Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

March 6, 2006

The Enneagram: What It Means to Me and How I Use It In My Practice

Metta Sweet Johnson, LCSW, MAT

I believe that every person is a unique, complex being with reactions and responses that are impacted by many forces both internal and external. It may seem strange, then, that I would find such interest in a personality typing tool that, to some, can be used to place people in confined boxes or “types.” Instead of viewing the Enneagram as a static grid for typing and labeling people, though, I view it as a living matrix of energy that flows through human consciousness. Each person is born with a strong connection and certain rapport with one specific part of this living matrix-their personality drive.

This is key: YOU are not your personality drive. Your drive is simply a force that drives YOU (your thoughts, feelings, and ways of relating to yourself and others) if left unnoticed and unattended. I work to help people notice it and attend to it with the purpose of getting back in the driver’s seat, if you will, in their life. Not to get out of “the car” entirely, but to harness the power of that moving vehicle (your drive) to take them in directions that they want to go in life instead of just being “along for the ride.”

Since our perceptions are often what’s reality to us and since our personality drive plays a key role in determining those perceptions, discovering one’s drive is an invaluable tool for changing one’s reality-that is, changing one’s life. And that’s why people come to therapy in the first place: to change something about their life through healing and growth. Therapy’s purpose of providing a space and relationship for healing and growth, therefore, provides a powerful setting to work with the Ennegram.

Because I don’t believe that any healing or growth path-including psychotherapy- is “one size fits all,” awareness of a client’s personality drive is helpful to both client and therapist. Some clients choose to use the Enneagram as integral to their work and others don’t. I simply introduce it in the initial sessions and ask clients to take a short sorting test and let me know which drive seems to “fit” with their experience of themselves. I use this in work with individuals and couples.

There are many resources on the Enneagram, but the ones I work with most are from Riso & Hudson’s Enneagram Institute (www.enneagraminstitute.com), Daniels & Price, and Concept Synergy.

Contact: Metta Sweet Johnson, LCSW

Email: MettaSweet@KarunaCounseling.com

Phone: 404.221.3238

The RHETI Sampler – Free Personality Test

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Mind-body-spirit Integration,Not by Karuna — karunacounseling @ 4:59 pm
Tags: , ,

The RHETI Sampler’s 36 questions are only a part of the full, scientifically validated 144-question Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI, Version 2.5) personality inventory. Short personality quizzes such as the RHETI Sampler cannot guarantee that your basic personality type will be indicated, although your type will most likely be one of the top three scores in this free quiz. We recommend that you read the type descriptions at the end of this test, and in Riso-Hudson Enneagram books, to help you identify your basic personality type.

Take the RHETI Sampler Free Personality Test Now

February 9, 2006

7 Ways To Nurture Yourself

1. Make the choice to be generous and treat yourself to something you’ve been longing for. Spend time with friends, cuddle up with a favorite book or give yourself permission to just do nothing.

2. Forgive yourself for one act of self-sabotage. When we learn from our past we are able to receive it as a blessing. This opens the door to compassion and forgiveness.

3. Focus on one aspect of yourself that you love and acknowledge it for the way it has contributed to your life. This could be a physical characteristic like your eyes or your heart or it could be a positive quality like your decisiveness or sensitivity.

4. Close your eyes and acknowledge yourself for 10 positive choices that you made today – even for the simple things like getting out of bed or returning a phone call.

5. Make the choice to embrace one aspect of yourself that you dislike. Every quality comes bearing gifts – search and find a powerful interpretation of this aspect of you.

6. Allow others to love you up! Call two friends and ask them to share with you three things they love and admire about you.

7. Commit to having an extraordinary life. Take one bold action today: Find a [therapist], take a course you’ve been thinking about, or join a sacred community dedicated to conscious living.


These tips are from Debbie Ford’s newsletter.  In addition to “inspiring humanity to lead fully integrating lives,” Debbie Ford (www.debbieford.com) presents workshops and publishes books such as The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Spiritual Divorce, Why Good People Do Bad Things, and The Right Questions. If you would like more information about the application of integrative shadow work principals in psychotherapy and personal growth, you can reach Metta Sweet Johnson, LCSW, MAT at (404) 221-3238.

February 3, 2006

A Guide To Mindful Living

This section will be dedicated to an ongoing look at simple ways to incorporate mindfulness in your everyday life. Over the course of several newsletters you will have a set of tools to pull out to create a healthier environment within you. One way to facilitate use of the exercises will be to focus on one for the next 2 months and really become fluent in it. Then you can move on in the succession of exercises that can build on each other.

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness in simplified terms is learning to be present in the current moment. Why would one want to do this? The list of benefits is very long but here are a few:

  • Decreasing Anxiety
  • Ability to make conscious choices
  • Helps to reduce addictive patterns
  • Changes your relationship with negative thoughts
  • Allows you tune into answers from within
  • Increases your sense of peace in the world

If you missed the first exercise on the 3 minute breathe, please feel free to go back and look at http://www.karunacounseling.com/mindfulness1.html

Exercise Two:

Mindful Eating

Benefits may include:

  • Becoming more conscious of what you eat.
  • More enjoyment of your food.
  • Increased concentration.
  • Increased ability to stay in the present moment.
  • Better ability to monitor food intake.

Suggested Use:

  • During meals.
  • Deciding if you are hungry.
  • Letting your body inform you of what it is craving (verses your mind or habit dictating).

Any combination of the above will teach your system that mindfulness is readily available. John Kabat-Zinn teaches that if you were jumping out of an airplane, you wouldn’t sew the parachute on the way down. You would instead, sew it ahead of time so that it would be in good shape when you need it. The best way to have mindfulness be something that you automatically reach for is to practice it as much as possible. You may want to leave reminders for yourself to do the exercise, such as, post its or putting it in your calendar.

Part one and two below may be used together or separate depending on your goal.

Basic Instruction for Mindful Eating

Part One:

  1. Begin by sitting in an upright position with your feet on the ground and your spine straight.
  2. Take 2-3 breaths and relax into your body.
  3. Bring your attention to your belly and check in to see if you are physically hungry. You may find the urge to eat, but it could be an emotional hunger.
  4. Ask your body internally or out loud, “What am I hungry for.” You may get a response from the mind, so check it out by imagining your self eating that food. You may try a few foods to see what feels like the best fit. You will find that the more you do this, the more your body will truly guide you to eating what it needs verses what you want.

Part Two:

Follow 1 and 2 above if you are just doing part two and then continue below.

  1. Start by looking at your food like you have never seen it before. Look at the colors, texture, proportions, where it is on the plate and notice the smell.
  2. Notice any judgments that the mind makes and let them go without attaching to them as true. Almost like a child who is being introduced to it for the first time.
  3. Slowly take it to your mouth and stop right before it goes into your mouth. Notice the anticipation of the food.
  4. Now place it in your mouth and chew very slowly, holding an air of curiosity. Notice the texture and the tastes.
  5. Notice how you know when it is time to swallow and then swallow the food.
  6. Put your utensil back down and notice what it is like to be one bite fuller.
  7. Continue on through the meal at a slow and conscious state noticing what feelings, sensations, and judgments come up.

Alive With Color © SuperStock, Inc.

That is it!

Food and eating can stir up a lot of emotions, so you may want to journal about them, or if they get to intense, call your therapist for guidance. Enjoy a new way to look at food and allow a newfound choice about your eating.

If you have more questions feel free to contact me at

404-818-6114 or at


Keep your eyes out for a 4 series class after the New Year to learn how to use mindfulness to prevent the recurrence of depression.

January 2, 2006

The Parts Inside

Andrea J Schrage, MA, LPC, CMT

adapted from Dr. Richard Schwartz

Have you ever thought of yourself as a person with many different parts, or aspects of yourself? Thinking of yourself that can be a little anxiety provoking. You may even remember the movie “Sybil” and feel a desire to back away from the topic.

However, I am asking you to bear with me and trust that this has nothing to do with the type of personality disintegration that was happening for that character. So, for the brave souls left, this is an introduction to a way of looking at different aspects of yourself that will allow you to take better care of you.

I have been practicing as a counselor for almost 15 years. My experience includes studying different modalities that include psychology, body-centered psychotherapy, and spiritual practices. The most profound teachings on my journey have been my personal experience with healing modalities and the art of mindfulness. What feels consistent in all of these modalities is that we all have different parts of us inside, almost like personalities. These parts have been given different names, such as, the Id, Ego, and Superego and the Inner Child. I have also found that when clients identify them, they find that they have a clearer understanding of themselves and their behavior.

Have you ever seen someone who gets angry and starts to act like a kid? One example of this is when they are being told that they did something to hurt someone and they quickly retort with, “Well, you….” That’s what kids do

Another example is the part of you that jumps in and tells you all the ways that you are bad.

The parts vary and most have benefits if used properly. At different times, the parts may function as the self, child, teenager, perfectionist, overachiever, depressed part, worrier, focused only on happy, other focused, withdrawer, addict, playful, artistic, manager, parent, critical, voice, dreamer, or arrogant part/ego.

When you are not aware of these parts, it is easier for one of them to take over so that you are acting from that perspective only. You can imagine that when only one aspect of you is making decisions, you may be seeing a small portion of what is really happening. This becomes the crux of all communication problems.

A way to start understanding your parts is by looking at the categories that they may fall into. This will help you get an idea of the job that they are doing and help you to distinguish when is appropriate for them to display their talents. This will also help you reduce the habitual nature of parts that originated as a defense.


These are often our most sensitive, innocent, open, and intimacy-seeking parts that contain qualities like liveliness, playfulness, spontaneity, creativity, and joi de vivre. They are the parts that were most sensitive and therefore most impacted by the painful events.

These parts could arise from trauma, but they may also be parts that embarrassed your parents, parts that held unspoken family rules or peer group norms, and parts that learned how to not feel.


These are the productive parts that are responsible for our day-to-day safety — often the voices that we hear most often. They are the aspects of us that want to control everything and are sure that they know best. They come from a place that will “never again” be hurt like before. They are the authors and enforcers of your stories and are created for protective reasons. They create your reality. They serve to block things from touching or hurting the exiles. They are the parts of us to try to make sure we are being externally seen in a positive way so that we can get that approval we did not receive in childhood.


These serve as the 2nd line of defense when the managers don’t work. They are our addictions and distractions, such as TV, eating, relationships, sleeping, alcohol, drugs, denial, rage etc. Over the years the firefighters pick less socially acceptable items because the first line of distractions stop working. Some people use physical distractions, such as illness or sudden pains. Some of the firefighters favor an impulsive retreat; they will leave the room or push the other person away. They are the parts that can make you feel fat, addicted, hostile, sneaky, sick, insensitive, and compulsive.

Managers often hate firefighters, though they have the some goal. Firefighters often rebel against managers by becoming more destructive. This can be seen as a parent (manager)/child (firefighter) relationship.

I hope this will help you begin to look at your parts and get support, as you need it. Feel free to email me with any questions about this process.

April 9, 2005

Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity Development

By Molly Keeton, Ph.D.

Recently, there have been several articles on the Karuna web page about the coming out process. This article will look more in depth at the various stages of recognizing, identifying, accepting, and sharing non-heterosexual identity. I will be using the work of researchers within the field of psychology (Troiden, Cass, Coleman) who have attempted to summarize this process and identify its most common elements.

A model or summary can provide a framework for your experience(s), which helps to show that you are not alone and that your struggles have been an inherent part of the process, rather than some sort of personal inadequacy or weakness. However, it is very clear that not everyone’s experience can be fit into a model. In reading about these stages, keep in mind that they may or may not exactly apply to your life experience. If it is not helpful or comfortable for you to compare yourself to these models, then don’t. By no means should these models be used to stereotype, stigmatize or pathologize any individual’s process.

The models of GLB identity formation assume that identity development occurs through several stages over a period of time that varies by person. Identity development is a fluid process, and not all people will go through every single stage or go through them in any particular order. Although the lower stages generally must be achieved before the higher stages, not all people start at stage I. Also, GLB individuals are unlikely to go through these stages in a linear fashion. In fact, you might imagine the process more like a spiral lying on its side. As you move forward along the spiral, you will be cycling back through old stuff. So, individuals can cycle back through earlier stages at any time or even be in more than one stage at one time. For example, even a person who generally feels positive, accepting, and proud of their sexual orientation (stage IV) may have moments of shame, doubt, or fear of discovery (stage II).

Stage I – Sensitization

This first stage of non-heterosexual identity formation generally takes place before puberty. Oftentimes, GLB people look back on childhood and say they always just felt “different” or like they didn’t belong. Later they might attribute this to being gay/bisexual, but most do not identify it as such at the time (one study showed that only 8% of participants labeled them self as gay/bisexual during childhood). Sometimes this sense of not belonging can lead to childhood depression, anxiety, acting out with behavioral problems, physical illness, or even suicidal gestures.

Stage II – Identity Confusion

In the second stage, the GLB individual begins to identify and label their feelings as gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual. Because they always before assumed that they were or should be heterosexual, they may have difficulty reconciling this conflict. They may have a sense of cognitive dissonance, where their feelings or actions do not match their earlier beliefs (that they are straight, are supposed to be straight, or will be damned for not being straight). Just as the individual is beginning to get in touch with his/her true feelings, s/he is also coping with the stigma about being GLB, not having many positive GLB role models, and being surrounded by misinformation about GLB individuals. In stage II, the individual must begin to let go of the old identity or belief system before s/he has fully formed a new identity, which can be like letting go of one trapeze while falling through the air and waiting for the next trapeze to fly your way.

Given the obstacle of this, GLB individuals use different coping strategies while in stage II. A typical response is “denial,” or refusing to acknowledge GLB feelings or desires. They may also use “repair,” or attempting to get rid of the GLB feelings (it is in this stage that individuals might try to convert back to heterosexuality. Some may even seek conversion therapy, which is discriminatory and not condoned by the American Psychological Association). Another strategy for coping with GLB feelings includes “avoidance.” Avoidance can come in a variety of forms, such as trying to inhibit sexual feelings; avoiding any reminders of sexual attraction; avoiding the opposite sex so no one will notice their lack of interest; displaying homophobic attitudes to fool themselves or others; or abusing substances as a way to escape. A fourth basic strategy happens when one “redefines” their feelings/actions as isolated events or an experimental phase. Lastly, a GLB individual may >“accept” their non-hetero thoughts/feelings and begin the process of gathering positive information and support (stage III).

Stage III – Identity Assumption

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people make several crucial transitions in stage III. They begin to replace past negative beliefs about their sexuality with more positive and accepting ones. This is also a time of exploring the new culture(s), sexual experimentation and/or first relationships, and trying on of new roles, behaviors, and self-perceptions.

Initial experiences with other GLB individuals can be very influential. Negative experiences may lead to further denial of the GLB identity and ongoing homophobic attitudes. Negative experiences can also lead to means of coping that are not always constructive, including “capitulation,” or avoiding all same sex activity;“minstrelization” or adopting highly stereotypic behavior; “passing,” which leads to the stress of living a double life; and/or “group alignment,” or avoiding all reminders of heterosexuality by limiting involvement only to GLB communities.

On the other hand, positive experiences in stage III allow GLB individuals to learn about the GLB cultures and communities while finally finding a group to which they can belong. This may be the first exposure to positive GLB role models, who can teach healthy strategies for managing homophobia, encourage integration of the GLB identity with other identities (ethnic, cultural, religious, ability status, etc.), confront the tendency to see oneself only in a sexual way, and encourage pride.

Stage IV – Commitment

In this stage the individual comes to a greater acceptance of and comfort with their GLB identity. This stage is also sometimes called “integration” and is seen as a time when all identities are integrated into one self-image (for example, “I may be gay, but I am also a Catholic, a father, an attorney, and a republican). With this stage comes a greater sense of empowerment, satisfaction, pride, contentment, higher self-esteem, and more successful romantic relationships.

Because homophobia will continue to be a part of life for the gay, lesbian, bisexual person, 3 new strategies may replace past means of coping with stigma. These include “blending,” which occurs when the individual neither denies nor confesses their GLB identity. They may simply view this as irrelevant to certain situations and elect to not make it an issue. The second strategy is that of “covering,” or being out of the closet in some circumstances/social groups while concealing it in others. Given the potential danger in some situations, covering is an adaptive and, at times, necessary strategy. The third strategy is “converting,” where non-heterosexuality is seen as a valid lifestyle that evokes pride. Homophobia is recognized as a form of social oppression, and the individual works to educate the public in attempt to break down stereotypes and decrease discrimination.

February 19, 2005

Dealing with Weddings: When You’re Not Allowed To Have One

by Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC

It seems to be that time of year again when the proposals are increasing as well as more dates are being set for weddings.
At the same time more legislature is being pushed through to stop same sex marriages and to deny these couples the same legal, financial, and health benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. Many are still reeling from the election and the acceptance of amendment 2 and the pain is still fresh. This article is not intended to argue political, religious, or moral viewpoints, but rather to address how people interact with each other and their emotions in a way that feels productive and healthy.

Many feelings are normal upon getting the announcement that friends are getting married; excitement, fear for your friend/family
member, fear of having less time with that person, envy, joy, and what happens if you don’t like the person that they are going to marry? What if you don’t believe in marriage? These are all common feelings, and now add the truth that marriage has become a privilege that is not available to everyone. How do you deal with someone you love getting married and balance the range of emotions felt? This is a very exciting time in the couples life and it is hard for many to acknowledge their personal pain for fear that they will detract
from the good news. This is a lot to juggle, so lets start with a few guidelines, remembering that every situation is different due to the individuals involved.


Spend some time talking about your emotions with a therapist or friend. It would be best to choose a person that you feel relatively safe with when sharing your feelings. Someone who is not as invested
in the wedding so much that they would have to keep any secretes. It is always wise to be conscious that any advice you get may come with some biases and what is most important is giving your self a chance to be honest about the emotions that have come up for you.

Staying with Emotion

As stronger emotions come up, allow your self room to have them, be with them, and move them. Moving them may be a new concept for some; it simply means expressing them in a way that they don’t end up buried inside of you. This may be something that feels more comfortable to do without others around, either way the following may be some ideas to try.

  • Write down your feelings and emotions without editing the content
  • Transfer the emotions on to paper through drawing. This is a time to let go of creating a masterpiece; the object is to use your intuition to guide your colors and your design.
  • See if you can locate a body sensation that feels related to the emotions and bring your attention to the physical sensation. Watch to see if it shifts when you bring your attention to it. Describe it to your self in detail or simply breathe with it.

Move with the emotion; try using music. See what impulses come with it, this can be done through exercise, yoga, or just by single motions that may range from punching to curling up with a blanket.

Yoga to Soothe the Mind

Adaptedfrom www.yogajournal.com

(Standing Forward Bend )

Despite its name, which means “intense stretch” pose, Uttanasana will wake up your hamstrings and soothe your mind.

ut = intense
tan = to stretch or extend


  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stimulates the liver and kidneys
  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips
  • Strengthens the thighs and knees
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Reduces fatigue and anxiety
  • Relieves headache and insomnia
  • Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, infertility,
    osteoporosis, and sinusitis


Back injury: Do this pose with bent knees, or perform Ardha Uttanasana (pronounced ARE-dah, ardha = half), with your hands on the wall, legs perpendicular to your torso, and arms parallel to the floor.

Step by Step

•Stand in Tadasana, hands on hips. Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, not from the waist. As you descend draw the front torso out of the groins and open the space between the pubis and top sternum. As in all the forward bends, the emphasis is on lengthening the front torso as you move more fully into the position.

• If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles. If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Press the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Turn the top thighs
slightly inward.

• With each inhalation in the pose, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend.  In this way the torso oscillates almost imperceptibly
with the breath.  Let your head hang from the root of the neck, which is deep in the upper back, between the shoulder blades.

• Uttanasana can be used as a resting position between the standing poses. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. It can also be practiced as a pose in itself.

• Don’t roll the spine to come up. Instead bring your hands back onto your hips and reaffirm the length of the front torso. Then press your tailbone down and into the pelvis and come up on an inhalation
with a long front torso.

Modifications & Props

To increase the stretch on the backs of the legs, stand in the forward bend with the balls of your feet elevated an inch or more off the floor on a sand bag or thick book.


Padangusthasana (not to be confused with Supta

After bending forward, slide the index and middle finger of each hand in between the big toe and second toe of each foot. Then curl the fingers under the bottom and around the big toe and wrap your
thumb around your fingers. With an inhalation straighten your arms and lift your front torso away from your thighs, making your back as concave as possible. Hold for a few breaths, then exhale and lengthen down and forward, bending your elbows out to the sides.

Preparatory Poses

February 10, 2005

Preventing The Recurrence of Depression and Anxiety

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Anxiety,Depression,Former Karuna therapist — karunacounseling @ 4:41 pm
Tags: , ,

by Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC, CMT

The chronic, recurrent nature of depression and anxiety presents an enormous challenge to sufferers and treatment providers. Combining the use of mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy allows for individuals to learn skills that will work more holistically to include mind and body in their growth. Participants can learn to play an active role in preventing the return of depression and anxiety as they watch other areas of their life positively impacted during the process. Through learning these techniques, one will notice a change in how they are able to participate more fully in their life in a conscious and often more peaceful way.

Conscious Choices is a 4-session class designed to teach its members how to combine these two modalities and to give them skills to help them prevent the spiral into reactive moods.

  • Learning to meditate for those who think they can’t.
  • Learning to identify the ongoing flow of critical voices in our heads.
  • Learning to sit with painful emotions and body pains.
  • Learning how to see anxiety and depression coming and make choices to prevent them.
  • Learning to recognize joy and happiness in everyday life.

Effects of this class may include:

  • Increased relaxation.
  • Reduced fear and anxiety.
  • Discontinuation or lessening of depression cycles.
  • Increased happiness and appreciation of life.
  • Feelings of empowerment.
  • Ability to make clearer choices about life.
  • Increased connection with others and self.

by Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC, CMT

November 1, 2004

Handling the Holidays..in a New Way

By Molly Keeton, Ph.D.& Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC,CMT

The time is coming..food, festivities, and family. This can be a combination for fun or it can be a recipe for the blues. The following is a few ideas for shifting the holiday “shoulds”.

We tend to follow the same traditions every year because, in theory, it gives us some comfort and connection. This year take some time before hand to evaluate which traditions are truly enjoyable for you. This includes who you spend the holidays with, what traditions you participate in, how much time you spend with others and how much time you spend alone. What would your ideal holiday look like? Be creative. Does it include friends, volunteering, staying at home with relatives? If you do spend time with family, how much time is enough time before you find your self needing some space? Forcing yourself into too much togetherness can create resentment that may go outward or turn inward Either way you are not helping yourself or those around you.

When making plans to change holiday traditions, be prepared for responses that you are likely to receive. Does your family use guilt or coercion to keep things at status quo? Anticipating the tactics that might be utilized can help you to plan in advance how to respond without getting caught up in old patterns. It might be helpful to discuss this with your therapist and to use role-play to get feedback on your approach. Talking to your family about your plans in advance is
preferable to discussing it during the holidays when the emotions are high.

It is important to remember that we are adults now and get to make our holidays what we want them to be. Keep in mind that when interacting with our families, it is easy to revert back to childlike ways of coping. Though these patterns kept us safe when we were younger, they currently keep us engaged in the dysfunctional system. Chances are you are in a space in your life in which you don’t solely rely on your parents for food, shelter, support, and love. Therefore you have more opportunity to make your own choices without threat of losing your foundation.

Making changes can cause temporary stress even though the long-term gains are helpful. To soothe your discomfort, try some of the following: take a hot bath, call a friend, treat yourself to a massage, write in your journal, allow yourself a day off from your to-do list, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, or make yourself a nourishing meal.

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