MINDFULNESS is an important therapeutic tool as it supports clients in becoming more aware of their own body, as well as using this awareness to process and regulate emotions.
Mindfulness has a longstanding history in Psychotherapy. An awareness of bodily sensations has been a key component of Carl Rogers‘ Client Centred Psychotherapy (Fernand, 2000), Fritz Perl’s Gestalt therapy and Eugene Gendlin‘s “focussing process” (Kepner, 2001; Totton, 2003).
Especially approaches of somatic psychotherapy have emphasized ways to become ‘aware’ or more conscious of bodily processes in some way. Clients are usually encouraged to sense, feel, and pay attention to their bodies at great length. Not only is the body is the first and easiest object to observe in mindfulness but the somatic realm is deeply tied to all our emotional and mental processes (Damasio, 1999), making them observable in terms of our breath, posture, and bodily sensations (Marlock & Weiss, 2006). By improving their physical awareness, clients become able to ease their tension which in turn increases their confidence in their own abilities and resources Gyllensten et al., 2003).
Due to trauma, clients may often be dissociated from their bodies as they are unable to tolerate that heightened state of activation (Rothschild, 2000). Mindfulness helps them regain awareness of their bodies and as a result their nervouse system can metabolise those unprocessed memories and form new neurological pathways (Van der Kolk, 1994).
Mindfulness is particularly useful in psychotherapy as it strengthens reflexive ego functions and prevents the dangers of regressive therapy processes (Weiss, 2009). For example, if the client becomes highly identified with a feeling state, mindfulness techniques such as strengthening the internal witness can be used to re-access a more observing state (Weiss, 2009). This internal witness enables a process of ‘disidentification’ from limiting states of being, such as depressive or highly anxious states. Mindfulness supports a non-judgmental exploration of self and creates a gentle and accepting relationship towards ‘parts’ of a person that were previously seen negatively or became somewhat dissociated (Weiss, 2009, p. 8).
Due to discoveries in neuroscience psychotherapists and clinical psychologist now incorporate mindfulness as treatment tool (Röhricht, 2009; Shapiro, 2009). Clinical practice in the non-pharmacological treatment of anxiety is nowadays increasingly shifting towards the use of “Mindfulness Practice”, which is now an Empirically Supported Therapy (EST), as it has been adopted and researched by CBT practitioners for stress-reduction, anxiety, depression and pain relief (e.g. Kabat-Zinn et al., 2003).
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Gyllensten, A. L., Hansson, L., & Ekdahl, C. (2003). Patient experiences of basic body awareness therapy and the relationship with the physiotherapist. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 7, 173–183.
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