As part of their core practitioner training, psychotherapists are introduced to the idea that the message a client is conveying comes only partly from the words they speak. There is much extra information that makes up how a client presents in the counselling room, including non-verbal information such as body language and gestures, how the client is sitting and what their facial expression is. Para-linguistic information – or the manner in which the narrative is delivered – can also yield clues which build up a picture for the counsellor. This information includes how quickly the client speaks, and perhaps the tone and pitch of their voice. Indeed, much can be learned about how the client is feeling that day without them saying a word about their particular problem.
The Line Between Mind & Body
The line between mind and body can often be quite a blurred one. If, for example, a usually active person has broken their leg and cannot get out much, it is perhaps understandable that they may feel a little down or frustrated with things. In my experience, this relationship works the other way too, and often I see clients who are struggling not only with depression or stress, but also with the physical symptoms that these difficulties can bring. Some clients arrive with their shoulders around their ears, or nursing a tight band of discomfort around their temples. Others have a heavy cold, week after week, that they just can’t seem to shake. It is clear that mental ill health or wellbeing issues can have a profound effect on how we feel within ourselves.
Discomfort or Distress
Sometimes the work I do is centred around the client becoming more aware of just what is going on for them – in a bodily sense, I mean. If they are holding tension or are wrestling with a difficult situation this can show itself in how they feel physically. Some people also develop the auto-immune condition psoriasis, which manifests as red and flaking skin. The body can be a great indicator of when we are in discomfort or distress mentally, and listening to it can provide answers which are difficult to arrive at from simply thinking through an issue rationally.
Listening To Our Body
As a person-centred practitioner I work with the whole person, not just what the problem is on the initial assessment form, and in doing so the interconnectedness of the body and mind quickly becomes apparent. By being more tuned-in to what our bodies are telling us, we can learn a great deal about how we are being affected by different circumstances in our lives. Once we are aware, we can then look at what changes can be made, either in practical terms or in the way we approach things, which over time can lead to a greater sense of both mental and physical wellbeing.
If what has been written above chimes true in your experience, how would you feel about taking some time to listen to what your body might be telling you, without it actually saying a word?
~ Rob Oglesby MBACP B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy
[Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email. More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at http://www.ashwoodtherapy.com/]