Tuning into Your Body for Information as a Therapist

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When you are sitting with a client, do you ever notice yourself leaning in or tensing up?

I’m sure you have heard the term mirror neurons and how our body (especially our facial expressions) are hard wired to mirror others’ body language to increase our non-verbal sense of connection. But did you know that you are also constantly analyzing and responding to nonverbal expressions of emotion and belief patterns in your clients?

Our bodies hold a wealth of information that we are often in denial of, bypassing emotionally, or defended against. Our bodies are truth tellers. Somatic indicators of repressed emotions and fears can be seen in people’s body language and patterns of tension/holding in their bodies.

I often notice when sitting with a client what my body is doing. Of course, being trained in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, a somatic psychotherapy, has taught me to do so. I notice when I am leaning in or pulling away, crossing my limbs, lowering my volume, increasing my energy, and when i am holding patterns of tension in my body. These are important indicators of what is happening in the client’s body. Often I will mirror my clients’ nonverbal cues in this way.

And what does it mean, you may ask. Well, if you are holding tension in your heart space, you may feel that the client is struggling with a matter of the heart and soul path. If you notice forward movement in their body, the client may have a pattern of hustling to keep busy in order to avoid difficult emotions. If you notice yourself tangled up in your limbs, your client may feel small and a need to protect their body from others. While there is not manual on what each body cue means, simply checking in with your client can be an incredible intervention.

When you check in with a client about a body cue you are noticing, you bring awareness to information the body holds in the less conscious part of their brain. Often our bodies give away how someone is truly feeling, bypassing their intellectual defenses.

Additionally, you can even hold space for clients to find a reparative experience by slowly shifting your body language to a more relaxed and open state. The client will likely mirror your calm body state and shift to a more calm state in themselves.

So next time you are sitting with a client, check it out! Notice what is happening in your body and check in with your client. You may be able to provide valuable insight through simply noticing and bringing awareness to what their body is trying to tell them.


  Guest post written by Kimberly Massale, MA, LPC, ATR-BC

Guest post written by Kimberly Massale, MA, LPC, ATR-BC

Kimberly Massale, MA, LPC, ATR-BC is the owner and founder of Brave Embodiment Counseling LLC in Capitol Hill Denver. Brave Embodiment is a team of holistic healers specializing in guiding women to heal from trauma and self-defeating behaviors. Our therapists are specially trained in cutting edge scientifically proven trauma and attachment based methods to get you "unstuck" from old patterns that hold you back from your full potential. We use alternative methods that ease and accelerate the healing process including Trauma Sensitive Yoga Therapy, Art Therapy, EMDR, Psychospirituality, Somatic (Sensorimotor) Psychotherapy, Acupuncture, and energy healing and can guide you in your journey of complete transformation from the inside out.