Thank you from Le Mag' Azur 2010- 2012 to all those who contributed articles to this site - to read more visit TheHumanHearttherapyblog.
Relax! Calming techniques used in CBT therapy
In Cognitive Behaviour therapy (CBT) one of the techniques popularly used is isometric muscular relaxation in which the patient is asked to tense and relax each and every muscle group without overt movement. He or she can choose whether or not to keep his or her eyes open. Starting with the forehead, for example, we ask the patient to contract the muscle in the forehead, to experience the tightness and then sense fully how this muscle relaxes. The method is very thorough because we progress down through the neck, the shoulders to the feet. At the beginning the client usually experiences an enormous amount of difficulty because whilst it's easy to contract any muscle it's not an easy task to concentrate on relaxing one muscle group, at a time. Working through all the muscle groups of the body takes around 20 to 30 minutes. Then practice and time is necessary to master the exercise until it becomes a reflex.
Once acquired the relaxation technique can be used to combat a lot of physical symptoms associated with mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders. In depression there is a high incidence of physical pain, back pain, headache, and migraine. Research shows very good results when these exercises are used in conjunction with CBT. In therapy where we are confronted with classic cases of panic attack or seizure, we teach the patient to acquire skills that can actually help them to relax at the moment of crisis. People seek therapy because they are putting up with an unacceptable level of stress and discomfort. For instance in phobia just the presence of a dog can arouse fear symptoms, both physical and psychological, that makes the person feel that he would die. Isometric muscle relaxation can be combined with other therapy like gradual exposure to a phobic object, or even 'flooding' during which we ask the patient to concentrate on isometric relaxation at the same time. These are very effective skills that can be used in conjunction with mainstream therapy. I've used it a lot with anxious clients reporting generalised body pain and in treatment of social anxiety, specific phobia, as well as a generalised non-specific feeling of worry.
The cardiac coherence exercises as outlined by David Sevran Schreiber, best selling author of the anticancer manual 'Guérir' ('Healing') 2003, involve learning how to deep breath at a rate of twenty breaths per five minutes to reduce heartbeat and induce profound relaxation. The patient practices this three times a day for two or three weeks after which time 'the brain knows the way' and a state of calm can almost be automised.
It's just a skilful combination of other techniques in use like the different relaxation techniques (progressive relaxation, isometric relaxation) used in behavioural therapy which involves deep breathing. A lot of the Indian techniques like the asanas and the yogas ask you to modify your breathing as well to relax your body and mind.
All of these are skills from which anyone can benefit and which once acquired can reduce illness and stress and quite remarkably increase one's positive sense of well being.