How Interoception Can Help
For many years, I used traditional approaches to helping my clients regulate their emotions, only to fall short most of the time. Something was missing. My clients were definitely making gains, but I knew there was still something missing, something that was preventing them to achieve the level of self-regulation needed for life-long flourishing.
And then it happened one day… being a huge research geek paid off (yes—spending hours getting lost in a maze of research articles is a dream evening for me)! I read an article about a sense called interoception and my world completely changed. From this point, I had many conversations with my clients and their families only to discover that most of my clients were completely unaware or very confused about how their bodies feel. This made understanding and regulating their emotions nearly impossible. And yikes…I was missing this all along!!
Interoception has been widely studied for decades but is only now making its way into practical application. Thankfully, this information is rapidly improving our ability to understand dysregulation a little bit better which in turn is driving more effective (and kind) supports that honor each person’s inner experience.
Research states that interoception can be improved and I see this on a daily basis with my clients. It is really meaningful to help my clients discover and understand their own unique body signals and emotions.
Including Mindfulness and IA Builders
Mindfulness practices have been shown to be one of the most effective, evidence-based interventions for improving interoceptive awareness. Interestingly mindfulness is shown to activate the insula, the interoceptive center in the brain. That is why those who practice meditation often have superior levels of interoception.
Although mindfulness has many wonderful benefits, including increasing awareness of body sensations, mindfulness can be very abstract and difficult for a lot of people.
Therefore, we have worked to adapt mindfulness practices, creating strategies that work well for many different learning styles. These strategies, known as IA Builders, modify abstract mindfulness concepts into concrete, visual, interactive and engaging activities that help people explore and understand their own personal inner experiences.
“Based on her years of experience, Kelly offers practical tools that can be used to guide attention to the messages that our bodies are constantly sending to our brains. We all need to listen to our bodies and understand its messages. Kelly knows how to listen, and she knows how to help others listen better to their bodies. Here she shares her natural understanding of interoception and her recommendations for how we can help others to improve their own interoceptive awareness.”
A. D. (Bud) Craig, PhD