached, including their very reliable tele-health platform. Make 2021 best year yet with Therapy Notes.
Have you been considering starting a group practice in 2021? I have a membership community just for you in March. Alison Pidgeon, and I will be launching the first cohort of Group Practice Launch. This is a membership community for people planning to go from a solo to a group practice. It will last for six months and by the end of the six months, you’ll have one, maybe even two clinicians hired and an assistant. We will walk you through the process of phase one of beginning your systems and putting those in place to add clinicians, phase two, actually hiring and then phase three, looking at your systems and numbers and making sure that everything’s running smoothly. So a membership community will be through Facebook and you also have a teachable platform with tons of courses on practice management and lots of resources, handouts, contracts, to help you speed up your process of hiring your first clinicians. So if you’re thinking about starting a group practice, please make sure to check out this community. Cohort one will start in March and we won’t be opening it again for six months and it’ll be a six month rotation moving forward. So to get more information and to join our email list, go to practiceofthepractice.com\grouppracticelaunch.
We will be having an early bird special. So by opting in to that email list, you will get first access. By getting first access, you’ll save $200 off your membership by joining in those first few days when the doors open. The cost of this group is typically 250 a month, but you’ll be able to join for $200 a month for that six month period. So, like I said, you’re going to save a lot of time and energy by joining that group. In addition, we are going to have live events every single week to answer all your questions about starting and growing a group as well as videos and courses that you’ll take along the way. So that you’ll be completely set up step by step in starting a group practice. Don’t go start a group practice without the extra help. Lots of times people come to me years down the road and I could have helped them prevent so many mistakes if they had started out putting their systems in place, hiring appropriately and checking their budget before they kept growing. So if you’re thinking about starting a group practice this year, please go to practiceofthepractice.com\grouppracticelaunch.
So on today’s episode, I talk with Paula who shares with us how to incorporate spiritual practices into our lives. And she does some amazing work with people surrounding this and I’m going to talk about that in the episode. And I actually had an experience with her and I talk about that experience on the podcast. She has such a kindness and a softness about her, and she was a real joy to be around. And I love when I can do episodes, not just about building your business, but how to make God and spirituality more part of your practice. So I’m looking forward to sharing this interview with you on how to incorporate spiritual practices into your private practice.
[WHITNEY]: Today on the Faith in Practice podcast. I have Paula Staffeldt. She is a former organizational development practitioner with over 20 years experience in corporate training, leadership development and coaching. She earned a graduate degree in counseling psychology with a cognitive theology from the university of Denver. Paula’s expertise includes reality-based leadership, crucial conversations and contemplative leadership. As a board certified coach, an ordained ministerial counselor, and a certified focusing [inaudible 00:04:53], Paula brings a wealth of experience, expertise and understanding to her work. In her study of transpersonal and non dual psychology, Paula discovered how the practice of focusing freed her from being identified with the ego, allowing her to live more consistently from a state of characterized by wisdom and grace. This is why Paula shares this practice with others so that they may experience a transformed way of being in the world. Thanks for coming on the show, Paula.
[PAULA STAFFELDT]: And I’m happy to be here, Whitney.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. Well, why don’t you share with us a little bit about kind of your journey into understanding, focusing and bringing these practices kind of into the practice that you do?
[PAULA]: Okay. Well, I have a lifelong interest in spirituality and spiritual development. As you read in my bio, even in my graduate program, when I was getting my degree in counseling psych, in which I went on to become a licensed professional counselor, I had such a strong in the spiritual life that I did my minor, my cognate in theology. And so that has always been a thread in my work. And about 10 years or so ago, maybe a little longer, I became acquainted with a practice called Focusing. And Focusing is an evidence-based practice that is used in the field of psychology. And so I studied that for a period of time and became interested enough that I wanted to get certified as a focusing guide. The piece that I think was unique and really transformed my work was I found that while I was learning the focusing practice and beginning to practice it in my own life, I found that this practice allowed me to access what in our Christian language we would call the Holy Spirit in a way that I had never felt that I really had been able to access that before.
And I found that I was increasingly living from the indwelling Holy Spirit, rather than having to go to it for help. And that transformed my living. And so I wanted to share this with others. And so I began to, in my focusing practice, in my work with people and using coaching, I began to emphasize what I’m calling the spiritual side of focusing; this ability to recognize, access, and then I think from a spiritual journey perspective actually say become that. And so that is what I hope to bring to others because I have found that to be profoundly healing and the people I work with have found that it also changes the way they are in the world. I’ll say one last thing about that, Whitney. I am coming to believe that the practice of focusing helps us do what the Bible says in terms of learning to be in the world, but not of the world.
[WHITNEY]: Well, I’d love for you to talk about that some more.
[PAULA]: Oh gosh. I’d love to tell you more.
[WHITNEY]: So, how does it help with being in the world, but not out the world?
[PAULA]: Well, yeah, thinking how to articulate some of these honestly metaphysical concepts that Jesus talked about and that I think even sometimes followers struggled with understanding, but in my experience, I’ll speak from my experience, what I found was that being of the world is being identified with the voice that’s in my head, that voice that is always dissatisfied with how things are. The voice that is not only worried about the state of the world, but actually says to me, “Oh, and you know what? Your personal development, spiritual development is not going so hot either.”
And when we, when I, when we identify with that voice, we have gotten caught up in being of the world. We are identified with the world as opposed to shifting our identification to, oh, I want to add one piece. We are what Cynthia Bourgeault, Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault an episcopal priest and writer on the transformed Christian life, she calls this ordinary awareness. Being of the world is living from ordinary awareness as opposed to living from spiritual awareness.
[WHITNEY]: I love that. And definitely way too aware of the world, right? I mean, it’s a constant battle where we’re trying to be aware of the spirit and the spirit around us and within us.
[WHITNEY]: And especially when we’re doing our clinical work or even running a business, you know, I’m trying to find, where is God moving right now and how do I not get caught up in all these other things that the world tells me I need to be, or need to do and follow Him in His lead?
[PAULA]: Right. Yeah. And that’s the challenge. You’ve just articulated the everyday challenge, Whitney, that we face.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. Well, I love how we just jumped right into the deep waters here. Yeah, that’s great. So maybe let’s talk a little bit about what focusing actually is and, you know, I can share a little bit of my experience. What I loved was when Paula was willing to come on the show, she said, “Let me show you what focusing is so that you understand it, so we can talk about it on the podcast.” So I love that. Not very many people will say to me, “Hey, try this thing out before the podcast.” So I would love to kind of talk about that experience so that people understand a little bit more what focusing really is.
[PAULA]: That’d be great.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. Well, why don’t you kind of share kind of the outline of it kind of how it works and I can kind of talk a little bit about what it was like on my side?
[PAULA]: We’ll do. So I want to, and I want to start if I may, by giving a little bit of the history, because I know that clinicians listen to this podcast, Whitney and gain a lot of value from it. So I want to ground focusing in is evidence-based practice, if I may start there. Focusing began out of a dissertation done by a gentleman by the name of Eugene Gendlin at the university of Chicago in the 1960s. And Gene’s advisor happened to be Carl Rogers. For us, us clinicians will be a very well-known name. For others, he is one of the leading, he was one of the leading figures in the field of psychology. And what Gene wanted to do his dissertation on was he wanted to discern what made people successful in psychotherapy, because it was clear that some people succeeded and found psychotherapy to be extremely helpful and some people really didn’t.
And Gene went into his dissertation thinking that it probably would be one of two things that it probably would be that just the therapist was good. You know, some of us are just really, really good and people get, well, people get better. That was his one theory. And then another theory he had was that perhaps it was the particular type of psychotherapy. If I remember at that time Albert Ellis’ work around rational, emotive therapy was just beginning and people were thinking, “Wow, this might be the new big thing and this might be what really makes a difference for people.” Well, and to Gendlin surprise, it was neither of those things, although certainly a good therapist is wonderful and there are approaches that work well. But what he found was the people uniformly who had a successful psychotherapeutic experience were people who were doing two things.
One, they were tuning in to something inside of them, which Gendlin later began to call a felt sense. And then in tuning into this, they just sat with it. And we can say more about that in a minute, but they didn’t try to change what was going on inside. They simply kept it company so to speak. And the clinician did that as well. So as he extrapolated on the findings of his dissertation, he began to put this into a codified practice, which became called Focusing. And that’s the practice that I do today. There are a few formulations of the focusing practice, but the basic focusing practice involves leading someone inside where they experience this felt sense of what’s going on about whatever their issue is and allowing it to be, and keeping it company, and basically working with it through the process to move toward a sense of release and resolution.
That, in a nutshell is the focusing practice. And as Whitney said, I really like to show people what this is like, because it’s hard to describe. Whitney, I’ll turn it over to you at this point and see what you’d like to add around that.
[WHITNEY]: I mean, now that I’ve had the experience and I’m hearing you say it, like, I think about our pre-call when we talked about the experience, but I hadn’t had it yet, and now I’m on the other side, like everything you’re saying totally relates. Like I can not see it all play out and I’m just thinking about the amazingness of how we experience the Holy Spirit, and that when you are a believer, that felt sense it’s the Holy Spirit residing within us, speaking to us. And as I look back on my experience, I mean, I didn’t say this to you yesterday when I was giving feedback, but I had a Bible verse that kept coming to my mind as I was having the experience. And I just think that that proves that that’s God’s language, you know, speaking to us in our experience. But as you can already tell, you all probably love Paula’s voice. I love your voice.
So, maybe that’s, maybe all people who do focusing, maybe that’s part of the criteria to get trained. You have to have a good voice. You have to get a voice. Anyway, very soothing and honestly, as she walked me through the process, it really, I can I know that you’re saying Carl Rogers, I’m like, “Yeah, it was very much personal.” Like it was speaking back to me, the very thing that I was speaking, but that would take me to a new level. So the very beginning of the experience was what we’re all kind of similar to, in the sense of meditation and relaxation and taking your body through that process of awareness of your body and awareness of what’s around you, but then bringing up a concern that you have.
And the concern actually that we discussed was COVID as, unfortunately, not too long before we started the interview, I had heard about my dear friend who had COVID and we’ve had a lot interaction with this family. And fortunately we have, you know darted the bullet because we interacted with them just in the perfect amount of time before they were contagious, but it brought up so much anxiety for me about my family and fear of the virus being in my home and fear of my daughter is autistic. So it’s very important that she gets the services that she needs. So to go two weeks without her services would be very difficult, not only on her, but our family. So through the focusing, first it was me just saying I’m scared of COVID. And then by the reflection that Paula was giving me, it got to that deeper level of, “Oh, I’m actually really just worried about my daughter and not even COVID, the long suffering that I experience being a mother with a special needs child and being able to really give her those emotions for what I was experiencing and where I was feeling it in my body.”
And, and I love how she also, she was very open to let me just sit in whatever it was that needed to be sat in, but also giving me the ability to see the positive and to hold those two in the exact same space, which is so important for our work with clients in our work in general, and being able to hold that space. And it was in that moment that I started thinking about that Bible verse suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope. I want to say Romans, but who knows? But like that suffering, and I think you had used that word back to me a few times, and then it kept just hitting me that that’s how I felt, even though I know in my logical mind, not really suffering. There’s way more suffering going on in other parts of the world and people who are sick, but, but the emotional suffering that I felt and that long suffering. And so it was neat to just have that spoken back to me in a peaceful place and then come out of that and be like, “Yeah, that is what’s really going on.” And I was able to get to that place.
[PAULA]: Yeah. And that’s a very common outcome in the focusing process. And what happens when you’re able to do that, Whitney is like you described. Once we’ve been able to tune into that, recognize it, and let it shift to whatever is next, we are then free to move toward in our lives, whatever is next, because it’s almost as if we have dissolved a block so that we can move forward.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. It actually makes me think a little bit of EMDR. I can see why. Yeah, except it’s got kind of more of the spiritual component definitely to it that I’m hearing you kind of speak to.
[PAULA]: Yeah, I think, so, Whitney you and I haven’t talked about this. Are you EMDR-certified?
[WHITNEY]: I am not. I would love to be, but it’s very time consuming and expensive.
[PAULA]: It is. Well, and this is just an add on piece. So I had the marvelous opportunity, I’m level one, EMDR-certified, and I had the wonderful opportunity to train with Francine Shapiro. So that was a fabulous opportunity, and so speaking of that, the similarity that you’re picking up on that I would agree too, is that it really does help dissolve some of these blocks. The piece that you’re also referencing Whitney, that I want to emphasize that I really love about focusing is again, the ability to begin to develop that identification with what in focusing we call presence. And what we’re, in my experience is the indwelling, Holy Spirit. Focusing language is called presence, and by being able to sit with, because see the one, the something that is in you that is having all these feelings is not, you. You are the one listening, you are the presence of the Holy Spirit inside. And that’s what we want to build that identification with, is that identification with the comforter.
[PAULA]: Hmm. That’s beautiful. Well, Paula, tell me, how did you get trained in focusing. If somebody was listening to this episode and they were thinking, “Oh, this is like right up my alley.” How should they move forward?
[PAULA]: There are a couple of places where you can in the U.S., receive a certification training. My training was through focusing resources. And so if people would Google focusingresources.com, all one word lowercase, they would find a website which has a variety of classes and ability to be trained. And then there’s also the focusing, the International Focusing Institute, which is focusing.org, all also lower case where people are also certified and trained in another way. A couple pieces, I want to say about the training, because there’s a couple of routes and then there’s some prerequisites. So if people would find themselves interested in this, first of all, they would need to take, there’s four levels of focusing training that they need to take. And that takes maybe about a year or two years, depending upon your calendar availability.
And then you move into the focusing process, certification process, which in my program is a two-year process. That puts you in the position of being a certified focusing guide with focusing resources. Now, clinicians also might be interested in becoming a focusing oriented therapist. That’s a different track than a focusing guide. Since I’m no longer practicing as a licensed professional counselor and was interested more in the spiritual realm, I decided to go the focusing guide route. But there are those two routes.
[WHITNEY]: That’s great. So tell me about your work now. I mean, do you just do the spiritual direction with people or kind of tell me about the work you’re doing.
[PAULA]: Yeah, I have two nations that I work with. Because of my background in organizational development, I am a leadership coach and I use the focusing process with leaders to help them dissolve the blocks that are keeping them from navigating their work life, with the wisdom and grace that they would like to do so. And then I am a spiritual teacher and spiritual guidance director for another set of folks who are interested in learning how to be in the world, but not of the world.
[PAULA]: Yeah. Well, I know you’ve got some freebies for us, the audience today. You said there’s an article How to be Free from Struggle on your website?
[PAULA]: Yup. Yup. And the website is, I don’t know, do you put that out for people to see, or do you want me to give that to you?
[WHITNEY]: You can go ahead and say it, but it’s also in the show notes. It’s good to have both.
[PAULA]: Great, great. So my website is paulavenuscole.com, Paula, like [P A U L A], Venus like the planet, Cole, like King Cole, [C O L E] all one word, lowercase .com. And when you go on the website, you can scroll down to the bottom of the page or a pop-up will occur that will allow you to access an ‘Email Me’ to get a copy of the article, How to be Free from Struggle. And then the other thing that I would like to offer, as Whitney mentioned earlier, the experience of focusing really helps you understand what the process is like and the power of the process. So I be happy to offer every listener of this podcast who is interested a free 20 minute focusing session, like I gave Whitney. And you can access that by, on my website, clicking on the tab, anywhere on the tab that says, Schedule A Free Discovery Call. That will notify me and we can connect and set up a time for a free 20 minute focusing session so you can really see what this is like.
[WHITNEY]: Well, that’s very generous of you to offer the listeners that, and I will attest that it was very helpful. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in 20 minutes when you just really experienced the 20 minutes, you know? And so I encourage everybody to look up her website. Paula I want to know why your website is paulavenuscole.com.
[PAULA]: That’s a good conversation starter. Years ago when I began to set up a private practice, I did not want to use my last name because it’s difficult for people to pronounce and spell. And my main name was pronounced, it was often mispronounced coal. So I thought, “Oh, I’ll use that Paula Cole.” So I go on and look on domains and try to pull up Paula Cole. Well, and Paula Cole is taken. Now I don’t know if any of your listeners will remember, but in the years when I was first starting my private practice, there was a famous singer by the name of Paula Cole. So I had to come up with something else and Venus is the planet for Taurus, which is my horoscope sign. And I thought, “Oh, there might be spiritual people who would be interested in that and would find that memorable.’ So that’s where Paula Venus Cole came from.
[WHITNEY]: Wow. That is memorable. Now, I’m going to remember your website. That’s great. So if anyone is wanting to get in touch with Paula, go to her website obviously sign up for the free 20 minute focusing session, and then her email is her first initial and last name. I’ll spell it for you guys. It’s [P] [S T A F F E L D T] @gmail.com. That’s [email protected]. Did I say it right? Staffeldt [crosstalk]. Two f’s there.
[WHITNEY]: Great. Well, Paula, I want to ask you, and I ask everyone who comes on the show, what do you believe every Christian counselor needs to know?
[PAULA]: What I would say to you as a Christian counselor is something you may already know, but perhaps sometimes forget, which is that the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit in you is healing. And if you bring that and access that every time you sit with a client that is transmutable, and that can be felt by them and help them access the Holy Spirit, whether they call it that or not in themselves. And so to bring that power every day and sit in presence with the person that you’re in the room with so that they may find that presence as well.
[WHITNEY]: That’s wonderful. Thank you. You said that so well, and it’s such an important thing to remember. I mean, with our clients and just in our lives in general, like it’s amazing how, even in my consulting, how I’ll be sitting there with someone and all of a sudden, God will speak to me about something. You know, and it’s not audible, it’s just that felt sense. And we just have to be aware of it or we’re going to really miss it. So thank you for speaking to that. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today. And I want you all to reach out to Paula. She’s got a lot to offer and I found the time with her very valuable. So thank you so much for coming on the show.
[PAULA]: Thank you, Whitney. I enjoyed it so much once.
[WHITNEY]: Again, thank you so much to Therapy Notes for sponsoring this show. It makes notes, billing, scheduling, and tele-health a whole lot easier. And if you’re coming from another EHR, they make the transition really easy. Therapy Notes will import your clients’ demographic data free of charge during your trials so that you can get going right away. Use promo code [JOE] to get two free months to try out Therapy Notes for free.
Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also there, you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and in group consulting, or just shoot me an email, whit[email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.
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