Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Exercise as a Counseling Intervention. (Theory)

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Exercise as a Counseling Intervention. (Theory)

Article excerpt

The focus of wellness counseling is to guide individuals to live a healthy life in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated in order to experience fulfillment and happiness. Exercise undoubtedly has physical and psychological benefits in the human body and spirit. However, adherence to exercise has proven to be the greatest obstacle in getting individuals to experience the benefits of exercise. In addition, there is little research that gives counselors guidelines on how to use exercise as a therapeutic tool The purpose of this article is to provide counselors steps to follow when using exercise as a counseling intervention and to provide techniques that will encourage exercise adherence.

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The focus of wellness counseling is to guide individuals to a lifestyle of optimal health and well-being in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated for a balanced and fulfilling life (Myers, Sweeney, & Witmer, 2000). Exercise has long been considered an important aspect of wellness. For example, exercise is identified in Myers, Sweeney and Witmer's Wheel of Wellness Model. In addition, Myers et al.'s model identifies five life tasks that every individual needs to acquire in order to live a fulfilling and healthy life. Exercise plays an important role in helping people obtain wellness and a healthy lifestyle because of its physical and psychological benefits. Many mental health counselors may be reluctant to address the issue of exercise or add it to a client's treatment plan because exercise is not a component of their training. Mental health counselors, however, do not need to be exercise physiologists in order to effectively incorporate exercise as a counseling intervention. Nonetheless, it is important that counselors know how to integrate exercise as an intervention into the counseling process.

The objective of this article is to focus on exercise as an important characteristic of a lifestyle of optimal health and well-being. Mental health counselors who focus on wellness need to know how to incorporate exercise into the counseling process. Unfortunately, there is little research on specific counseling techniques necessary for compliance to an exercise program, and there are no clear steps for counselors to follow when using exercise as a counseling tool. Another important issue to address is clients' motivation to comply with an exercise program. This article will describe how mental health counselors can incorporate exercise as a counseling intervention. These suggestions will focus on both client motivation to exercise and client adherence to an exercise regimen.

EXERCISE IN COUNSELING

Counselors must have a general understanding regarding exercise when incorporating exercise into the counseling session. It is important for the mental health counselor to have a clear definition of exercise, which is defined in this article as any type of physical activity, aerobic or anaerobic, with the means of integrating the mind, body, and spirit. Furthermore mental health counselors should have broad knowledge regarding key areas utilized when creating or implementing an exercise program such as physical intensity, exercise program tailoring, frequency of exercise, convenience of the exercise regimen and exercise facility, safety in exercising, locus of control, and perceived self-efficacy. The aforementioned key areas are discussed in detail throughout the article.

In addition, counselors need to be aware of the techniques and interventions necessary in implementing exercise into the counseling process. An important aspect of the general information (discussed above), techniques, and interventions is its focus on client compliance to an exercise program. Although there is research suggesting that behavior modification has a greater impact on increasing physical activity than other approaches such as cognitive-behavioral modification, health education, and physical education curriculum (Dishman & Buckworth, 1997), there is little research regarding which of the many different behavioral modification strategies and techniques best motivate adults to exercise. …

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