Awareness-Centered-Therapy 2018-07-13T18:06:26+00:00
The Consciousness, or Awareness, Training at PCAB is a co-exploration of consciousness and communication that consists of experiential training with a diverse blend of counseling and somatic psychotherapy techniques gleaned from humanistic/transpersonal psychology, somatic psychology, and vipassana/mindfulness meditation. Common themes that run through these techniques include direct experience of bodily sensations, presence of aware being, and the opportunity of understanding and living from these in the present moment. Some techniques may be similar to or may contain elements from Reflective Listening (RL), Somatic Experiencing (SE), NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM), Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB), Gestalt Therapy, Hakomi, Eriksonian Hypnosis, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Vipassana, and NonViolent Communication (NVC), though the program does not constitute formal training in any of these.  All methods are non-judgmental, non-directive, client-centered, and client-empowering.

We integrate components of these techniques into the entire program with the intent of developing skills in sensitivity and empathy as a massage therapist and with the intent that they will be utilized in any of the following three contexts.

  • First, during the 6 month program, you may find that you derive great benefit from these techniques as a client, moving through conscious and subconscious issues that have lingered for years. Many students report that this was the most valuable part of the program for them.
  • Second, throughout the program we integrate the awareness techniques into bodywork sessions so that you can choose to offer it with your clients after the program as something above and beyond a standard bodywork treatment that may create a more lasting effect than a regular massage would.
  • Lastly, regardless of whether you choose to pursue a career in massage therapy, these techniques can be useful for you to create more peace and ease in any relationships you have in your life, whether it’s with family, partners, children, friends, colleagues, co-workers, strangers….or yourself.

The first set of tools that we emphasize are focused on the personal level, which concerns the significant events of your life, your emotional relationship to those events, your beliefs and attitudes, and the behavioral and cognitive patterns that you’ve developed in an attempt to bring about the most wellbeing for yourself. For many, this level involves unexpressed, and therefore unresolved, traumas, as well as beliefs about ourselves. For many, PCAB offers a unique opportunity to express feelings in a setting that’s safe enough to allow for true expression and exploration. We co-create a safe space to allow for the significant events to be expressed while also getting to the heart of the matter.

Secondly, we add interpersonal tools, such as NVC, to focus on the development of communication skills to help with enhancing compassion in social contexts. These tools assist both in helping to enhance a compassionate approach towards others, and in altering speech patterns so that they are less likely to create defensiveness and more likely to create empathy in the listener and harmony in the relationship.

Lastly, we move our attention towards the transpersonal level, to bring awareness towards the part of oneself that is okay with whatever is present, including one’s own emotional responses of fear, anger, or anxiety, as well as pleasantness, joy, and love (personal level). At this level, our personal story and our interpersonal struggles lose their grip, revealing a place of deep stillness, clarity, and/or vibrant aliveness.

While none of these valuable techniques are necessary for acquiring a massage therapy license, we teach them and integrate them throughout the entire program because we believe that their use makes for more effective bodyworkers and, more importantly, more compassionate and joyful people. They offer an effective means to work through that which blocks one from authentically experiencing the fullness and aliveness of life.

Somatic psychology is an interdisciplinary field involving the study of the body, somatic experience, and the embodied self, including therapeutic and holistic approaches to the body. Its history extends over a hundred years back to Wilheim Reich, and its ideas align well with recent neuroscience research on emotions/feelings (Antonio Damasio), memory, personality, attention, and consciousness. At PCAB, however, we do not emphasize the theories and theorists as much as we emphasize personal experience, because that’s where the healing happens.
Humanistic psychology emerged as a third wing of psychology in contrast to Freudian Psychotherapy and Behaviorism. Humanistic Psychology includes several approaches to counseling and therapy. Among the earliest approaches we find the developmental theory of Abraham Maslow, emphasizing a hierarchy of needs and motivations, as well as the work of Carl Rogers.  Both Maslow and Rogers were part of the Human Potential Movement.
The NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM) was developed by Larry Heller to specifically work with developmental and complex trauma, as opposed to shock trauma, which SE is designed for. NARM’s focus on developmental trauma makes it unique among the somatic therapies, most of which were developed before the relatively new concept of developmental trauma was outlined.
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is based on the understanding that symptoms of shock trauma are the result of a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and that the ANS has an inherent capacity to self-regulate that is undermined by trauma. SE bases its approach on the science that mammals automatically regulate survival responses from the primitive, non-verbal brain, mediated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). In the wild animals spontaneously “discharge” this excess energy once safe. Involuntary movements such as shaking, trembling, and deep spontaneous breaths reset the ANS and restore equilibrium. Humans disrupt this discharge through our enculturation, rational thinking, shame, judgments, and fear of our bodily sensations. Somatic Experiencing (SE) approach works towards restoring this inherent capacity to self-regulate by facilitating the release of energy and natural survival reactions stored during a traumatic event. Sessions are normally done face-to-face, and involve a client tracking his or her own felt-sense experience.
Interpersonal neurobiology is essentially an interdisciplinary field which brings together many areas in science including but not limited to anthropology, biology, linguistics, neuroscience, and psychology to determine common findings about the human experience from different perspectives. At its core, interpersonal neurobiology holds that we are ultimately who we are because of our relationships. Further, because the mind is defined as a relational process that regulates energy flow, our brains are constantly rewiring themselves. All relationships–particularly the most intimate ones with our primary care givers or romantic partners–change the brain. While it was once thought that our early experiences defined who we are, interpersonal neurobiology holds that our brains are constantly being reshaped by new relationships. A short-term dose of effective couples therapy, namely Emotionally Focused Therapy, can change the way the brain responds to fear and threat. This is but one of many neuroimaging studies that demonstrate how the brain can change over time based on relationships and new experiences. We are more social than we realize. Social pain is coded similarly in the brain as physical pain: Both forms of pain signal danger to our survival. Interpersonal neurobiology adds to the growing body of research that demonstrates just how social of an animal we are.
Hakomi is a form of mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy developed by Ron Kurtz in the 1970s. Hakomi relies almost entirely on mindfulness of body sensations, emotions, and memories during the therapy session.
Integrative Body Psychotherapy (IBP) is a psychotherapy that is based on the premise that the body, mind, and spirit are not separate, but rather integrated parts of a whole person. (IBP) is a synthesis and implementation of numerous therapies, including Attachment Theory, Gestalt therapy, Transpersonal therapy, Alexander technique, and Feldenkrais bodywork. One of the key concepts of IBP is that early childhood stresses are held in the body as blocks that are exhibited as chronic muscular tension, organ dysfunction, and/or lack of sensation. A key component of IBP treatment is to facilitate the release of the blocks through physical exercises, physical and emotional release, and psychological processing.
Wilheim Reich was a psychoanalyst who, among other things, integrated massage into this psychotherapy practice, much to the dismay of his colleagues. Reich was a student of Freud’s and is generally considered the father of somatic psychology.
Gestalt therapy puts a focus on the here and now, especially as an opportunity to look past any preconceived notions and focus on how the present is affected by the past. Role playing also plays a large role in Gestalt therapy and allows for a true expression of feelings that may not have been shared in other circumstances. In Gestalt therapy, non-verbal cues are an important indicator of how the client may actually be feeling, despite the feelings expressed.  Gestalt was developed by Fritz Perls, a student of Reich’s.  Perls was part of the Human Potential Movement and was influenced by the Alexander Technique as well as Ida Rolf, the founder of Structural Integration.
Dr. Damasio is a Neuroscientist at USC who studies the neuroscience of interoception (bodily feelings) and the foundational role it plays in the development of the self and consciousness. Damasio formulated the somatic marker hypothesis, which details how emotions play a critical role in higher-level cognition, and his work has made him one of the most cited researchers of the 21st century.
Dr. Siegel is known as a mindfulness expert and for his work developing the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, which is an interdisciplinary view of life experience that draws on over a dozen branches of science to create a framework for understanding our subjective and interpersonal lives. Siegel’s most recent work integrates the theories of Interpersonal Neurobiology with the theories of Mindfulness Practice and proposes that mindfulness practice is a highly developed process of both inter- and intra-personal attunement.
Dr. Levine is the founder of Somatic Experiencing.
Bessel van der Kolk is psychiatrist noted for his research in the area of PTSD. His work focuses on the interaction of attachment, neurobiology, and developmental aspects of trauma’s effects on people. His major publication, the New York Times bestseller “The Body keeps the Score”, talks about what we have learned about the ways the brain is shaped by traumatic experiences, how traumatic stress is a response of the entire organism, and how that knowledge needs be integrated into healing practices. Van der Kolk has published extensively on the effect trauma on development of mind, brain, and body. He has found connections to dissociative problems, borderline personality disorder, self-mutilation, and a wide range of other issues. Currently, he is conducting brain imaging research on how trauma can affect memory in individuals with PTSD. He is also researching how yoga and neurofeedback can be used as effective treatments for trauma.