Mind/body techniques take into consideration that the body is the historian. The body holds information that perhaps the mind wants to forget. In its determination to keep us honest, the body nags at us in the form of anxiety or gastrointestinal problems, head aches or muscle tension until we pay attention. Talk therapy provides mental relief and sometimes the body lets go, too. But mind/body interventions can add another dimension to our work.
How? Good question. Many of you may recognize that the attitude of separation of mind and body is passé. And so you may already have sought training in interventions that keep “the body in mind” like Somatic Experiencing, EMDR or Hypnosis. Others of you may have been trained in approaches to therapy in which mental health is considered mental. In either case, there are some simple but powerful and easy-to-learn ways to help people reverse the physiology of stress.
Talk therapy is the most reasonable place to start. We converse with our patients and they guide us so we can guide them through their anguish and confusions. By bringing cognitive understanding of life’s problems to awareness, and by building on their resources, there can be great relief from suffering.
But the body may not fully let go, even when there is great mental relief from our work. In addition, we need to consider that given all of the stress in life, we are all likely to arrive at a place sooner or later where our coping skills fall short of the demands of a stressful situation. Whether left-over residue or new stressors, with mind/body techniques we can use the mind to trick the brain (body) to let go of stress—often with very few words.
We can learn ourselves, and then we can teach patients that the body, which can be as uncomfortable to live in as the mind, is our ally. We can show them how to honor the body’s demand for recognition. We can teach them tools which bring balance and homeostasis to the body-mind. The key reason to learn mind/body skills is so we can set our patients up to feel a deeper, perhaps more permanent relief from suffering. Of most importance is our patients get to feel in the driver’s seat of their own lives. To feel empowered with mind/body skills is to have the power to heal as needed. And what can be more satisfying for us as therapists than to empower our patients?
Think of it this way: Coping can be broken down into two categories: “Problem-solving coping” is a cognitive, left brain approach to dealing with adversity. Cognitive behavioral therapy is famous for matching solutions to problems. So is seeking social support, discharging emotions into a journal, exercising and various healthy distractions such as humor or creative projects.
But another category of coping has been measured to provide empowerment in a statistically significant way. It has been called “letting-go coping. ”This is different from problem-solving coping because it is about “being” rather than “doing.” “Letting-go coping” takes the patient under the turbulence—into their body. These techniques have in common focus on the breath. Conscious breathing helps us use our breath to enter our body.
Yogic breath work, the field-tested Relaxation Response™, guided imagery, the Labyrinth™, Mindfulness, Self-Hypnosis, Creating Affirmations—and more—will round out your repertoire of offerings to your patients, especially if talk therapy stalls. Join me in a two-day training seminar in New York City, co-sponsored by the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC. You will learn how these approaches have evolved from the context of cutting edge brain science and how to apply these techniques in various circumstances. For more information on our two-day training seminar in New York City this coming November 16th and 17th, please go to the homepage of the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC at http://www.mindbodymedicinenetwork.com/index.html.
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