Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT) is a form of treatment created by Cynthia Price, PhD MA LMT. Cynthia is a Research Associate Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and is the founder of the Center for Mindful Body Awareness. People who suffer from stress, diseases and symptoms become body disconnected from their bodies. MABT is an approach towards educating people on what it means and how to become more body aware. MABT allows patients to practice identifying bodily awareness and sensations and in turn develop the skills to promote self-care.
What is the Purpose of MABT?
MABT teaches people to access interoceptive awareness. Interoception is the perception of all sensations from inside the body and includes the physical sensations related to internal organ function such as heart beat, respiration, satiety, and the autonomic nervous system symptoms related to emotions. Much of these perceptions remains unconscious. What becomes conscious enters awareness, which involves higher mental processes such as emotions, memories, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. Recent neuroscience research has identified the areas of the brain in which interoception is processed and how it relates to emotion, stress and regulation. This research highlights the critical importance of sensory cues for health and regulation. MABT is designed to develop interoceptive awareness skills and practices that can be used in daily life to enhance emotion regulation and self-care. A mindfulness-based approach, MABT can integrate into the somatic practice or therapy – by yoga practitioners, bodyworkers, mindfulness practitioners, or mental health providers.
What Techniques are Used in MABT? Can Someone Self-apply MABT?
The primary techniques are designed to teach people to access and to develop their capacity to sustain interoceptive awareness. MABT uses different techniques to incrementally teach the skills needed to engage in interoceptive awareness skills for self-care.
MABT involves Three Phases:
- The first is body literacy. The patient develops a language to identify and become aware of the sensations felt in the body. Through massage, stopping and pausing in places and asking questions about what they’re aware of and helping them find the words to describe what they’re feeling.
- Second are exercises to develop interoceptive attention. The intention is to learn how to bring mindfulness is and how to engage in somatic way.
- Finally, MABT involves guiding in the process of developing a capacity to attend to internal experiences mindfully. Majority of people are not able to maintain attention for very long and ten to “pop out” of their experience. MABT helps patients learn to develop the capacity to stay connected inside. MABT also teaches patients how to prolong the process and how to do it at home.
The ability to identify and articulate sensory awareness, guiding the client to bring present moment (i.e. mindful) awareness into specific regions of the body, guided practice to develop the capacity to sustain interoceptive awareness, development of take home practice to integrate interoceptive awareness skills in daily life, guided attention to shifts in interoceptive experience as a way to appraise or evaluate interoceptive experiences. The practitioner uses touch to help the client focus attention inward and in a specific area of the body. The client practices at home using self-touch to facilitate mindful body awareness as well. The goal is for a client to apply MABT strategies themselves in daily life to enhance embodied knowing and self-care. This approach is applicable and can be easily translated to yoga practice and yoga therapy.
What are the Benefits of MABT?
The benefits of MABT are many. From our research of MABT we have learned that people who develop and integrate interoceptive awareness into their lives tend to show significantly increased emotional awareness and regulation, reduced stress, reduced mental and physical health challenges, and reduced dissociation from their bodies (Dr. Price’s research articles are available for free through Pub Med). In addition, they report having a new set of tools for awareness and self-care, and, for those who were profoundly disconnected from their bodies, a sense of their bodies now being a safe and integral part of their sense of self.
Below are a few testimonies that support the benefits of MABT:
- “It actually helped me focus on how an emotion can physically manifest itself. It’s just this mindful awareness of what’s going on in my body and what’s connected behind that. I didn’t even realize that before and actually, I felt so disconnected from myself before the study and now I’m able to actually connect my inner-being with my physical-being and I find that very helpful.”
- “I tried meditating over the years and I was never able to concentrate. With this approach, I was able to slow my mind down and then follow what she (the therapist) was saying, concentrating on a body part, and what I was feeling and afterwards talking about that. Eventually, I learned to do that by myself. This is why I thought this was amazing-because it taught me meditate. Now I meditate every night. The difference is having someone lead me into learning how to do it first.
- “I am much more aware of who I am and accepting of who I am physically and emotionally because of MABT. You know, this therapy was really healing for me and it really sent me away with a much more confident feeling of “I’m okay the way I am”
How Does Someone Become Certified to Provide MABT Services?
There is a professional training in MABT available through the Center for Mindful Body Awareness. This is a 5 day intensive course for advanced practitioners. Ongoing supervision is available through Center staff for practitioners who have completed the training and are working to integrate MABT into their practice. For practitioners and therapists who are earlier in their career or new to the work of body awareness and/or mental health work, we offer one-day introductory trainings and can also provide educational resources.
What is the Cost of MABT? Does Insurance Cover it?
MABT sessions are offered by trained practitioners in private practice (and thus the cost depends on the practitioner, and whether or not the client has insurance coverage for the type of practitioner seen). This work can be provided by licensed practitioners in WA state who are covered by insurance such as mental health counselors, massage therapists, physical therapists, nurses and occupational therapist. The Center for Mindful Body Awareness is also engaged in setting up MABT services for low income and underserved populations in collaboration with non-profit clinics and agencies; these services are expected to be offered sliding scale basis or free of charge.
[Photo by Elsie Escobar | CC BY]
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