Since I moved to Ontario, when I tell people about the kind of therapy I particularly like to do (i.e. mindfulness and body-based) people seem interested. But they often say something like “huh?” or “my aunt does meditation too” or “ooh, I could use a massage” or “oh is that energy work?”. Sometimes I get a chance to clarify with an example. Often not.
What does “mindfulness-based approaches” mean?
When I say mindfulness-based approaches I mean therapeutic approaches that invite non-judgmental awareness of present-moment experience.
Here are some examples from the therapy room:
> Tuning in
e.g. If you’re talking about something that feels stuck for you, I may invite you to slow down and feel what’s happening in your body as you talk.
If during exploring what’s keeping you stuck, we find that there’s something in there around setting boundaries, I may set up an experiment so that we can evoke present-moment experience to learn more about how your system has become wired.
e.g. I might invite you into mindfulness and then ask you to stand and use a string to demarcate your “personal space” on the floor as I stand at a little distance from you, then maybe I move a little closer and invite you to notice your experience, determining when you want to say “stop”.
I use mindfulness to help build your grounding and relaxation skills.
e.g. I might guide you into mindfulness to find the calmest area in your body, and put your attention there.
> Particular methods
Is it like meditation?
In a way yes, because you are using your observer mind to notice your experience.
In a way no, because meditation is a specific practice you do to develop your mindfulness skills, often following your breath for 20 mins at a time. I rarely spend a lot of time teaching meditation in sessions. Mostly I’d refer you to groups to do this such as Mindfulness Hamilton or online resources.
Is “mindfulness-based” often used interchangeably with “body-based” or “somatic”?
Because I like to, because they work for me personally, and because they are effective!
- I think of feelings as energy wanting to move, or a flag being waved from inside saying “pay attention to me”. Mindfulness helps you experience big feelings whilst staying safe. It helps you understand them and relate to them.
- If feelings are overwhelming, mindfulness-based approaches help you develop grounding skills to help you get back in the drivers seat.
- We get real-time information about your experience and how you work inside. Then we can work together to heal the hurt parts and help you get unstuck, again in real-time. You actually feel the difference.
- By practicing mindful approaches in session, you start to lay down new “wiring” in your brain and are therefore more likely to use it in real-life. It builds your capacity as a human.
Longer term benefits to the client include:
- Increased emotional regulation
- Decreased reactivity and increased response flexibility
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Offers a new language to communicate with your inner world
I will expand on the mindfulness-based therapies that particularly influence my work in future articles. As an addendum I always work with the client to find approaches that fit – I would never use any of these approaches without consent, and I can of course draw on other approaches should they be preferred by the client or more appropriate for the situation.