Bringing Mindfulness into the Treatment Room

February 5th, 2014

By Bhanu Joy Harrison, LISW, RMTI-I-064

The practice of mindfulness is getting a lot of press these days.  Articles in magazines and online news reports tout the benefits of being mindful….from decreasing blood pressure to reducing anxiety to increasing your “happiness factor”.

As Natural Therapeutic Specialists and bodyworkers, how can we bring the benefits of mindfulness to our clients?

First, I would like to give you my definition of mindfulness.  Simply put, mindfulness is “paying attention to your experience in the moment”. Mindfulness certainly can encompass more, such as a spiritual practice or a daily devotion.    However, I prefer to offer a non-denominational, simple approach of mindfulness to my clients.

How many times has a client been talking away and completely unaware that you were just treating their legs or arms?  Such clients may even say that you “skipped” that part of their body.   How might their experience deepen if they were really paying attention to the touch you are giving them?

I like to introduce mindfulness in a subtle way.  “What are you noticing inside as I am working on your traps?” or “What words would you use to describe this knot I am working on?”  or “Why don’t you take a few deeps breaths and let’s see if your body is able to release this tension”.  By re-directing clients’ attention to their body sensations and experience, you are giving them an opportunity to be mindful and curious, without even bringing the word “mindful” into the conversation.

When we are mindful and paying attention to our experience in the moment, amazing things happen in our bodies and nervous systems.  The area of the brain that lights up when we are mindful is the prefrontal cortex.  When this area is active, a number of interesting things occur:

  • our body physiology begins to regulate
  • emotions begin to settle and balance
  • we move from reacting to responding
  • our fear response decreases
  • our intuition is enhanced
  • we act more ethically
  • our empathy and attunement with others increases
  • self-knowledge increases

(Daniel Siegel, The Mindful Brain, 2007)

Wow!  And to top it off, the more we practice being mindful, the larger this part of the brain grows, since the brain is constantly growing and pruning itself.

Can you imagine how much more effective your treatments can become if you encourage your clients to pay attention to their experience?  Heart rate normalizes, emotions settle, relaxation comes on quicker and can last longer, their self acceptance rises, and on and on.

And, what if you, in your role as therapist, ALSO become more mindful in the moment?  You too will experience the above benefits, allowing yourself to be more grounded,  intuitive, more ethical, more emotionally and physically balanced and more connected with your client.

I invite you to become mindful during your next session and take the risk in asking your client to pay attention with you.  The results can be astounding.

Bhanu Joy Harrison is a clinical social worker practicing body-centered psychotherapy focusing on trauma resolution in Albuquerque, NM.  She is a 1984 graduate of NMSNT and has been on the faculty of NMSNT since 1985.  For more information call 505-837-2100 or email bjoy47@comcast.net

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