Branden Cohen: Healing for both client and therapist
July 21, 2006
A decade ago, Branden Cohen earned his master’s degree in clinical psychology at the Center for Humanistic Studies in Detroit. Rather than use those credentials solely to be a traditional therapist, working on the healing of others, Cohen opted for a path that would include his own wellness.For the last two years, Cohen has studied at the Leela Therapy School in Ashland, Ore., learning the Leela technique of therapy, based on the work of Eli Jaxon-Bear. “Leela” is a Sanskrit word for “sacred play of life”; the therapy is a mix of Western techniques, like hypnotherapy and neurolinguistic programming, and Eastern philosophy. Give Cohen the time, and his explanation of Leela can seem complex: It involves relearning habits developed from past experiences, and categorizing personalities based on a nine-pointed enneagram, so that patients can recognize their genetically inherited fixations – anger, fear – and transcend them.
At the core of Leela is the notion that there is no sharp division between client and therapist. Cohen, as the nominal therapist, aims to be what is known as a “true friend,” a partner in providing a silent and aware mind.”The grounding of the therapy is being a true friend,” said Cohen, who currently practices Leela under the guidance of a mentor. “Through that silence and awareness, the medicine of healing can flow. It’s really important to be in rapport with the client, with their breathing, their words. What they’re sharing is the doorway deeper within them into whatever is needed, whatever issue or challenge is there.”In Leela, the client and therapist are further united by their common healing process. The 39-year-old Cohen says he “grew up in a family system of addictions: alcoholism, bulimia, polarism, workaholism.” He doesn’t dramatize that upbringing, adding that it was “a conventional, dysfunctional family.” What attracted him to Leela was the opportunity to heal both himself and his clients.
“Central to our school of therapy is, we’re endlessly a student and endlessly a teacher,” he said. “A major part of our therapy is your own awakening.”Cohen pursues that awakening outside of Leela as well. At True Nature, his retreat high up in Lenado, Cohen holds a monthly sweat lodge, a ceremony of purification and connecting to the natural world and the true self. The sweat lodges, which involves chanting, heat, darkness and lots of sweat, are open to all; the next is scheduled for Aug. 6.Cohen also arranges Vision Quests, three-day sojourns into the wilderness with no food or water or distractions, “so you can truly meet yourself and meet nature.” And he leads a meditation every Wednesday evening, in the now-shuttered Woody Creek Store. Cohen maintains this array of methods so that virtually anyone can get a hit of healing and awareness.
“A thousand years ago, enlightenment was only for the few,” he said. “Now, the beautiful thing is it’s possible for everyone to wake up. It’s awakening to the truth of self, which is connecting to this endless sea of consciousness.”