Experiential Exercise Psychotherapy (ExP) is a mental health and wellness framework that supports an individual’s well-being through the continuous integration of Body, Mind and Brain.
FRAGMENTATION OF BODY, MIND AND BRAIN
Many people unconsciously disown aspects of themselves based on their relation to painful experiences that may have occurred in the past. Attaching or avoiding experiences can lead to the fragmentation of the body, mind and brain. For example, someone who may have experienced teasing about their body when they were young, may ignore this aspect of their being due to the painful experiences associated. Not getting enough sleep, eating poorly, and/or avoiding activity may result in further fragmentation. Likewise, an individual with Learning Disability and/or ADHD, may have had a painful school experience, which could lead to disowning an intellectual aspect of themselves based on an aversion to academic or intellectual pursuits. Lastly, the mind’s ability to reflect through understanding thoughts and feelings and how to use this function to relate to others may be a difficult aspect of oneself to approach if one’s social experiences have been met with conflict or strain.
ExP is a therapeutic framework that can be learned and used by practitioners to help clients understand how and why they may have disowned aspects of themselves resulting in the fragmenting of the full integration of their body, mind, brain. This unique psychotherapy is a skill building process that encourages participant practice in the therapy (training) room, at home and in the community for an overall generalizable experience.
COMPONENTS OF ExP
As a starting point ExP helps clients develop awareness of their own experience. By getting in touch with one’s experience one can make informed choices about how one wants to live his or her life. The experiential marker is the present moment awareness of the body, mind and brain. This can be facilitated through physical exercise for the body, interpersonal relationship with the therapist for the mind and thought reports or journaling for the brain, although all three activities are inclusive, synergistic and facilitate integration.
Exercise is a wonderful catalyst for body, mind and brain integration. Neurobiological benefits of exercise for human development and growth are well founded and this activity also provides an avenue for psychotherapeutic exploration. Varying forms of exercise are part of the ExP framework, depending on the client’s interests and ability. Exercise is a continuum as some clients may simply walk or climb stairs at school or work, while others may want to train in aerobics and weights or ramp up their participation for competition in their chosen sport.
ExP operates within a psychotherapeutic blend of mindfulness and mantra style meditations supported by cognitive, behavioural and interpersonal approaches. The meditation styles strengthen both narrow and wide fields of awareness and offer a range of practices that help to develop overall awareness of body, mind and brain. Cognitive behaviour therapy also helps to facilitate awareness through the examination of thoughts and feelings as they relate to behaviours and attitudes. Behaviour activation can be used to generate awareness by having the client perform a meaningful task(s). The interpersonal approach is often facilitated via therapeutic relationship with the therapist; that is, the client has someone to speak with in confidence.