1. Elliott, DeAnna C. RN, CHPN, Reviewer

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The Art of Being a Healing Presence-A Guide for Those in Caring Relationships James E. Miller and Susan Cutshall Willowgreen Publishing 10351 Dawson's Creek Blvd, Suite B Fort Wayne, IN 46825 Phone: 260-490-2222 E-mail: Web site: ISBN: 1-885933-32-0 $7.95


This is a refreshing book that allows the reader to reflect on how caring can be intentionally more helpful for both the helper and the one needing help. Whether you are providing care at the end of life or to people who reach out to you along life's journey, this book identifies ways chance encounters can be opportunities for healing.


"Healing presence is the condition of being consciously and compassionately in the present moment with another or with others, believing in and affirming their potential for wholeness, wherever they are in life." Although each of us may, at times, experience these moments, there may be the feeling that it happens magically rather than as a conscious choice. Whether you are a seasoned therapist or new to the helping professions, applying the principles of healing can enrich your professional, personal, and intrapersonal relationships.


The first few chapters establish a "Healing Presence" as an art form and make a clear distinction between "healing" and "curing." Healing is not "a remedy that eliminates a person's disease or distress" but rather a natural force from within that gives purpose and meaning and wholeness to a life. It is not a process that can be done to another person but comes from that person uniquely. We have the chance to witness this process and occasionally mirror this process for the person. We can "appreciate it, encourage it, and bless it," but as healers, we can do no more.


At first glance, this process of being a "Healing Presence" seems simple. You don't need to find answers, solve the person's problems, or "do" anything, yet learning to be fully in the moment of another person is not as simple as it sounds. It takes some thought, introspection, and, perhaps, changes from the caregiver. Individuality, humanness, prejudices, and brokenness are 4 areas the book identifies as places to internally explore. This honest appraisal may feel uncomfortable because much of our professional training has focused on the other person to the exclusion of our own feelings. The "Healing Presence" requires connection to our own hearts to be effective.


Tips on creating the space where healing is encouraged are then presented. This chapter addresses barriers that can be changed and those that cannot. Whether encounters are unanticipated or scheduled, private or in a group, the authors remind us that "whatever control you do have is enough." Creating a stress-free zone within yourself may be the most important element you can control. Taking those few minutes before you start to pray, meditate, clear your agenda, or turn off your pager will go far toward starting the creation of a healing space.


Chapter 7 focuses on "Honoring" the other person as an equal. Many of our relationships are unequal because of age, position, or superior knowledge. Although this may be true in the healing presence encounter, the chapter suggest ways to "Honor the other's significance" by addressing the person formally, maintaining eye contact at his or her level, and touch when given permission. Being with the other person calls for a sensitivity and awareness that may be difficult to maintain and will require you to "come back to the present moment" regularly.


Throughout the book, the authors stress caring for yourself and not expecting too much from you or your companion. Growth occurs at different times and unique ways that may not have been expected. "One of the most powerful things you can do for someone as a healing presence is simply believe." Believing here means the potential for wholeness, not that the person will act in a certain way or accomplish a particular task. Words used to describe your relationship are companion, consultant, or coach, and, although the person may be close to you, maintaining separateness will allow the freedom to change and the ability to attribute any growth to his or her strength.


The authors never claim your intention in being a healing presence will always be obviously successful. Rather, they devote a good portion of the book to pitfalls, such as when you have done or said something you will regret. Encouragement to be all you can, whatever that may be, is on every page. "Healing presence is everything life itself is: messy and mysterious, exasperating and exhilarating, wearying and wonderful." With continued practice, Miller and Cutshall believe you will be "living more of your moments...more fully...more genuine...more sacred" and "forge some wonderful relationships."


The book layout is colorful; filled with quotes from several writers, both ancient and contemporary; and an easy read. It has tools for anyone in the helping professions and for those wanting to be a "Healing Presence" in any aspect of their lives.