I came to be a Toronto psychotherapist in a rather round-about way. I grew up on a farm in Minnesota. I was christened Gary Lee and took the name Adam when, in 1958, I entered St. John's Abbey in Minnesota and became a Benedictine Monk. After ordination to the Catholic priesthood in 1964, I came to Toronto to do graduate work in philosophy. There I became
part of a unique therapeutic community that was just taking shape in 1965. Initiated by the innovative Welsh psychotherapist, Lea Hindley Smith, this unusual experiment, called Therafields, developed a psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy training program. After experiencing the therapeutic process for myself, I received training as a psychotherapist and began what has become a practice of more than thirty years.
Eventually chafing at the psychoanalytic bit, I broadened my view of what is and is not possible for the human psyche, pursuing a study of the unusual, the anomalous, and the paranormal. This resulted in referrals from colleagues who were baffled or even frightened by the symptoms they encountered in some of their clients.
Another outcome of this interest was the revivification of my academic career, since I was convinced that the only way to intelligently learn about anomalous experiences was to study the research already done. So I augmented my clinical work with the examination of the classical writings in psychical research, hypnotism, and dissociative phenomena. Out of this scholarly work and my clinical experience were born three books. The first was Multiple Man: Explorations in Possession and Multiple Personality (Toronto: Collins, 1985; Somerville House (Canada) and St. Martin's Press (U.S.A.), 1997). This work combines material from my clinical work with dissociative states and my research into the history of the phenomena. There followed Animal Magnetism, Early Hypnotism and Psychical Research, from 1766 to 1925: An Annotated Bibliography (White Plains, Ne w York: Kraus International, 1988). This tome, dealing with some 2000 titles in three languages, became the background research for my next book, From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic Sleep and the Roots of Psychological Healing (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993) tracing the rise of what I termed the "alternate consciousness paradigm," a framework of thought that became an essential ingredient in all modern psychotherapies of the unconscious mind.
It is no accident that hypnotism and its history were central subjects in my academic research, since I have regularly used trance states in my clinical practice over the years. However, a thorough study of the history of trance states did not give me a satisfactory definition or full understanding of their nature. It is well known to those who work in the field that there has never been an agreed upon definition of hypnosis. Bothered by this unsettled state of affairs, I undertook yet another book. It dealt with the subject of trance states in everyday life and was called Trance Zero: Breaking the Spell of Conformity (Toronto: Somerville House Books, 1997). In this book I propose a definition of trance which applies to the entire gamut of experiences to which that term has been applied over the centuries. From the definition it follows that trance states are not extraordinary experiences after all, but rather something that we are constantly going in an out of as we live our lives. The book also takes up the issue of cultural trance which, without our realizing it, limits and rigidifies the way we think about the world and each other.
From both study and clinical work, I have come to be convinced of the power of trance as a therapeutic tool. In addition to appreciating the usefulness of trance states in psychotherapy, I also have come to see that ideomotor signaling, particularly using finger signals to gain information from the inner mind, is a tremendous therapeutic aid.
In 1985 I was among a group of psychotherapists who founded the Centre for Training in Psychotherapy in Toronto. The Centre trains psychodynamic psychotherapists using psychoanalysis as the core theoretical approach. If you would like more information, go to www.ctp.net
Among the courses I teach at the Centre is a seminar on using trance states in psychotherapy. This seminar is open to both CTP students and other practicing psychotherapists. I also teach a seminar for psychotherapists on the use of finger signals in therapy. For more information about both seminars go to the section on Seminars in this site.