6 Principles of The Interoception Curriculum

Hi everyone. I’m Kelly Mahler, Occupational Therapist. I want to take the time to talk about what makes interoception based supports so different then any other currently used approach out there when we’re talking about emotion regulation approaches or behavioral approaches. Interoception is so very different. I wanted to focus in on six principles that really sets the interoception based work, and our interoception curriculum apart from all of the other frameworks and approaches.


Principle #1

The Interoception Curriculum is set up to be a process where we are validating and honoring each person’s unique inner experience. What we know is that we all have very different inner experiences.

  • What your body feels like when you’re hungry is different than what my body feels like when I’m hungry.
  • What your body feels like when you’re anxious different than what my body feels like when I’m anxious.

Interoception based work is a process that is honoring and validating each person’s unique inner experience. This is quite different than other approaches that might be rooted in a process of trying to make someone more typical or having more typical experience or to act more typical. The interoception curriculum is completely against that notion and really it’s about honoring and validating our uniqueness.

Principle #2

The interoception work or The Interoception Curriculum is really all about a method of fostering curiosity.

  • Inner curiosity about personal body signals
  • How is my body feeling as well as emotions
  • We’re doing this and nurturing this curiosity when a learner feels safe and regulated.

It’s really helping each learner to be more curious about their own unique inner experience and learning more about that. That’s really opposed to more traditional mindsets where a learner might be taught how each emotion should feel in their body. That stress feels a certain way in your body. That sadness is a low arousal feeling, that is not true for all of us. So we’re really trying to nurture curiosity so that each learner can figure out what their own unique inner experience is.

Principle #3

The Interoception Curriculum is all about a collaborative approach with the learner in the lead. We as therapists or caregivers:

  • We are the coach on the sidelines
  • We are providing a framework for each person to learn about themselves.
  • It is a collaborative approach. Which is opposed to traditional approaches:
    • where it’s a compliance-based approach
    • where the learner must complete a demand
    • where the educator, the therapist, whoever, the caregiver is in control and the learner must listen.

The Interoception Curriculum is all about establishing this collaborative approach with the learner in the lead and figuring out how to best help that learner to experience their internal body signals in a very safe way and to learn more about them.

Principle #4

So the next principle, is our interoception work is all rooted in emotion equality. We believe very strongly, and the neuroscience literature shows, that all emotions are really important. Our bodies are designed in a way to feel uncomfortable at times. That discomfort within our body is giving us extremely important information about:

  • the world around us
  • about our bodies
  • what we need in that moment to feel safe and regulated.

The same is true even when our bodies feel comfortable, again, the body sensations, the emotions, all giving us important information about our experience within the world. And so there’s no such thing as good emotions and bad emotions or negative emotions and positive emotions. We really believe that all emotions are really important and they’re all equal. They are our sources of information for helping us to navigate the world in a safe and regulated feeling way whenever possible.

This emotion equality approach is quite different than many traditionally used approaches. Many of these self-regulation approaches or behavioral approaches, they’re all about fixing. Fixing your negative emotions. And we are really trying to shift away from that because, like I said, all emotions are really important. And when we get so stuck in the deficit model, we really layer on feelings of shame and guilt that many people feel when they struggle to feel safe and regulated within their bodies and their environments. So all emotions are important, all about emotion equality.

Principle #5

The Interoception Curriculum is really a self-regulation framework, but it’s really aiming to teach self-regulation and empower each learner with self-understanding. Understanding about:

  • their own inner experience
  • their own body signals
  • their own emotions
  • empowering them with that self regulation

so that they figure out and they know what they need to feel safe and regulated. This is really in opposition of many traditional methods where self-regulation frameworks are being used to modify so-called challenging behaviors. The Interoception Curriculum is not a behavioral modification tool. It is a tool for empowerment and empowering people to be able to care for their own needs and to help themselves to feel as safe and regulated as possible.

Principle #6

And then finally, principle number six is all about a self-discovery approach that is good for every single one of us. Research clearly shows that interoception plays a vital role in every single one of our lives, and it influences so many aspects of our lives. By nurturing our own inner curiosity and by noticing and learning more about our own inner experiences, it’s really helpful and it’s good for all of us. This is opposed to many different curriculum out there or approaches that are deficit focused. They’re used for learners that have challenges or needs or whatever you want to call it. This process, the interoception curriculum, is good for all of us, and that is true for people that might have specific needs. We all have needs, right? But it’s coming from an approach that is a self-regulation and self discovery approach. That’s good for all.

And you know, we’re really very passionate about these principles and really making sure that we are moving forward with interoception based supports that are in line with all six of these principles. We’re working really hard to shift the narrative for all of us, so that we can all flourish and thrive in our lives.

Until next time.


Still want to learn more?! Click the curriculum below.

The Interoception Curriculum Front Cover