Meet Our Advertisers: Ted Riskin, The Relationship Mechanic
Interview by Hank Eder
Hidden away in Fairview is a beautiful retreat, where couples can spend some special private time and work on fine-tuning their relationship. The place is the Fairview Space for Transformation, run by Ted Riskin, LCSW (aka The Relationship Mechanic).
Ted is excited for people to discover the beautiful setting he has created, which is an integral part of his vision: helping people find their way to wholeness. “My dream for it is that couples can come, have a vacation, and do some work at the same time. So I bought this house because of its potential to create some really gorgeous accommodations – being in the mountains, the woods, and with a stream. I tricked out the apartment so it’s fun to be there. I’m living in another part of the house, so people would have an opportunity to custom-design a retreat, blending work and play. We’re 20 minutes from downtown, so you can come here from another city, do some important self-work, and go have fun in Asheville.”
While he specializes in relationship issues, Ted works with individuals and groups as well, empowering people to move through blocks that are holding them back from the full enjoyment of life. His favorite tools are breathwork, Internal Family Systems, and Core Energetics. In addition, Ted offers workshops in Holotropic Breathwork on a sliding scale, so people can participate regardless of their income level.
Describing his general therapeutic orientation, Ted states, “We’re always walking a line between therapies that are not provocative enough – where people can be in therapy for years and years and make no real progress, and those that have been designed to overwhelm the defenses – which can be very effective but can actually set up backlash or make things more difficult than they need to be. I think having both of those aims in mind allows me to walk the middle path.”
Ted’s earlier career as a systems analyst ended when he told his boss he wants to debug people instead of computers. He began with a straightforward cognitive approach, but then some of his own experiences led him into a more holistic approach. “Doing certain kinds of work on myself that went beyond the cognitive was so startling, it inspired me to want to bring that experience into what I was doing,” he says.
Some of Ted’s most profound experiences have come through Holotropic Breathwork. Holotropic means moving toward wholeness. In this work, conscious connected breathing, evocative music, and focused bodywork are used to help a person access a non-ordinary state of consciousness. The work evolved out of Dr. Stanislav Grof’s experiences while using LSD as a psychotherapy tool in the 50s and 60s. When LSD was no longer available as a clinical tool, Grof developed Holotropic Breathwork as a means of reaching this expanded awareness.
“In the holotropic state, the inner wisdom of the psyche comes forward,” Ted says. “Just as your body knows how to heal itself, so does your psyche under the right conditions. It’s amazing to watch people get into that state and then see the brilliance of what happens on its own.” He continues, “Breathwork can dislodge the blocks that get people stuck in therapy and in life. It also opens up a whole spiritual existence for a lot of people, and psychological issues can be more easily resolved by honoring that part of one’s life.”
Another technique Ted Riskin uses in therapy is Internal Family Systems (IFS). IFS sees a person as Self plus an interconnected system of parts. “As a former systems analyst I think of it as a set of tools to work with the subprograms of the psyche, rather than treating someone as a monolithic personality.” Ted used the example of asking someone to name his or her family’s favorite ice cream flavor. “Each individual family member has a favorite flavor. So for me to ask that question is rather ludicrous. It’s the same with a human being. Each part has its own preferences and its own agenda, and to treat a person as if they should have only one preference or agenda doesn’t work. You start to work with the system, work with where the parts are fighting each other. We call that polarization. For example, with addictions, there are usually parts that hate the addictive part. Standard treatment tends to side with those parts, thus intensifying the polarization. Instead, in IFS we have ways of relaxing that kind of polarization, to get more cooperation within the system. Ultimately our goal is what we call Self Leadership – Self with a capital S. It’s the essence of a person.” IFS work involves getting the Self to hear all sides of the argument, recognizing and acknowledging the contributions of the many parts, with Self being the ultimate decision maker.
Another of Ted’s approaches is Core Energetics, from the work of Freud’s student Wilhelm Reich. According to Reich, issues of the psyche affect the body as well. “These issues take the form of muscular contractions, or armoring,” Ted says. “So it doesn’t make sense to have someone just sit or lie on a couch to work with these issues. It is much more powerful to have the body involved in the therapy
One way the body can get involved in the therapy is through hitting. “Hitting is one of my favorite techniques,” Ted says. “Right through that door [to his workspace] is a foam rubber cube. People can hit it with a bat or a tennis racquet, and it does many things. It moves energy through the blocks. It helps people to ground and become present. And it allows us to work with anger. From a parts perspective, it allows the angry parts to be known and accepted. Getting in touch with one’s anger is often the key to opening a door to let people out of stuck places.”
A final offering to mention here is LifeDance. In this workshop, participants move spontaneously to powerful music while wearing bandanas or eye masks. Ted describes it as “a way to have fun, to access non-ordinary states, to get into the body, and to discover blocks you might not be aware of. While other forms of ecstatic dance tend to focus on the immediate experience, I’m also interested in what can be learned from the process,” he continues. “Whatever issue comes up in the dance will tend to also be an issue in life. For example, by exploring the fear of moving across the floor, and possibly pushing that envelope, the ensuing positive result can encourage the participant to move into some unknown and scary areas of their own life.”
Find out more about Ted Riskin and the Fairview Space for Transformation at www.tedriskin.com, or call Ted at 828-338-5020. To get announcements about upcoming events, email him at email@example.com.
Hank Eder is a PR professional and freelance writer living in Western North Carolina. Hank has been a newspaper reporter, editor, graphics designer, and educator. Current projects include working to finish a book about finding your “inner hero,” a locally produced animated science fiction series, and co-writing a Hispanic market screenplay. Catch up with Hank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hank Eder PR/Marketing specializes in publicity and content writing for business, web writing and website design, newsletters, B2B publications, corporate and personnel communications, SEO writing, crisis PR, social network writing and maintenance, blogs, branding, graphics design, and much more. Call Hank at 828-689-5787, or visit on the web at hankeder.com.