Robert Burney author of Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
,calls his private practice (which he began in 1990) "Counseling for Wounded Souls." He holds a Master of Arts degree in Human Relations and has experience in chemical dependence treatment programs, having worked in inpatient and outpatient settings with both adults and adolescents in the late 1980s.
The focus of Robert Burney's therapy is teaching self-empowerment. He does not normally do long term individual therapy which he believes can sometimes foster dependence. The purpose of his work is helping people to access their own Spirit so that they can learn to depend upon, and trust, their own intuition.
In the early years of his private practice and through the end of the 90s he specialized in small groups (maximum 4 people) that focused on changing the core relationship with self. These consciousness expanding process groups were designed to help people on a Spiritual Path become more aligned with the healing process so that life can become an easier, more enjoyable experience. During the course of the group process individuals learned how to: get in touch with and release childhood grief which allows emotional honesty with self; get intimately in touch with both the inner child (inner children) and Higher Self; have internal boundaries, as well as external boundaries, in order to stop being at war within and start developing a more Loving relationship with self.
It is Robert's unique approach and application of the concept of internal boundaries coupled with the Spiritual belief system he teaches that make his work so innovative and effective. The following paragraphs from one of his pamphlets exemplifies both the philosophy and goal of his therapeutic work:
"Learn how to integrate Spiritual Truth and intellectual knowledge of healthy behavior into your experience of life and find some balance in your relationships. Knowing Spiritual Truth intellectually will not make your fear of intimacy disappear or relieve you of the shame you feel deep within. Integrating Spiritual Truth into your day-to-day life process and emotional reactions is what will set you free.
It is possible to feel the feelings without being the victim of them. It is possible to change the way you think so that your mind is no longer your worst enemy. It is possible to become empowered to have choices in life at the same time you are letting go of trying to be in control. Life can be an exciting, enjoyable adventure if you stop reacting to it out of your childhood emotional wounds and attitudes."
(I wrote the above discription in 1998 or 99 for my web site. In 2003 I added the following to share how my work had evolved.)
I am no longer doing the inner child healing groups - simply because of the way my path has unfolded in recent years. After moving back to Cambria in the fall of 1995 and publishing my book, things did not unfold as I had envisioned them. A perfect part of my Spiritual and emotional growth process - but a quite challenging time full of opportunities for growth.
"I raised the money to publish the book myself, and have never had the kind of money it would take to promote it on any large scale. I, in fact, got myself in pretty severe financial circumstances with the attempts I did make to market it."
Cambria is a small isolated community on the Central Coast of California about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco - the first town south of Big Sur. I really Love living here - but like a lot of smaller places that offer a higher quality of life it can be quite a hard place to make a living. I had first started to do the inner child healing groups in 1990 here in the local area. The early 90s were a time when codependency was becoming a very popular movement - and Co-Dependents Anonymous was growing rapidly. In 1992, I moved back to Taos New Mexico, where I had lived previously, because the person I was in a relationship with wanted to move there. As it turned out, she left the relationship and moved back to California after a year - and I was in Taos until 1995 when I was able to raise the money to publish my book because of the "leap of faith" trip I refer to above.
By the time I moved back to the Central Coast in the fall of 1995, the codependency movement was declining rapidly and I was having a harder time getting very many people to commit to doing the inner child healing groups. When the sale of my books fell off after the first year for lack of advertising money and/or chain store outlets, I made a choice to move to Santa Barbara in early 1997 because I had received significant response to my book from people in that area and Los Angeles. I had an office in Santa Barbara from February 1997 until February 2000.
I was commuting back to the Central Coast to do some groups during that time - and also doing some groups in the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles besides the ones I was doing in Santa Barbara. It was during my time in Santa Barbara that I first discovered the internet. A friend kept pushing me to get my own web site - something that I finally did when I launched my first crude web site on silcom.com in February of 1998.
Santa Barbara proved to be like Taos, in that word of mouth about my groups spread and I always had people who wanted to participate. Unlike the Central Coast which is made up of a bunch of small isolated communities, both Santa Barbara and Taos proved to be places that such word of mouth - along with giving my talk occasionally - brought me enough clients to keep groups going and pay the rent. The Central Coast has always been a challenging place for me to coordinate the logistics of organizing groups - and really requires that I have an office that is centrally located in the county (meaning about 35 miles from Cambria) to have a private practice in this area.
I was not happy with living in Santa Barbara however. It is a beautiful place, but I had spent over a dozen years in Los Angeles pursuing an acting career - and had gotten so I really disliked being in cities. Santa Barbara was not only too big for what I preferred by that time, but also too Southern California glitzy for my taste (I had over dosed on Hollywood.) I didn't have the finances to move back to Cambria but did move to a town 20 miles south of Cambria called Morro Bay in the fall of 1998 - where I lived in a rented room with some practicing alcoholic roommates. Though I loved living within walking distance of a beach where I could take walks at midnight in the full moon, the roommate situation became intolerable and I gave notice that I was going to move in early 1999 - at about the same time I was investing in starting Joy2MeU.com with a merchant account to sell my books. I still had my office in Santa Barbara, and had rented an office here on the Central Coast also. Suddenly due to the unexpected relocation out of the area by several clients which caused several groups to end, along with some car trouble, I found my income greatly decreased and ended up homeless.
"As I talk about on my investment opportunity page, which I quote in the final chapter of my book, I have learned to let go of thinking I know where my path is heading. I do not put energy any more into thinking that Oprah is going to call, or wondering when I am going to be able to pay off my debts, or get a car that allows me to make a trip out of town without being scared it will break down. I have learned some great and mighty lessons - about living in faith on a moment to moment basis - by driving cars that offered the potential of imminent break down.
My healing path has taught me to keep letting go of the future and just do the next thing in front of me one day at a time. I am very grateful at the end of every month that enough money has manifested to pay the rent. And I am willing to accept being homeless again if that is the path my Higher Power lays in front of me.
I spent 6 months in 1999 being homeless. Not on the street homeless - I had an office for my computer - but crashing on someone's couch kind of homeless. The lessons in acceptance and patience and letting go that I learned during that time were sacred gifts. The level of faith that it forced me to access and practice, the depth to which I was forced to integrate my Spiritual belief system into my relationship with life, was a manifestation of Love from my Higher Power that I am now - and have been - reaping great benefits from.
Don't get me wrong, I do not want to be homeless again - or keep driving a car on it's last legs. But I am willing to accept the reality of my path as it is presented to me and make the best of it."
I actually had two office for some weeks, but no home. Since it was easier for me to get groups going, I retreated to Santa Barbara - giving up my office on the Central Coast. For the next six months I was crashing on friend's couches or in my office. It was a time of incredible growth for me. A very hard time emotionally that provided a great deal of fertilizer for my growth process.
I ended up being able to move back to Morro Bay in a perfect example of how the Universe sometimes works in mysterious ways. A friend of mine experienced two life blows in a short period of time - his wife left him and his partner in a stucco contracting business went to jail. Thus he needed both a roommate and some help in his business - and I moved back in September of 1999. I kept commuting to Santa Barbara to do groups (in an office I rented one day a week after giving up that office I had rented for 3 years in early 2000) while on other days I was working as a hod carrier - a very dirty, arduous task carrying buckets of cement.
In March of 2000, I started to do telephone counseling - something that some people who resonated with my web site had been urging me to do for some time.
"Anyway, when I started offering the phone counseling in March of 2000, I wasn't at all sure how effective the phone sessions were going to be. . . . . . .
The phone counseling has proven very effective for the people who are at a place in their process where they are willing to apply the tools and techniques that I share with them. Of the people who have been open to changing their perspectives, and willing to do at least a little of the work, most have changed their relationship with self and life profoundly within a matter of 6 to 8 weeks. My goal in working with people is to empower them to be in-dependent. To teach people how to have internal boundaries so that they can separate the messages coming from the old tapes and old wounds from the messages of intuitive Truth from their Spirit - so that they can start learning how to relax and trust their Spirit to guide them."
The phone counseling has indeed proven to be very successful for most people who have tried it - and successful in bringing in some extra income for me. When the Universe provided the funds for me to be able to move back to Cambria in September of 2000, I was busy enough with the phone counseling that it made no sense to create extra overhead by renting an office for groups and investing all the time, energy, and money it would take to generate enough clients to pay for the extra expense.
In the small groups, my focus was on facilitating grief work as a step in the process of helping people change their relationship with life and self. The techniques that I teach people in the phone counseling to help them change their relationship with life also allows them to change their relationship with their own emotions so that they can learn how to facilitate their own grief work.
The telephone counseling has proven to be an excellent way in which to teach people how to apply my approach to their inner child healing and codependency recovery in a way that aligns with how each individual's personal process is unfolding One of the gifts I have had in my counseling work since I started it in recovery, is the ability to meet a person wherever they are at in their process and help them to open up to the next level of growth for them.
"There were two interrelated things that I had to get clear about when I started working as a therapist: One is that I am powerless over other people - over the pace of their progress, over whether they hear what I am saying to them, over where their path leads. I watched a good friend die of Alcoholism (which is in a column in the Alcoholism section) and saw how clearly he helped other alcoholics stay sober because he couldn't - he did more to keep more people sober than many of the sober people I know. I can't know what someone else's' path is - therefore I can't tell them what is right and wrong. What I can do is help them see themselves clearer (especially as to understanding how their childhood experiences have dictated their lives), see their choices and the possible consequences clearer, and know that we are Spiritual Beings going to boarding school not taking a test we can fail.
Which brings me to the second thing, which I believe is a Spiritual Truth - I teach best what I need most to learn. I teach people how to Love themselves because I am trying to learn how to Love myself. I learned to always listen to what I was saying because, though I have no control whether anyone else hears me, I do have the power to choose to hear myself - and there is always something in what I am saying that applies to me and my process in that moment. . . . . I am in process just as my clients are - just as we all are. There is no hierarchy as far as I am concerned - just one wounded person / Magnificent Spiritual Being sharing what has worked for me with another wounded person / Magnificent Spiritual Being. I am doing what I need to do for myself, to heal myself - it doesn't have to do with anyone else - that it helps other people is just a bonus (and an opportunity to settle Karma)."
It has always been a challenge in workshops or groups to discern what levels and facets of the process to focus upon - because people can be at very different stages of recovery, quite different levels of consciousness. The telephone counseling has proven a wonderful venue for being able to help individuals to see where they are at on their own personal path with some clarity and compassion - from people who are just starting recovery to people who have been on a healing, spiritual path for many years.
I have now worked with people who have grown up on every continent on the planet, people of every race, of different sexual preferences, from a multitude of cultural backgrounds. Human internal emotional dynamics are the same for all human beings - the external details just provide different flavors of codependency, different facets to the wounding. As long as a person is not completely closed minded out of their black and white programming that there is only one "right" way to heal, one "true" path to God - they can benefit from the approach to healing that I share with them. The people that I have worked with represent a wide variety of beliefs, including: Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, agnostic, Pagan, Wiccan, Native American, and Jewish - as well as Christians of almost all varieties. There is a saying that I like: religion is for people who are scared of hell, spirituality is for people who have been there. Anyone who is sick and tired of living in a hell of emotionally suffering - and is open to seeing life from a larger perspective - can change the quality of their life by doing this work.
I have no idea what the future holds in terms of rather I will one day be too busy to do the phone counseling, or personally answer all the e-mails I get - I hope not. So far the turnover as people learn to do the dance of life to different music [a reference to Chapter 13 of my current online book in progress Changing the Music: Love instead of fear and shame
- as is the reference to the celebrity variety of codependency in the next paragraph] has kept the number of people seeking counseling at any one time manageable and doable. I am busy enough with the phone counseling however, that doing groups in person now would not be an efficient use of my time and energy - or financially worth the investment. Things are changing somewhat right now because it is now possible for people in Europe and the Far east (including Australia and New Zealand) to get telephone rates on calling cards for under 10 cents a minute - so my overseas phone clients are growing.
At this time I am not even sure I would go on Oprah's show if she did call. I certainly do not plan on ever buying into the virulent variety of codependency that can come with being a celebrity in this culture - though I would like the word of mouth about the book and web site to spread. I do hope that one of these days I will have the resources to be able to offer some kind of healing retreats to people who want to learn the process - and hopefully some kind of training to other healers in how to facilitate my approach to the inner child healing. As usual, More Will Be Revealed.