Body scan and the ‘present moment’ complement each other. They both look at the here and now, and separate our attention into segments, looking at detail rather than trying to take everything in at once.
Body scan is the practice of noticing your body, part by part, as you move from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. You can practise this, eyes open or closed: start by noticing the very top of your head, then more of your skull, then move down noticing your forehead, eyebrows, ears and so on – or starting from the toes and move upwards. You move slowly, body part by body part, noting sensations and feelings within those body parts. Take notice of one part at a time.
It is very useful to show your clients how to do this, taking them through a body scan exercise and bringing their attention to each part slowly. Ensure to give clients ample time to shift their attention between body parts and refocus on the next area. The slow pace is important, as is the gentle movement of focus from one part or area to the next.
This exercise is useful with clients who are harder to engage with, or are dissociating (for example, trauma, depressed or highly anxious clients).
When working with these clients we need to be particularly compassionate, gentle and thoughtful.
The point of the exercise is about making contact with the present moment, our sensations, and the here and now. We aim to make contact with the present moment, which supports in grounding us despite experiencing uncomfortable feelings (such as feeling depressed or anxious). Often clients will say after the body scan exercise that they feel relaxed and comfortable. This is a good result but feeling relaxed and comfortable is not the purpose of doing the body scan. You may like to reiterate this so that clients understand the present moment exercise as a tool to sharpen our skill of focusing the mind and being present.
This technique can be applied to pain management clients. When clients move their awareness away from the area of pain – such as the back – to looking at other areas of their body or life we are able to shift their minds so they are able to be present about other areas rather than just the area giving pain.
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