Have you ever sat in a medical clinic, and felt nervous, sleepy, or just plain depressed? Drab colours, no plants, and stagnant air that can make a setting feel dead.
Recently I had the opportunity to step into the inviting space at Diversified Health Clinic. What caught my eye? Well, I had seen their website about a week prior to my visit, and was curious about the unique curved wooden “ceiling-wall” structure which graces the reception area. I was given a tour of the office, and was impressed with the fact that the entire clinic is built with eco-friendly materials. There’s even a wall portion comprised entirely of plants!
As a mental health therapist, I am acutely aware of the mind-body connection. In my own office I have added cheery colours, living plants, shells, and soft lighting. Comfortable seating and nurturing art complete the picture. It’s hard to imagine a client being able to relax and share their feelings in a sterile, cold environment. Similarly, a person needs to be able to feel comfortable when receiving any kind of physical treatment – whether it’s massage, chiropractic treatments, physiotherapy, or acupuncture.
Besides creating a welcoming environment – what else can a practitioner do to reduce a client’s anxiety or trepidation about seeking help? I encourage my clients to do some simple meditation exercises. These can be as short as 10 minutes, and often involve a focus on the breath. Brain science is just beginning to catch up with what Tibetan monks have known for eleven centuries. The latest scans of the brain indicate that meditation helps aid communication between the amygdala (which alerts us to perceived danger) and the prefrontal cortex (which thinks it over and decides what to do). When that communication is enhanced, we are able to calm ourselves, and are much better able to handle stress of any kind. In addition, the ability to self-soothe is considered by many marriage counsellors to be one of the best indicators of a successful relationship.
Today I listened to Sharon Begley, Wall Street Journal science writer, describe how we are coming to a new understanding of our capability for change – real and lasting change to “deep-seated emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems.” There is also hope for people affected by stroke, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and age-related changes. We are living in exciting times indeed!
Caron Smith is a counsellor in Victoria, B.C. She provides services to individuals and couples. She can be reached through her website Smith Counselling or by phone at 250-885-1610.