I named my business The Mindful Counsellor and I am qualified as both a Mindfulness teacher (Level 4) and counsellor (Currently Level 2; Level 3 as at June 2022).
In my experience, counselling skills and mindfulness practice, used together, always achieve more healing than either alone or separately. This is backed by research that the mind and body are linked but I have also experienced this first hand. This article looks at why combining mindfulness and counselling skills, together is so helpful.
How does counselling help with therapeutic goals?
Trained counsellors bring a great knowledge of the mind, behaviours and relationship dynamics. They have developed counselling skills such as probing and clarifying, helping clients to better understand from a cognitive perspective. They are good at helping clients with goals, boundaries and choices. They train for at least 4 years and have over 100 hours of supervised practice, if fully qualified.
How does mindfulness help with therapeutic goals?
Put simply, mindfulness focuses the mind. As we become more skilled and practiced in mindfulness, we are more able to deliberately pay detailed attention to other 'goings on', including listening to communication from our body and feelings. Mindfulness can also helps us to feel more safe, and so allow uncomfortable realities to be faced.
Doing both together, with the same teacher/counsellor enables the two to compliment each other and to achieve more.
I'm not alone in this belief. Mark Walsh (an embodiment guru) claims: "Working with the body leads to deeper insights and more lasting change than purely cognitive approaches." It's why there is a growing move away from untrained mindfulness practitioners leading practices in groups, to deeper work, on a 1:1, with a more therapeutic goal. This change is happening in industry where businesses employ mindfulness coaches to support reducing sickness, rather than just running meditations in groups. The NHS now prescribes 8 week mindfulness courses.
What sorts of things do you do then to help clients, as a 'mindful counsellor'?
I teach clients to develop stillness so they can hear the 'body-voice'. Alice Miller rightfully says: the body never lies. I see the body as the wisest 'easy-access' speaker of truth and I help clients to reach the point where they 'know in their 'knower' wisdom from their body.(Footnote 1) I have found that the 'feel' of wisdom from the body, is more strong than a cognitive analysis alone. I find that emotion trumps reasoning in motivation for actions. If the mind thoughts and the body wisdom align, I find that clients find change easier. Change is both more likely and longer lasting.
Research says that working with body awareness of feeling seems to be key to processing grief, loss and traumatic experiences. I help clients to safely 'feel to heal'. This has to be done in a trauma sensitive way or things can go very wrong (2). Here's a real life example from my own life which brought me to this point.
I was on a 5 day, quiet, deep rest for the heart, retreat. I had a really important anniversary coming up: it was a year since I had been through a traumatic experience that I felt very wronged and hurt by. However, I just went expecting some traditional mindful calm practices. But within a few days, I felt a need to cry. Through the course of the week, the teacher, skilled using mindfulness as a therapeutic tool, enabled me to calm myself, and explore that sadness cognitively as well as in my body.
What followed, from this ability to be both a mindfulness and a counselling expert, was like a 'microwave of therapy'. It felt like transformation was taking place at super-fast speed, all from just a glimpse into a hall of mirrors, uncomfortably starring all of the suffering bits of me!
I needed the mindfulness to soothe the therapeutic work I was doing. I needed the counselling to make sense of the physically revealed insights. Talking allowed me to process everything I was feeling. Feeling allowed me to process and heal everything I was coming to understand. I tipped the balance where the pain to process became less than the pain to hold it in.
Finally, I reached a new growth and thrive outcome - I have always believed I was 'built back better' as a result of my difficulties - I now had super powers like faith in my own resilience, belief in the universe being on my side after all, acceptance that others fail but they are most often acting out of a need for trying to survive and find their own version of happiness and I had deep compassion.
I also had a 'Road to Damascus revelation' that I wanted to be a mindfulness teacher who was a counsellor or a counsellor who used mindfulness. The lessons from that week have very much informed my business direction, approach and style. My passion is helping people to survive trauma and thrive. I help clients to 'turn into the skid' of their life pain, in a trauma-informed and safe way, so they can heal.
“Emotional pain cannot kill you, but running from it can. Allow. Embrace. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal.” ~Vironika Tugaleva
I help my clients to not run or mask but instead to feel skilled in establishing the grounded, safe state necessary to begin processing things in their life which they want to change, be-it sadness, grief, loss, a rut, fear, anger, anxiety or a sense of purposelessness. I have faith in the body to heal and our mind to lead us to healing and in the process of therapeutic mindfulness. I accept people without judgement as I know first-hand how suffering holds us back.
If you're reading this, you might feel your body's prompt to you, that it is perhaps ready and strong enough to do a work of healing. I invite you to take 10 minutes to calm your mind, focus on your breathing and just invite your body to tell you something it wants you to know. Please finish reading the whole article first, as there is a foot note (2) about trauma, which is important.
My business name - 'my mindful counsellor' - means I combine the two modalities. I listen to my clients in a mindful focused state myself, allowing my own nervous system to be grounded and offer an empathic safe space for my clients to find their own wisdom. I also invite my clients to be mindful and to use both mindfulness and inquiry to explore, at a deeper level what their body is saying, as well as their brain, so they can not only understand but find healing and growth.
Please get in touch using my Contact page if you would like to work with me, in Malvern, on a 1:1 to work through any issues that you are finding difficult.
(1) For those who like a more scientific analysis, I use the phrase 'the knower' as most likely the ventral vagal nerve and the 'body-voice' to be the messages received as it switches from a parasympathetic state to a sympathetic state (or from 'rest and digest' when feeling safe to 'fight and flight' when feeling activated or threatened). I also teach clients how to activate this nerve so they can bring themselves back from FFF response when this isn't helpful.
(2) If there is a trauma history, I would always suggest this work (focusing on bodily sensations), is done with a trained therapist, a trained trauma-aware mindfulness teacher with a therapeutic background or even a trauma practitioner, such as a qualified EMDR therapist. Allowing too much to surface, too quickly, without a feeling of safety is not helpful. Please do not try to do that without an established mindfulness practice and a good practice in establishing yourself as grounded when you feel a tip towards overwhelm.