‘Being with what is’ by Rebecca Crane and David Elias
The article, ‘Being with what is’ explores the use of mindfulness practice for counsellors and how it can become an integral and informative part of the therapeutic relationship. Mindfulness has primarily been used for stress reduction, but there has been a growing interest in its applications within the counselling context. As Crane and Elias note, however, the concept of mindfulness in counselling is not new and has been the subject of exploration for about 30 years.
So, what is mindfulness? The authors describe it as a practice that develops the capacity to become aware of the process of experiencing as it is happening. This is achieved from a perspective of non-judgemental curiosity. As a result, knowledge of mindfulness can increase the counsellor’s ability to notice conditioned patterns, develop greater perceptions of choice, and gain an increasing sense of ease with reality.
Interestingly, some of the key components of mindfulness are similar to the three core conditions offered by Roger’s in person-centred counselling: congruence; empathy; and, unconditional positive regard. In the article, the emphasis is on providing these three conditions to oneself through mindfulness-based practice. The primary aim is to be fully and unconditionally present with all that is in your consciousness as it occurs. With this in mind, I can see how mindfulness and person-centred counselling complement one another.
The seven attitudinal qualities that underpin mindfulness are also complementary of person-centred counselling. These qualities are:
Acceptance of the reality of the present moment;
Patience in understanding that things emerge in their own time;
Beginners mind (i.e. a willingness to see everything as if for the first time);
Trust in the validity of one’s own thoughts and feelings;
Non-striving (i.e. a willingness to accept the present as it is without trying to fix it;
Letting go (i.e. the ability to acknowledge arising and passing experiences); and,
Commitment, self-discipline and intentionality to the investigation of personal experience.
I feel these attitudes are already encapsulated in person-centred counselling theory, but are referred to using different terminology. Therefore, the introduction of mindfulness into the therapeutic process is not too far removed from what is already happening.
I was particularly interested in the authors premise that mindfulness includes an exploration of the ‘felt sense’ of experiences as they manifest in the body. This reminds me of the importance of immediacy and observation of body language within person-centred counselling. For example, noticing that someone is clenching their fists when talking about a particular person or situation is another form of communication, as well as another way for the counsellor to access the client’s world.
I enjoyed this article and found it very thought-provoking on a personal and professional level. I did, however, find that the article was not sufficient but more so ‘whet my appetite’ for more. This is not necessarily a criticism, but more so a sign of my own need to explore this further. I feel it has some relevance to my personal development as well as to my counselling training, and thus I will do some wider reading around this topic.