By Rich Simon Sometimes it can seem strange, if not downright perverse, that so many decades of mental health treatment has focused exclusively on language, as if the client’s whole experience could be reduced to a kind of cartoon speech bubble. In fact (if anybody needs reminding) psychotherapy originated with the patient lying on a couch, the analyst sitting behind, and neither one even looking at the other—it couldn’t get much more head-centered than that.
Well, that was long ago and far away…or was it? Of course, we all know that our emotional distress, as well as our satisfaction and pleasure in life, is profoundly lived in the body—we don’t so much think anxiety, anger, and depression, as feel them in every physical fiber of our being. It’s bad feelings experienced as total mind-body states, not abstract thoughts about the feelings, that bring people to therapy. If we didn’t already know this in our gut, so to speak, two decades of unprecedented discoveries about the brain have definitively reconnected psyche and soma, mind and body, never (we hope) to be separated again.
And yet, as far as our field’s formal training goes, therapists continue to be trained mostly in how to listen to clients talk and how to respond appropriately with their own counter-talk. We still haven’t fully taken in the totality of the human organism, which includes all those physiological and, yes, spiritual experiences of which we are capable, but about which we may not always be able to speak easily or readily. Besides helping us understand our clients better by being able to read and communicate with their whole selves, broadening our practice to include the physical and spiritual also allows them to experience themselves in a new and often much more positive, healthy, life-affirming way. Learning to breathe deeply, eat better, or pay more attention to what’s going on inside their bodies may be a revelation with quite literally life-transforming possibilities.
Integrating mind-body methods and techniques into practice doesn’t necessarily require learning a whole new range of arcane and specialized skills, or going off to spend a year in Dharamsala, meditating with the Dalai Lama. In our new webcast series, Integrative Mental Health: How Mind-Body Techniques Are Changing Talk Therapy, we bring you the leading experts in a number of disciplines and practices—yoga, lifestyle issues, therapeutic movement and dance, nutrition, mindfulness, and breathing—who can give you an enlightening sense of why this kind of “both-and” approach can enhance not only your practice, but your life.
Integrative Mental Health
How Mind-Body Techniques Are Changing Talk Therapy
Sessions Begin July 17th
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Before Midnight, Monday, July 8th
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