Body Centered Therapy

outdoor fitness classThe Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program with a concentration in Body Centered Therapy is a 60-hour program designed to prepare students with an understanding of creative and expressive processes within the context of the body/mind connection. Students will complete the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program curriculum as well as choose from a variety of courses in body-centered therapy to complete the 9 credit hour concentration. Together, this program and concentration also prepares and qualifies students toward becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor in North Carolina and other states.

Students with an interest in holistic wellness may find the body-centered therapy concentration an important aspect of their professional counselor preparation. Currently in our society, there seems to be a strong disconnect between how people view the mind and the body. Many people consider physical ailments separate from their mental health, denying the cyclical connection between the two. It is our belief that the mind, body, and spirit are interrelated and systemic.

Body-centered therapy integrates talk therapy with techniques that bring the body into counseling as a therapeutic resource. Techniques may include, but are not limited to: breath work, stretching, dance, tai chi, qi gong, imagery, massage, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and yoga. These different techniques are used to increase awareness of body sensations, behaviors, emotions, and thoughts so the client can learn the relationships between them. Clients may learn how their posture affects their social interactions and mood or learn to listen to the needs of their body throughout the day to reduce stress and discomfort that may otherwise lead to unhealthy coping later in the day. Many body centered therapists believe the body holds valuable knowledge to a client's condition as the body holds physical and emotional stress and injury that may not be in our conscious awareness. As a result, our body can have a powerful impact on how we think, feel, behave, and view ourselves. By turning to the body as an additional resource in the therapeutic process, a client can work through many of these concerns and learn to become a self-healer.

Body Centered Therapy in the Counseling Process

man with a balloonIt is important to note that body-centered therapy is not appropriate for every client. However, body centered therapy can be used with a range of clients depending on the client's interests, presenting concerns, and goals for counseling. As a preventative intervention, a therapist may introduce body centered therapy techniques when a client presents with an unbalanced lifestyle that contributes to undue stress. A client recovering from illness or adjusting to a disability may benefit from body centered therapy as a way to increase wellness. Body centered techniques have been used successfully with clients who have a history of trauma and abuse. Hospice care programs have integrated body centered therapy techniques into the care plans of clients who have AIDS and terminal cancer. There is also noted success with body centered therapy helping clients cope with chronic pain conditions such as injury or cancer. Clients experiencing anxiety disorders may benefit from body centered therapy as a way to recognize and reduce the physiological responses to anxiety. Finally, body centered therapy techniques have been noted to help clients who have negative body image and disordered eating. These are just a handful of instances where the use of body centered therapy can be successfully introduced into the counseling process.

Body centered therapy techniques can be used in individual, group, couples, and family counseling and in various settings, including but not limited to: outpatient counseling, intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization, inpatient programs, residential treatment, workshops, and counseling retreats.

Curriculum

indoor fitness classStudents completing the body centered therapy concentration are required to take a minimum of three courses (9 credit hours) related to body centered therapy. There are two required courses in the concentration and the third course must be approved by the program.

The body centered therapy courses utilize both lecture and experiential learning methods. Students can expect a significant proportion of their coursework to require their active involvement. This gives the student direct experience experimenting with the various techniques introduced and allows students to tailor many of their projects and assignments to their interests. While these courses are not intended to function as therapy, due to the experiential nature of the learning environments, students often report on their own personal growth, heightened body awareness, and strengthened mind/body connection.