Overview of Mind-Body Therapy

Mind-Body Therapy is an approach to healing and growth that looks at a person as an integrated whole: Mind, body, and spirit. In contrast to traditional psychotherapy or “talk therapy,” which is focused on one’s life history and the workings of one’s mind; the Mind-Body therapist appreciates not only these aspects, but is also interested in the relationship between a person’s mental, physical, and spiritual experiences. This approach is also called Holistic or Integrative. Techniques used in Mind-Body Therapy include mindfulness, yoga therapy, hypnosis, meditation, nutritional and wellness counseling, guided imagery, EMDR, neurofeedback, and biofeedback amongst others. Stephen incorporates a variety of these tools to customize and individualize his approach to working each of his clients.

Psychotherapy is usually a very mental activity. People are talking about thoughts, feelings, memories and goals. This is all valuable work and is a significant part of what happens in my sessions. However, in recent times there have been a growing number of therapists working with the mind-body connection (somatic psychology) and others working with the spiritual realm (transpersonal psychology). Since we are multidimensional as multifaceted, Stephen’s approach to therapy is truly integrative because it incorporates the mind, body, and spirit of each person he works with.


Mind-Body Therapy Breakdown


What is Meaningfulness?

Mindfulness is a simple concept but a difficult practice to master. It can be defined as being fully aware of your experience right now, with total acceptance. In other words, mindfulness is present-moment, non-judgmental awareness of what is. The skill of mindfulness helps the psychotherapy process enormously. In session, I teach how to use mindfulness to reduce your anxiety, manage your mood, and feel more present is you life. Mindfulness allows us to quiet our minds enough to experience our truth, what we truly need and what, and who we truly are.

As we practice mindfulness, our repetitive thought patterns and emotional habits emerge and become striking clear, thereby giving us the opportunity to make changes that will serve us better. This is the essence of how mindfulness helps the therapeutic work, whether more traditional psychotherapy or newer approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It opens the windows of the psyche in a very clear and direct way so that healing, growth, and lasting change can be more easily accomplished in therapy. Since mindfulness practices tend to relax us and lower our defenses somewhat, exploring the more pained parts of us can be less frightening or overwhelming.  Also, when we practice mindfulness we may be more open to considering alternative ways of being that would help us.

Stephen commonly incorporates mindfulness in therapy sessions. He does so when he believes it will be helpful to the work the client wants to accomplish. Stephen has taught mindfulness skills to many of his clients and has seen extraordinary results. Insights come quicker, people see themselves more positively and without judgment, and more lasting progress made.  Building you mindfulness muscles helps you be the master of your own mind and be your own therapist.


EMDR (Eye Motion Desensitization & Reprocessing)

EMDR is technique used in therapy that has scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness to help people heal from trauma and other powerfully difficult emotion states. One effect of our autonomic systems, when faced with overwhelming input, is to “freeze.”  This survival-instinct has its purpose in nature, but when we get stuck in this state, negative states, flashbacks, fear and depression can result. EMDR uses some form of bilateral (two-sided) stimulation along with a structured mind-body format to allow the nervous system to complete its organic possessing of difficult experiences. The bilateral stimulation could involve focusing one’s eyes on the moving therapist’s hand; lights that go from right to left; vibrating devises held in each hand that alternate; or headphones that play a sound that alternates from right to left.  The effects of EMDR are often powerfully healing and all we are doing is relying on the innate capacity of the body-mind to heal itself!


Hypnosis

When people hear the word “hypnosis,” they often think of stage hypnosis or humorous, fantastical things they may have seen on TV or in the movies.  Hypnosis is not mind control and will not make you cluck like a chicken!  According to American Society for Clinical Hypnosis, “hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention.”  

Hypnosis involves focusing attention inward and using your imagination and positive mental images to alter your perceptions. It is believed that the relaxed state induced by hypnosis can make individuals more open to positive suggestions that improve the effectiveness of treatment. There is a significant amount of scientific research that demonstrates the effectiveness of hypnosis in creating positive lasting changes in the recipients’ psychological and neurological functioning. This research suggests that hypnosis can be effective in alleviating a variety of conditions including chronic pain, tension, anxiety, depression, and smoking and other habitual behaviors.

Stephen has training in hypnotherapy from the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH)  and integrates his experience with other Mind-Body modalities with more traditional hypnotherapy techniques in order to focus in on his clients’ specific needs and goals.


Yoga

Yoga is an ancient method of self-development.  Although the early development of yoga remains a mystery, most agree that it originated over 5000 years ago in northern India.  The word ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word that means ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’.  Some scholars define yoga as a path for uniting with God, or universal energy. Since we all have unique approaches to life, I prefer that my yoga students discover the meaning of ‘yoga’ for themselves. Today, people practice yoga with different intentions. Some use it as exercise: to stretch and tone the physical body. Others use it to reduce stress in their lives and others to improve their breathing. For me, the physical aspects of yoga comprise a science for aligning the body, mind, and spirit so that I can feel whole. Eliminating internal conflicts, yoga helps me to flow with life happily.

Yoga is not simply a physical practice. Yoga is a practical philosophy for healthy and moral living, including techniques for stilling the perturbations of the mind.  Ultimately, yoga is a path intended to free the practitioner of suffering: spiritual absorption, enlightenment, or realizing the ‘True Self’. According to the yogic scriptures, the ‘True Self’ is pure divine bliss. Although this final goal of yoga may seem lofty and difficult to attain, its benefits can be enjoyed from the first step along the path. And although yoga improves the quality and depth of life, the path can be a challenging one. This is largely because all of one’s resistances and negativity must be encountered, embraced, and released.

BREATHING EXERCISES
Breathing training is an important component in treatment of anxiety disorders and behavior disregulation. Breath is the most direct way to influence the parasympathetic nervous system that available to us in our daily life. You always have your breath with you and learning how to use your breath to calm yourself in a stressful situation or to help you fall asleep is a skill that everyone should have. There is a whole science behind the breath and understanding whether you overbreathe or breathe shallowly or too rapidly can give you clues to understand your symptoms. You can then start to learn a variety of breathing techniques that are helpful for particular problems. In addition breath is a key way to achieving physiological coherence, a kind of synchronization of function of various cyclical body functions such as breath, heart rate, brain waves, and others. Breath training can be supported through the use of Biofeedback.


Yoga Therapy

The individualized application of Yoga techniques and principles for therapeutic purposes is called Yoga Therapy.  While there are currently many forms of Yoga Therapy, but many of them focus mostly on physical issues alone.  However, Stephen was trained in Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT), which acknowledges the whole person: Body, mind, and spirit. This work supports people in creating intentions and taps into the wisdom of the body and present moment experience. Yoga therapy can also be the application of Yoga techniques, such as breathing exercises, postures, and lifestyle recommendations, to address issues related to thoughts, emotions, or behaviors. Clients may learn a particular practice in session and asked to try it each day at home, in order to experience its benefits. Using yoga in therapy does not mean you need to tie yourself into a pretzel –it is simply involves trying some simple techniques that have helped people for thousands of years. Learn more about Yoga Therapy at the International Association of Yoga Therapists.  

Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy

“Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is an holistic healing art. It invites presence and awareness, rather than prescribe treatments. Using age-old yogic approaches to deeper presence and awareness we are able to know ourselves more fully. Out of this knowing, we are more easily moved to embrace the opportunity for change, growth and enhanced well being in body, feelings, thought, and spirit.”

— Michael Lee, Founder, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy

Resources:

The Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy website: www.pryt.com

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