by Nov 3, 2022

“All mental illness has a shamanic piece.” (Hale Makua, 2001)

Mental illness is permanent, right? Most of us believe the best a mentally ill person can hope for is managing the condition with medication and good psychotherapy. Then in 2001, I started studying shamanism and in 2008, I began applying my shamanic skills to my psychotherapy practice.  My results shattered my beliefs about mental illness.

I have blended shamanic skills into not only my private practice, but also a psychiatric practice. I knew that shamanism worked well with balanced and mentally healthy people, but I soon realized it could create breakthroughs for people who were deeply disturbed—some borderline, some psychotic. Some still enjoy stability and normal lives years later. Folding shamanic tools into sessions makes my work more powerful and effective.

When I interviewed with the psychiatrist who hired me for his clinic, I told him about all the alternative, shamanic techniques I use. I withheld nothing. He simply replied, “Good, we don’t have those.” He was very open to new ways of working. I told clients there are never any guarantees but that I had had success with these methods.

When I began to use shamanic skills with clients, I shared my new experiences with Dr. Hank Wesselman in 2015 who urged, “Jill, you have to write about your successes integrating shamanism with traditional therapy.”  I share examples here so practitioners might gain insights, creating new possibilities.


In August 2001 I flew to Waimea on the Big Island for Dr. Hank Wesselman’s shamanic training. Hank invited his Kahuna friend, Hale Makua, to talk to us and do a ceremony, a rare privilege. During one session Makua declared, “All mental illness has a shamanic piece.”  That stayed with me.

A few years later in a workshop with Dr. Wesselman we journeyed to explore our purpose in life, and I heard my spiritual team say, “You are to heal the broken.” I burst into tears.

         “But I don’t know how!” I cried.

         My helping spirits answered, “We will teach you.”

         That was 2008. My spiritual team continues to fulfill their promise.

First, some background. In over forty years as a licensed therapist. I always incorporated alternative techniques to be more effective. Shamanism was a natural next step.

Though an experienced shamanic practitioner, I was intimidated and overwhelmed as a new psychotherapist at a psychiatric clinic.  However, my spiritual team continues to help me integrate shamanic protocols into my psychotherapy practice; they have shown me several techniques, some invented on the spot, just when needed.  I have incorporated shamanism by putting clients into journey mode, allowing them to access inner wisdom, assisting them in deep emotional release that facilitates healing.  I describe several cases, intending that other professionals will see a way to make their sessions more potent by blending shamanic tools into their work.


When I get to my office, I ask my spiritual team to join me in creating a sacred space.  I put my hand on my stack of charts for the day and ask for my clients’ highest good and greatest service, and I say their names out loud. Before a session I often journey on a client’s behalf and ask for guidance.


I explain to clients that when you change your inner life using positive imagery, you can expect to have a change in your everyday life. For example, one client had been dealing with a very painful degenerative condition; he then developed fear of going outside.

In journey mode this client created an elaborate inner garden with a house, exotic plants, and a bear. He even made a drawing of his garden, complete with a bear. When he arrived at our next session, he reported his pain was 10 of 10 on the Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS). I suggested he ask the bear to eat or claw away his abdominal pain. After his bear clawed it out, he told me the pain was gone. I put an induction (words that will put him in a journey mode) on his phone, and doing it twice a day, he needed less pain medication. Now, he is pain free for several hours a day.

Next we tackled his fear of going outside. Accompanied by his bear, he walked comfortably without anxiety around his inner garden, then his own garden at home. His bear is a power animal that brings him power, protection and support. Next, with his inner bear, he imagined walking around his own block, and to the store.

Initially walking to his mailbox caused the anxiety for which he medicated. We built up to his first walking to the mailbox. No anxiety! Then, he drove around the block with bear in the seat next to him. Finally he drove himself to the store and shopped, visualizing bear walking beside him. No distress.  At holiday time he was able to buy family gifts for the first time in five years.


I want to share spiritual discussions I have with clients whom I identify as psychic. Some clients who have been diagnosed as psychotic are also very psychic. Some of their experiences sound very spiritual, while others are not at all healthy. These people have not had any validation that their experiences are real, and certainly no instruction in how to manage those experiences. In sessions we sort those out, like this person who hears voices:

         “I talk to my dead brother all the time, and it’s very comforting. Is that wrong?” a client asked me after her brother was killed in a car accident.

         “I think that’s great, so keep the positive connection,” I told her. “What do the negative voices say?”

         “I’m worthless, I should die. Those are dark and weird looking.”

         This client had a strong connection to God, so I said, “Let’s call a sunbeam from the sky and ask God to take those negative voices to the light.”

          After doing that she said, “It’s quiet in my head now.” She felt more peaceful in the coming weeks. This simple process gave this client some control and power to manage her spiritual sensitivity.

         I asked one last question: “When do you suppose those scary spirits got hold of you?”

         This lady knew immediately. “They followed me home from the hospital. And each time I get hospitalized there are more of them.” (People often pick up negative thought forms from both mental and regular hospitals.)

         “So now you have a tool to send them to the light, to the recycling center in the sky,” I told her. She looked relaxed and relieved. Shamanism is a powerful way to give clients power over their intrusive, destructive thoughts.


“I’m suicidal,” one client reported as we started our session. I called the doctor, who worked just across the hall, to come in and evaluate this person.

In the meantime I said, “Let’s try something.” Inwardly I asked my spiritual team for help. Using journey work, I had worked with this client for months creating her inner garden and finding her spirit helper, an angel, then visiting past traumas and releasing them. So I put the client into journey mode, directed by my spiritual team. I started, “Let’s focus on the parts of you that stepped aside with each of those traumas. We can use your angel to get those parts back.

“Imagine a ball of light in your hand that represents the time your folks got divorced. What color is it? Red? Good. Show me with your hands how big it is. Grapefruit size? Good. When you are ready, bring that red ball up to your chest and breath in that light. Let it fill your torso, up through your head, down into your legs and arms. When you feel filled up put your hands down.”

We repeated this simple process three more times, and each time I identified the soul part: “This part represents that part of you that stepped aside when you had your tonsils out”… and so on. With every soul part my client took a huge breath as if she were aspirating that lost part of herself.

         A few minutes later the doctor came in to evaluate her. The doctor asked, “How are you feeling?”

         With a little smile my client answered, “I feel good, I’m not suicidal now.”

I was stunned! In five minutes we had done enough soul retrieval to shift this client’s energy state, so she was stable. Since then I’ve used this process dozens of times after I explained how parts of us step aside when we have been traumatized. Sometimes clients can access their spirit helpers to assist, sometimes not. But it works just the same.


I asked a client who was hearing voices and cutting herself whether she felt beings were inside her that didn’t belong.


This woman had been in and out of mental hospitals for years, and her emotional stability was up and down. Once she had a violent outburst and kicked out the back window of her boyfriend’s truck. I suspected that negative thought forms had taken up residence in her. I asked her to visualize two angels with a large bubble of light in front of her. The angels opened a door to the bubble to capture the thought forms as they left my client.

          I asked her, “Are you willing to let them go?”

         “Yes, I see them going. They look nasty. There are lots of them!”

         “Yes, breathe. Are they all gone now?”

         “Yes, the angels have them all.”

         “Good,” I said. “Now see the angels with the bubble going to the light to heal them. How do you feel now?”

         My client responded, “I feel peaceful; it’s quiet in my head.”

Over the next few months this woman enjoyed newfound stability. She is now engaged to a lovely man and in couples counseling; they want a successful marriage.


I explain to clients that with any long-standing problem—pain, stress, anger, anxiety—the brain has actually learned to be in pain or stress or whatever. Those same neural pathways light up each time it occurs, reinforcing that negative experience. Dr. Norman Doidge in his book, The Brain That Changes Itself, asserts that neuroplasticity allows the brain to create new pathways and unlearn negative patterns. Shamanism can help people create new neural pathways, learn new behaviors, and change their lives.

In summary, a practitioner can incorporate shamanism into a mental health practice. Although results vary I have seen astounding healings.  In one or two sessions clients cleared depression, reduced pain, controlled fears. Some could sleep again; others controlled anxiety without medication. Several have had no hospitalizations for one to four years. Along with medication and psychotherapy, shamanism is an important piece in recovery. Using shamanism has increased my effectiveness so clients can lead happier and healthier lives more quickly.

More formal research needs to be conducted. My anecdotal evidence is a beginning.



Doidge, Dr. Norman. The Brain That Changes Itself. (2007)

Harner, Michael. The Way of the Shaman. (1980)

Raiguel, Jill. Alternative Healing Beyond Recovery. (2015.)
                    You Are Not Your Problem, (2020)

Wesselman, PhD Hank. Journey to the Sacred Garden. (2003)

Wesselman, PhD Hank and Sandra Ingerman. Awakening to the Spirit Realms. (2013)

Related Content: Articles | Healing Methods

About the author

Jill Raiguel, MS LMFT

Jill Raiguel, MS LMFT

Jill has been a shamanic practitioner specializing in soul retrieval since 2001 and a California licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for over 45 years.  She is a retired adjunct professor from Cal Poly, Pomona, California. She has written several books and articles including Alternative Healing Beyond Recovery, You Are Not Your Problem, and Tam's Journey: A Fairy Tale for All Beings and Tam’s Lessons: A Fairy Tale for All Beings.  She has taught her work nation-wide and now teaches virtually. Her next book, Turning Screams to Music: My Journey from English Teacher to Shamanic Practitioner, will be available in late 2024.  For more, visit click on Workshops.  Or,
Jill has been a shamanic practitioner specializing in soul retrieval since 2001 and a California licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for over 45 years.  She is a retired adjunct professor from Cal Poly, Pomona, California. She has written several books and articles including Alternative Healing Beyond Recovery, You Are Not Your Problem, and Tam's Journey: A Fairy Tale for All Beings and Tam’s Lessons: A Fairy Tale for All Beings.  She has taught her work nation-wide and now teaches virtually. Her next book, Turning Screams to Music: My Journey from English Teacher to Shamanic Practitioner, will be available in late 2024.  For more, visit click on Workshops.  Or,
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  1. Jennifer Blalock

    Thank you for sharing these potent healing stories. I wonder if you call it “shamanism” with your clients? Or do you use alternative language?

  2. Ellen Winner

    Great article! I It seems the author of this article has pioneered a highly effective hybrid practice. I love that she gets such good results with soul retrieval and other methods that recognize the reality of spirits that bother people –“reality” meaning being able to have an effect on something or someone in ordinary reality.

    I also applaud the idea of helping clients replace their negative thoughts with positive, healthy thoughts. As a teacher and practitioner of shamanism, I like to learn new methods that work well in psychotherapy to incorporate into my shamanic practice. Michael Harner said you can know someone is a shaman if they do miracles and journey to other realms. A big difference between shamanism and psychotherapy is that shamans’ clients don’t usually need to keep coming back for more sessions because miracles so often occur in the first session. (Could be bad for business, those miracles.) But miracles are more satisfying for the practitioner as well as for the patient than pills and the long, slow practice of conventional psychotherapy.

  3. valerie boyar

    Jill thanks for sharing these stories with us. I am a retired and former shamanic practitioner. I am also a Registered Nurse with two masters degrees and have taught in academia for 13 years, then in a public institution for 19 years.
    There is still much reluctance to accept shamanic methods as positive healing strategies. The uninformed think there is something dark about spirits. Spirituality is still viewed as part of religion. The indigenous way toward mental and emotional balance is viewed as “old fashioned” and even dangerous.
    When you publish your next book, perhaps you can offer ideas about how you counter these beliefs and attitudes. How do you explain the shamanic world without scaring the client?

  4. Denise Duker

    Thank you for this beautifully powerful healing practice using Shamanic tools. It felt healing, therapeutic and nurturing just reading the article.
    With deep gratitude for sharing your research and practice in healing soul trauma!

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