Five Tips for Mindful Therapy
Taking a mindful approach to psychotherapy can increase our ability to observe and hold space for our clients. As helping professionals, our ability to simply be present with someone can create immense healing support. When we begin to bring non-judgmental awareness to our emotions, thoughts, and experiences, we can facilitate growth in our clients through compassion and understanding.
- Awareness of Breath - Before each session, spend a few moments paying attention to your breath. Put down the notes from your previous client, and don't anticipate what your next will bring. Sit upright in a comfortable position, and allow the mind to rest on the breath. Allow your belly to be soft on the inhale, and gently draw your navel toward your spine on the exhale. When your mind wanders, gently refocus your attention with kindness. These few moments help us to center, experience the present moment, and connect with our clients.
- Mindful Movement - Yoga is an excellent practice, but other types of movement can be done with awareness as well. If you have a the space to roll out a yoga mat between sessions, that's amazing! If not, go outside or walk down the hall. Pay attention to your feet making contact with the ground, your balance as you shift weight from one foot to the other, and the swinging of your arms. Perhaps recite the Thich Nhat Hanh mantra, "Peace is every step."
- Five Senses - We experience the here-and-now through our senses. Take a deep breath in and focus on what you can smell. Look out the window and notice how sunlight flickers through tree branches. Then, close your eyes and bring awareness to your points of contact with a chair or the ground. How does your clothing feel against your skin? How many different sounds can you detect? Fully experience these sensations without mental commentary or judgment.
- Body Awareness - Scan the body from head to toe, asking yourself, "What am I experiencing in my body?" Notice areas of tension and holding, as well as areas of openness and relaxation. Are your shoulders hunched or drawn up to your ears? Is your jaw clenched? Is your breath soft and rhythmic? Awareness of sensations in-session can create insight into how the body reacts to countertransference, and creates space to allow for responses, not defensive reactions.
- RAIN - Using the acronym RAIN is not only helpful for us as clinicians but also for our clients. I keep copies of this handout in my office which also reminds me to be present with my experiences in-session.
R - Recognize the emotion or experience taking place.
A - Allow the emotion or experience to be as it is.
I - Investigate with kindness. Ask yourself, "What is happening inside me? What needs my attention?"
N - Natural awareness / Not identifying with the emotion or experience.
I am passionate about mindful interactions in therapeutic settings and would love to hear how you implement elements of yoga or meditation into your private practice. Contact me to ask questions, share experiences, or just say hi! Thanks for tuning into the Practice of the Practice podcast!