While studying for my masters in Social Work, I had my sights set on working with adults in probation. I strongly felt that my psychotherapy service would be best suited for an older justice-involved population. After working some time with these adult probation clients and hearing their childhood and adolescent stories of self-regulation failure in school, with authority, in their behaviour and in their learning habits, this changed. I started to wonder whether working with a younger age group might be more preventative and supportive. So I started to work with justice-involved young adults and teenagers struggling with self-regulation. Their stories mirrored the adult males I worked with in probation, but even these youth expressed early childhood difficulties of how their formative years were laden with strife and misunderstanding. So I made my way to working with an even younger population with the rationale that it would be preemptive in supporting youth with behavioural difficulties and or serious mental health challenges.
Today while I continue to work with adults across a spectrum of need, I also work with children and believe that the neuroscience evidence is overwhelming with regard to the benefits of exercise, coordinated sport activity, meditation, yoga, psychotherapy and other body, mind and brain activities. Approaches that integrate these elements have been shown to improve brain structure and brain function with signs that early intervention has significant long-term benefits.
As I aM (AIM) – Addressing Child Behavioural Problems
I have developed a new program called Activity Integrated Mindfulness (AIM) for adolescent ages 12-14 that addresses the self-regulation needs of this population. AIM (which stands for both Activity Integrated Mindfulness and As I aM) is a health and wellness psychotherapy that includes mindfulness in movement. This individual, family and/or group program is designed for boys and girls ages 9-12 to facilitate body, mind and brain integration. Just “As I Am” is the overall principle that encourages self acceptance while clients learn:
- Self-regulation skills that build resiliency
- Mindfulness in movement and multiple breathing skills
- Yoga and basic martial arts
- Mastery, Trust and Psychological Flexibility
Operating out of an Experiential Exercise Psychotherapy (EXP) model, it is understood that self-regulation is a limited but renewable resource and that self-regulation failure results from the depletion of self-regulation resources (energy) and not a motivational or moral failing. Moreover, the biochemical individuality of each person determines how much of this resource is used and which activities deplete it. There is no cookie cutter solution and the approach is specific to the individual. Therefore, the As I aM program takes the position that participants already have what they need, to be the best they can be and that conservation and conscientious direction of their limited but renewable energy is the path to self-regulation success in endeavors that matter to them. As I aM will assist participants in understanding the
- importance of personal energy
- how energy flow is inherent in the body, mind and brain and
- how to recognize when it is depleted so that
- the energy can be renewed for self regulation success.
As I aM will assist participants in understanding how they can best direct their limited energies in the activities they already value rather than adding onto their workload with new practice activities that will only serve to further deplete resources. Through conservation, more efficient direction, graduated extension of the activity and recharge, participants will gain a foundation for increasing their self-regulation capacity as they mature into their self-regulation skills. As I aM operates from the position that the child is already perfectly whole and that further integration of this body, mind and brain is the working foundation for more efficient energy to do what a child wants to do and needs to do for successful self-regulation.