PRACTITIONER SPOTLIGHT: Anna Maria Aprile - Person Centred Counsellor and Mindfulness Teacher
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Here’s what Anna Maria has to say about what she does, and why she does it.
Since I was a child, I remember my little friends confiding their secrets. They knew that they could trust me and that their secrets were safe with me.
I have always been a good listener. What people say is very important to me. And I am not just listening to the words. I give my attention to the whole person and the space around, truly wanting to understand beyond words and gathering their core essence.
I have learnt about body language: I practised Shiatsu (a form of massage based on Chinese Medicine), taught Biodanza (a sort of therapeutic free dance), explored Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and some martial arts.
I grew up as a Catholic in a traditional Italian family. In my teenage years I started to feel a deep emptiness and disconnection - something was missing. I could feel it without being able to name it. At times it was so overwhelming that I couldn’t talk. Relationships were challenging. The empty hole inside was making me needy, dependent, but also angry and arrogant. I wasn’t happy with myself! And so I began to explore personal development techniques and forms of spirituality which lead me to meditation.
I started sitting silently with the Brahma Kumaris nuns. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing, but to sit there with them made me feel at peace and less empty. The sisters were kind. They also talked about their guru. His picture was in the hall to bless us all. I still remember his face and my lack of connection with him. I left. I sat in other circles, monasteries and temples. I was learning to access my inner space and peace…but at the end I always found myself leaving.
And then, some years ago, I went to a Mindfulness workshop. I remember sitting there and feeling at home. There were no pictures of gurus, nor were we asked to chant or to do our practice at a particular time. I was shown how to better manage my mind and how to be kind to myself. After attending many other workshops and courses my teacher encouraged me to facilitate my own group…. and so I did!
I was already a registered counsellor. My clients were benefitting from the work I was offering. However, at times they couldn’t progress. Their emotions were becoming overwhelming, their thoughts were obstacles to processing their issues. Often the absence of self-compassion was making their pain unbearable.
This is when I started to suggest Mindfulness based counselling….and it has been working!
With this approach, after talking about your issues, we will explore them through the mindfulness practice that suits you best (there are many). The practice will help you to quieten your mind and to access your true understanding. Thoughts and emotions often prevent us from seeing reality as it is and they can make it difficult to resolve, release or accept difficult and unexpected situations in life.
Mindfulness based counselling enables you to identify your challenging thoughts and emotions, to see them as “mental events” and to release the power that these have on you. Your mind becomes clear, you let go of judgements and resentments belonging to the past and the fears and expectations from the future. You start experiencing the present moment, acknowledging your needs and making the choices to develop your emotional and physical wellbeing.
Often we somatise our emotions and mental states, storing traumas and difficult emotions in our body. Over the long term this can develop into pain and illness. Mindfulness-based counselling through body-mind awareness techniques helps to heal or alleviate these physical conditions.
Mindfulness-based counselling is a combination of:
* person centred counselling;
* mindfulness techniques (such as breathing, self-compassion, being in the moment exercises);
* body awareness;
* cognitive therapy.
This is accessible to everyone. You don’t need to have practiced Mindfulness or to have had counselling before.
Mindfulness based counselling works in both the short and long term. It can help you to deal with, manage and release strong feelings, such as anxiety, fear, anger and hatred.
Also it can help with relationship issues, life crisis, abuse, illness, bereavement, spirituality, diversity, self-esteem and other difficulties.
Anna Maria practices Counselling and Mindfulness at the Bagnall Centre.
Find out more on Anna Maria’s website here