Mary Caroline Richards wrote “And with listening, too, it seems to me, it is not the ear that hears, it is not the physical organ that performs the act of inner receptivity. It is the total person who hears. Sometimes the skin seems to be the best listener, as it prickles and thrills, say to a sound or a silence; or the fantasy, the imagination: how it bursts into inner pictures as it listens…”
So, is it the ear that hears? Or the skin? Or our whole being? One thing we do know is that the brain can hear, and as it hears neural pathways are carved and shaped weaving and changing us.
A client recently told me “I honestly do not believe in therapy, that it can actually help fix anything”. Does talking about your problems help you fix them? Science says yes! Lori Russell-Chapin (2016) said that modern therapy needs to become neuro nimble meaning we understand how talking with a therapist affects the brain. We now know that counselling literally changes the brain regulating and modulating neural pathways through positive plasticity (Russel-Chapin, 2016). Talk therapy has been empirically proven equally as effective for treating many mental health conditions as taking medication.
So, should only those struggling with very serious mental disorders seek therapy? This is no longer the case. Psychotherapists while qualified to provide treatment for major depression and severe anxiety disorders are equally there to help people through normal life transitions. Very little prepares a person for the painful challenges of loss that inevitably life brings to all of us through both natural progressions or crisis circumstances.
I was pleased to hear, while visiting a private university’s counselling offices, that students do not hesitate to seek out help from the onsite counsellor. They have little interest in other forms of faculty or peer support and primarily seek out appointments with a qualified therapist. In past, many people have felt stigmatized at the thought of someone knowing they were going to therapy, especially men. Older generations can take a helpful cue from a more supportive-seeking younger culture who views talk therapy as a resource and a smart way to cope with life challenges.
So why does this talk therapy work? One of the things that happens while you share your concerns with a therapist is you hear parts of the situation for the first time. How can that be when these thoughts have been ruminating in your mind for weeks? When you share your story, you invite your entire brain to the party tapping into more resources for creating meaningful solutions. Sharing your story out loud literally activates parts of the brain that were sitting dormant before.
Therapy is becoming more holistic, in general, as scientists continue to connect the dots between our bodies and our brains. Creating a dialogue with clients that makes these connections often leads them to feel empowered to self-regulate which in turn leads to meaningful change and overall well-being both physically and mentally.
Neuro inspired therapy is really in its infancy but as science continues to make these valuable connections we can only hope to benefit more from the understanding that our whole bodies hear us, maybe even our skin!
Written by Janice Clarke