Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Exploring the Contributions of a Yoga Practice to Counsellor Education/Explorer Les Contributions Potentielles Du Yoga À la Formation Des Conseillers

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Exploring the Contributions of a Yoga Practice to Counsellor Education/Explorer Les Contributions Potentielles Du Yoga À la Formation Des Conseillers

Article excerpt

The relationship between the personal development and self-care of counselling students and their professional success as counsellors has been well documented in the literature (Shapiro, Brown, & Beigel, 2007; Stauffer, 2007; Valente & Marotta, 2005). Although self-care has been identified as essential in counselling training and early in counselling careers (Christopher & Maris, 2010), little is being offered in counselling programs to teach and support students in self-care practices (Shapiro et al., 2007; Valente & Marotta, 2005). A number of studies have explored the implementation of eastern contemplative practices-including mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and qi'gong-into counselling education programs over the past eight years (Chrisman, Christopher, & Lichtenstein, 2008; Christopher et al., 2011; Christopher & Maris, 2010; Grepmair et al., 2007; Maris, 2009; McCollum & Gehart, 2010; Schure, Christopher, & Christopher, 2008; Shapiro et al., 2007; Wolf, Mott, Thompson, Baggs, & Puig, 2010). Much of the literature on contemplative practices in counselling education has centred around mindfulness, defined as "a type of awareness that entails being fully conscious of present-moment experience and attending to thoughts, emotions and sensations as they arise without judgment and with equanimity" (Christopher & Maris, 2010, p. 115). The term "mindfulness" refers not only to this awareness, but also to its practice.

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is the most wellresearched and frequently utilized mindfulness-based program (Baer, 2003; Kabat-Zinn, 1990, 2003; Schure et al., 2008; Shapiro, Aston, Bishop, & Cordova, 2005; Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006). One of the primary goals of the MBSR program was to create a "training vehicle for the relief of suffering" (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, p. 148), which would be "adaptable to any context in which stress, emotional and physical pain, or illness and disease were primary concerns" (p. 149). The scope of the MBSR program has extended beyond supporting individuals with chronic pain, stress, anxiety, depressive relapses, and disordered eating (Baer, 2003) to managing the stress of health professionals, medical students, and counselling students. MBSR participants cultivate mindfulness in three central practices: body scan, yoga, and meditation.

Within academic counselling programs, mindfulness practices have been presented to counselling students in various forms: an MBSR-based course offered for credit (Chrisman et al., 2008; Christopher & Maris, 2010; Schure et al., 2008; Shapiro et al., 2007); mindfulness practices taught within the existing curricula (McCollum & Gehart, 2010); meditation practice immediately prior to working with clients (Grepmair et al., 2007); and a noncredit yoga course offered to counsellors and counselling students (Wolf et al., 2010). In the MA program in contemplative psychotherapy offered at Naropa University (Boulder, Colorado), mindfulness is the philosophical and practical foundation of the curriculum.

In each of these studies, counselling students have cultivated many skills and qualities that enhance counselling presence and process: self-awareness (Shapiro et al., 2007; Stauffer, 2007); self-compassion and compassion for others (Shapiro et al., 2007); cultivation of empathic responses (Greason & Cashwell, 2009; Stauffer, 2007); increased comfort with silence (Schure et al., 2008); greater attention to the client and therapeutic process (Schure et al., 2008; Stauffer, 2007); changes in view of and attitude toward therapy (Schure et al., 2008); increased capacity for interpersonal functioning and resolving conflict (Shapiro, Brown, & Astin, 2008; Stauffer, 2007); development of self-experience and self-regulation (Grepmair et al., 2007); and counsellor self-care and well-being (Schure et al., 2008; Shapiro et al., 2007).

Christopher et al. (2011) published the first longitudinal study of counselling students who practice mindfulness. …

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