Mindfulness and psychotherapy

Mindfulness has become a real buzzword in the field of psychotherapy these days. The reason why is that it allows therapists to help clients access the deeper layers of their psyche without having to be trained as a hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapy was developed at about the same time that Freud developed his “talking cure,” actually before. Freud would meet with his clients usually four days a week and just let them talk freely and then analyze what they said, which is why he called his approach “psychoanalysis.” If you’ve ever watched a Woody Allen movie, you know that being analyzed doesn’t necessarily make you healthy. As time has gone on, therapy has endeavored to evolve into a method of healing that is available to people who aren’t members of the upper class and become affordable. Hypnotherapy became popular because it allows the therapist and client to go into the issue much more quickly, and get to the unconscious roots, which is usually where change is most powerful and effective. People experienced change with sometimes only one session, and this was a very exciting development in the field of psychology. However, hypnotherapy mostly stayed an alternative to traditional types of therapy.

Mindfulness, on the other hand is being integrated by a broad spectrum of psychologists, counselors and therapists. It allows practitioners to keep using their tools and training while also creating the space for the client to drop in deeper into themselves and access things which would normally be outside of awareness. This opens the door to work with what is called “implicit memory.” Implicit memory is stored in the body not as narrative, but more like gut reactions. Implicit memory includes what is absorbed from the child’s environment in a way which is familiar or normal, such as gender roles, patterns of attention, what parents don’t want to discuss, etc. It’s also a big component of trauma because of the mechanics of memory, especially when a person is in overwhelm and can’t assimilate what is happening. Then the experience stays more as body-memory, which is best accessed through mindfulness of the body, which is the essence of somatic psychotherapy.

Mindfulness is similar to mediation in that it is an internally focused state of consciousness in which the client is more sensitive to what is happening inside than outside his or her mind. It allows clients to pick up on subtle things, which may not immediately make sense to that person. It is a process oriented approach, as opposed to a content oriented approach. This means that that client is allowing internal awareness to flow in a process of discovery of the underpinnings of an issue. This is a stark contrast to the most common type of therapy, which is CBT, or Cognitive-Behavioral therapy in which the therapist helps the client solve issues by employing deliberate strategies for changing behavior. Mindfulness is a way to organically drop into a process of deepening awareness which allows change to occur naturally in the depths of the psyche which is then gently integrated into a person’s natural way of being.

I find that integrating mindfulness, body awareness and breathwork with traditional tools such as the CBT approach give clients the most profound shifts with the issues they want to resolve. I integrate mindfulness and body-awareness into every session that I do. Since I’ve practiced hypnotherapy since the early nineties, I include that rich tradition of working with imagery, metaphor, and hypnotic language along with mindfulness and somatic work. My intention is to work with the psyche in the most natural and organic way possible, creating the most effective shifts the person is able to integrate.