By: Seima Diaz, Ed.D, LMFT
Many of us who enter the field of psychology, do so in an attempt to find meaning or gain insight into our own experience. We likely possess a burning desire to help put an end to suffering, our own and others. Throughout my experience working with clients and teaching aspiring therapists studying masters and doctorate level psychology, I have found that I can only influence those around me to the degree in which I myself have evolved.
I hold true to the original definition of the word psychology rooting back to the mid-late 1800s, defining the word psychology as the study of the soul (Goldsmith, 2010). It is only natural then that my work revels in the uncovering of one’s true inner-self as a means of overcoming mental illness and dissatisfaction in life. It has been my experience that a deep exposure of the unconsciousness occurs when an individual seeks spiritual enlightenment. From a therapeutic perspective, the psyche is the segment of us that is most instrumental in achieving behavioral change and improving self-esteem (2010). Lasting change, with limited chance of relapse transpires from an individual diving deep into his darkness and finding his infinite light.
Spirituality means something different for everyone so it is important to allow clients to define and create their own spiritual identity. Think of spirituality as a tool one can use to help their client gain insight, and outgrow what no longer serves them. Below I am going to discuss four techniques that can be used in psychotherapy to reconnect a client with his soul in order to foster self-awareness, insight, positive behavioral change, enhanced self-regulation, and improved interpersonal relationships.
- Mirror Self Talk
- Deep Breathing
Meditation is commonly described as a training of mental attention that awakens us beyond the conditioned mind and habitual thinking (Buddhism for Today, 2017). It induces consciousness and transforms the mind. Meditation practices are techniques that encourage and cultivate focus, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things (2017). By helping our clients engage with a particular meditation practice, we give them the opportunity to learn the patterns and habits of their mind. The practice offers a means to develop new, more positive ways of being. Meditating with your client for the first and last 3 minutes of each session can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of the self and life. I would encourage you to experiment with meditation before utilizing it as a tool in your work with clients. You can find very helpful information on diverse meditation styles here
Mirror Self-Talk is the practice of making a connection with one’s soul through intentional eye contact in a mirror, while saying positive words of support, encouragement, and love to oneself outload. Encouraging clients to connect with themselves in this way, promotes understanding of the mind-body-soul connection while enhancing self-esteem. This can be done in or out of session, ideally as a part of the client’s daily self-care regimen. If you haven’t connected with your own soul in a while, I would encourage you to take a nice long look into your own eyes. As the legendary William Shakespeare once said, “The eyes are the window of the soul.”
Deep Breathing can be important to our health and spiritual development. It is the process of taking a slow deep breath in through the nose, allowing the air to travel all the way to your diaphragm causing your belly to expand, and then exhaling the air slowly through your nose, pulling in your belly toward your spine and exhaling all of the breath in your lungs (Rakal, 2016). The benefits of deep breathing include but are not limited to muscle relaxation, improved functioning of every system in the body, decreased anxiety, a release of endorphins, the detoxification and release of toxins reducing the chance of illness, and a relief of emotional problems (Patel, 2016). Deep breathing also helps foster the mind-body-soul connection by connecting you with the present moment and detaching you from unproductive thoughts and emotions. Encouraging your clients to take deep breaths while processing material in therapy will aid them in their ability to gain insight and heal.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present. It is the moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. Mindful states of being can be achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without attaching to them (Gunaratana, 2015). A dedicated mindful practice can result in improved physical health (stress reduction, improved sleep, weight loss), emotional health (increased empathy and compassion, decreased anxiety and depression), mental health (increased ability to focus, boots in working memory, increased processing speed), and spiritual health (enhanced self-awareness and a stronger connection to one’s higher self) (2015). After teaching your clients how to practice mindfulness within the therapeutic relationship, you can encourage them to develop mindfulness rituals throughout their day to further support their expansion and growth.
It has been my experience that the aforementioned techniques will do wonders in cultivating the mind-body-soul connection in everyone seeking wellness and a meaningful life. It is my hope that you experiment and master each technique before utilizing it in your therapeutic work. In doing so, you will rediscover your higher-self and transform your own life, thus becoming more effective in your work with others.