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EXPERIENTIAL UNITY THEORY AND MODEL: RECLAIMING THE SOUL AND PEDAGOGY

The overall premise of the “experiential unity theory and model” is that it incorporates the soul, as well as the mind, body, and emotional content, which is explored at a deep level by highlighting a client's current emotional state. The model was devised to address the consequences of the dominant cultural trends mentioned previously that are impacting clients, professionals, educators, and students in a profound way. The experiential unity model demands a different pedagogy in order to be taught successfully. The model also requires those learning it to develop their intuition, deepen self-connection, work holistically, and incorporate mindfulness skills into their practice. The model consists of seven different processes in a group setting, namely breathing and visualization, feeling rounds, check in, feedback on strengths, a visual tool derived from an overriding theme, movement, yoga, emotional freedom technique, and wrap-up. For an individual counseling session, the model includes five steps: breathing and visualization, feeling rounds, client process and emotional freedom technique, a visual tool based on an overriding theme in the client process, and wrap-up of the session.

Each step in both group and individual counseling is taught to social work students using an experiential learning format. This approach focuses on students' experiences in the “here and now”; role models a new way ofworking with clients in the field that is holistic in nature; places the client in an expert role on his or her situation; and is inclusive of mind, body, emotions, and spirit. It also incorporates right-brain orientation with the use of visuals, supported in the latest findings from the field of neuroscience. According to Allan Schore (2009),

The essential roles of the right brain in the unconscious processing of emotional stimuli and in emotional communication are directly relevant to recent clinical models of an affective unconscious and a relational unconscious, whereby one unconscious mind communicates with another unconscious mind. In a number of writings I have described in some detail the fundamental role of right-brain to right-brain communications across an intersubjective field embedded within the therapeutic alliance.

(p. 115)

The drawing of a visual or tool in the experiential unity model provides an opportunity for both the counselor and the client to engage in a right-brain orientation.

The experiential unity model incorporates other findings in neuroscience in the past decade. For instance, Siegel and Solomon (2003) emphasize that therapy informed by neuroscience “has a bottom-up processing approach of experiential therapies rather than top-down approach of cognitive and insight focused therapy” (pp. 229-230). This approach, for instance, in group therapy is focused on the client's present experience rather than deciding pre-group the topic for the session. The evidence from neuroscience is suggesting a new way of working with clients, bringing in the body, working holistically, and putting emphasis on right-brain methodologies in order to heal past trauma. It, too, is focused on the “here and now,” using mindfulness and breathing techniques to resource the client. Other characteristics of trauma therapy informed by neuroscience and attachment studies advocated by Siegel and Solomon include the premise that emotional experience is not processed through language and logic. They emphasize the role of right-hemisphere language, which is a language of images, sensations, impressions, and urges toward action. They highlight techniques that should be reliving and picturing, rather than interpreting, narrating, and analyzing (pp. 229-230). The experiential unity model uses this bottom-up processing approach; for instance, for a client's present preoccupations, a right-brain orientation is activated by creating visual depictions of his or her present concerns. The visual is inclusive of mind, body, spirit, and emotions in the “here and now.”

 
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