WilliamPRyan.com| Heart Centered Psychotherapy |Therapist Guide

William P. Ryan, PhD.

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About Bill

I have been in private practice as a psychotherapist for over thirty-five years. Several years ago, the notion of leaving a legacy to the next generation of therapists began to gestate. I started to ponder this question:  what do I want to share with younger therapists that they wouldn’t learn in traditional training? Over and over again the answer that came to me was that I wanted to encourage them to be more loving with their patients, to teach them about the process of self-forgiveness and other aspects of a more heart-centered approach to psychotherapy that could be integrated into what they were already doing. Then, in 2005, I was diagnosed with cancer - an aggressive form of lymphoma. As I recovered from surgery and chemotherapy I became more acutely aware of the preciousness of time. The desire to leave a legacy became stronger and I began to write in earnest. Working from the Heart is the result of that process.

Throughout my years of practice, my greatest teachers have been my patients and my own life experiences. I am not saying that the theories and techniques that I learned from my training as a traditional psychoanalyst or the expanded thinking that occurred from my exposure to Jungian concepts, Humanistic Psychology, Psychosynthesis and Zen Buddhism are unimportant. The synthesis of all of those ideas form the intellectual underpinning of my work. What makes the stories of my patients and my own life experiences so salient is that they exponentially expanded my capacity for compassion. They showed me how much simple acts of human kindness and other expressions of love are essential aspects of the healing that occurs in psychotherapy.

My own need to forgive myself for initiating a divorce taught me about the process of self-forgiveness. Uncovering my own difficulties in being receptive to love pointed the way to exploring the myriad ways patients block love. It was the impetus for my first book, Love Blocks: Breaking the Patterns that Undermine Relationships, co-authored with Mary Ellen Donovan. My ordeal with cancer expanded my compassion for patients dealing with serious illness. My own experience of how walks in nature can be a catalyst for psychological healing and a place of sanctuary helped me to encourage my patients to spend time in nature and inspired my second book, In the Woods, At the Water: Healing Journeys Into Nature, co-authored with my wife, Jeanne Lightfoot. Taking a long weekend retreat to explore feelings about entering my sixtieth year and imagining that I was taking all the differing parts of my personality with me led to my third book, The Bench, the Council and the Prayer. That retreat also helped me to expand my ideas of using the council as a metaphor to help patients come to a resolution for difficult and complex life decisions.

At this stage of life, after many years of living and practicing in suburban Long Island, NY, I am enjoying small town, New England life in western Massachusetts. For now, life is pretty simple. Who knows what’s up ahead. My time is focused around my relationships with Jeanne, our children and grandchildren, friends, some work with patients, jazz, college basketball and playing my folk harp. When I was almost sixty, I decided to learn to play the harp even though I had no background in music. It has been challenging and enriching to feel a sense of competence in playing this beautiful instrument.

Finally, the ongoing deepening of my spiritual journey provides me with a vital source of connection to and grounding in something greater than myself. I call the part of me that feels and honors that yearning the old monk. To that end, you can find me, a couple of times a week, on a contemplative sojourn in the woods not too far from our brook-side cottage.


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