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Somatic, integrative psychotherapy & the mindful body

Movies and TV shows keep presenting therapy as the "talking cure". But doing psychotherapy without attention to body experience would be like taking care of a plant without remembering that a plant needs soil, water and light to exist.

In a session, you are not just talking about what happened to you at some earlier point, you are processing experience at a deeper level, in the moment. A very powerful way to be in the experiential moment is to pay attention to what's happening in the body. This shifts your focus from being purely in an intellectual or "talking head" mode, and creates more space for the emergence of an "aha" moment.

The key point is that creatively paying attention to the body is different with each person. Some people are very comfortable sensing and expressing through their body. On the other end of the continuum, some people don't do any kind of bodily sensing at all; I pay attention to their body language and voice as they talk, and this informs my understanding of what they say. And there's a whole continuum in-between. The idea is not to apply a "cookie-cutter" method to all, but to do what feels right for this person at this moment.

How does this elate to the notion of "integrative psychotherapy"? This phrase is often used to mean that the therapist integrates different approaches, as opposed to strictly following just one modality or theory.

I prefer to use it within a broader context: Seeing therapy itself as an integrative process, a way to help clients integrate experiences that they have not been able to integrate on their own.

The concept of helping clients integrate experience is totally compatible with therapists integrating different theories or approaches in their work. In fact, I believe that the active, ongoing engagement of the therapist in adapting their theoretical framework in light of experience is part of what makes therapy alive and vibrant.

As therapists, we are affected by the interaction with our clients. So the resonance we have with them will reflect how affected we are. This is not a flaw, a limitation of the method, but a very good thing: Therapy is a relational, intersubjective process.  The client is not in front of a mirror or a tape recorder, but of another human being who is affected by the interaction with the client.

The process of therapy involves managing the phenomenology of interaction. We are helping our clients regulate this interaction. The regulation occurs through the rhythms of attunement and resonance.
In this interaction, the therapist's priority is to be of service to the client, and needs to be attuned to the client. But the therapist also needs to be in tune with themselves, and to regulate how much or how little of their subjective resonance it is appropriate to include in the interaction with the client.

See also:
- Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapy & Trauma Healing
- Humanistic, existential & spiritual: Psychotherapy in a larger context

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