The Healing Journey Programme
Is a structured educational programme which uses a wide range of psychological and spiritual self help methods and techniques to bring about increased quality of life for cancer patients and their families. The Healing journey has been developed by Alastair Cunningham, a retired clinical psychologist and immunologist, now professor emeritus at the University of Toronto.
For the last few months I have been going through the Healing Journey Programme with a friend who has had breast cancer and that has been a great experience. It has helped me to stay focussed on the exercises and to move to a deeper level of consciousness in meditation and visualisation practice in a way that I would have unlikely done alone. We have recently given a talk to our local branch of the British Holistic Medical Association and happily got a very good reception, and it is our intention at some stage to facilitate this Healing Journey in the UK. Of course we need to get financial backing somehow as we want it to be free or very reasonably priced for cancer patients as we both know how often having cancer also causes financial hardship.
A study done by Professor Cunningham - as well as his personal experience in surviving a serious colon cancer - suggest that the HJP has the capacity also to increase the length of life of some people with metastatic cancers (some are unexpectedly still in long term remission).
Basically the HJP aims to offer regular facilitated group sessions offering self help techniques and group activities/discussions focussing on different dimensions of an individual - body, conscious mind, deeper mind, social networks and existential/spiritual dimensions.
These are intended to help develop 3 key qualities of:
- authenticity – people are able to work out what is most important to them in their lives and begin re-evaluating their life in relation to this whilst improving communication skills and ability to express feelings congruently.
- autonomy – they choose to live their life in accordance with their values and priorities and to discard activities that feel like unwanted/unhealthy obligations and to develop assertiveness.
- acceptance – they feel greater self-esteem, more self acceptance and increased tolerance for others and ability to feel emotionally closer to people.
All of which results in improved quality of life and even longevity in some cases.
The HJP is based on over 25 years of clinical experience and research at the Ontario Cancer Institute, Canada’s largest cancer treatment centre.
There are currently five successive steps in the HJP. Sessions are held regularly and the skills learned are enhanced by practice at home in between group meetings.
Level 1: Coping with Cancer Stress - once a week for 4 weeks - includes stress management techniques such as deep relaxation, thought control, mental imaging, emotional expression and goal setting.
Level 2: Skills for Healing - once a week for 8 weeks -includes self-help methods such as meditation, consulting an inner healer, spiritual aspects of healing, journal writing and small group discussion.
Level 3: Steps towards Spiritual Healing - once a week for 8 weeks - a course in understanding and diminishing the common obstacles to spiritual experience (non-denominational).
Level 4: Becoming Authentic - ten weekly sessions designed to consolidate what has been learned in levels 1-3 and to foster the qualities we have found in people who have greatly outlived their prognoses - authenticity, autonomy and acceptance.
Level 5: Introduction to a course of Miracles - 9 weekly sessions - a study of a profound spiritual text concerned with healing. This can be adapted for use with other spiritual texts.
Discussion groups meet once weekly for graduates wishing to continue their contact with the Healing Journey.
For more information and to download the workbook go to: www.healingjourney.ca