Today I wanted to discuss the incredible impact that the Interoception Curriculum can have for clients with alexithymia. As an occupational therapist and advocate for approaches that see beyond the surface and get at the root cause, I’m thrilled to share how interoception can be a game-changer for clients navigating the complex landscape of alexithymia.
Put simply, Alexithymia is a term used to describe when someone has difficulty identifying or expressing how they feel. While alexithymia is thought to be present in at least 10% of the population, rates are much higher among people that have experienced trauma, have a mental health concern like depression or anxiety; and/or are neurodivergent.
Recent research is connecting alexithymia to underlying interoception differences, which makes a lot of neurobiological sense! Our sense of interoception provides us with awareness and understanding of our bodily sensations like a foggy head, heavy muscles, and sweaty skin, for example. In turn, these bodily sensations are what give emotions and emotion words meaning. When a person has a muted or intense inner experience, they may be missing important clues about their emotions. It can feel like navigating an emotional labyrinth without a map.
Traditional emotion awareness approaches typically fall short for alexithymics. This is because these approaches do not address the underlying root cause—interoception differences! It is so important that interoception is taken into account when talking about alexithymia. The Interoception Curriculum has proven to be a meaningful resource in this exploration.
The Interoception Curriculum
Imagine an approach that’s not about teaching our clients how we think emotions should feel for them, but rather about empowering them to understand their own inner world. To help them become better connected to their own, unique interoceptive sensations and use these sensations as clues to their own, unique inner experience. That’s what The Interoception Curriculum is all about. This innovative framework fosters a deep connection between one’s body and emotions, allowing clients to explore and interpret their inner world in a safe and supportive environment.
Why Interoception for Alexithymia?
Here’s the magic: interoception encourages self-awareness from the inside out. By honing the ability to sense bodily cues – heart rate, breath, tension – individuals with alexithymia can gradually bridge the gap between physical sensations and emotional experiences. This process is not only so important for regulation but also cultivates a sense of agency, self-compassion, and trust in one’s own body.
The Heart of Interoception: Curiosity and Kindness
Let’s address an important aspect of this approach – its deeply empathetic nature. Traditional cognitive or compliance-based techniques can feel dismissive and disconnected. In contrast, the Interoception Curriculum thrives on curiosity and kindness. It doesn’t assume to know what someone is feeling; instead, it embarks on a shared journey of discovery. This gentle exploration fosters trust, respect, and authenticity, setting the stage for profound growth.
A Glimpse into the Interoception Curriculum
The Interoception Curriculum offers a range of engaging activities that foster the mind-body connection. From adapted body mindfulness exercises to hands-on sensory explorations, these activities invite clients to listen to their bodies and gradually decode their emotions. With your expertise and the curriculum’s guidance, clients with alexithymia can unfold their emotional tapestry at their own pace.
The journey of supporting interoception growth in clients with alexithymia is a paradigm shift for sure, but a necessary one if we want to offer meaningful outcomes. By using the Interoception Curriculum, we’re not just offering a curriculum; we’re offering a path to self-discovery, self-understanding, and empowerment.
Until next time.