Awareness Centered Therapy™


What is Awareness Centered Therapy?

Awareness Centered Therapy™, is a powerful Mind/Body approach to healing developed by Mark Sammo, MS, RN, CNS, a Clinical Nurse Specialist and Mind Body Therapist, who has been working in the field of Mind Body Healing for the past 25 years.

ACT theory assumes certain relationships existing between the body/mind/belief system/emotions/spirit/environment.

Any danger or threat that we may encounter is not only experienced in our conscious mind, but becomes deeply ingrained in our body over repeated exposure to threatening episodes. For example, some people will react to a perceived threat or stress by habitually raising their shoulders and pulling in their neck. This neck compression was the first reaction of the many that were physically possible that may have seemed to provide protection from the stress. This "discovered" physical reaction is likely a dysfunctional reaction, in that rather then actively protecting the person from threat, it was a passive reaction that merely embedded strain in the body. A person who has chosen reflexively and unconsciously to deal with stress in such a manner will, in all likelihood, subsequently develop chronic tension headaches, neck or shoulder pain or some combination of the three.

This strain can even have a more profound effect on the body. The energy that is thus blocked in the neck, may have an effect on the normal channels of energy that we have come to accept in the acupuncturist's language and cosmology as "chi". Other body systems or organs may then become affected as the flow of energy becomes impeded. The eyes or throat for example.

In my work with clients, I attempt to help them identify areas of their body that have become habitually constrained as a protection against stress. I do so by taking a complete history of their complaint and associated symptoms and triggers. Using a variety of techniques, which begin with relaxation centered body awareness, the Awareness Centered Therapy approach, we explore the thoughts, feelings, emotions, words and awareness that they hold about their body in the area of the complaint. This exploration will often lead to other areas of the body and into an exploration of past experiences. The client may discover past coping patterns and identify specific stressors as a result. I call this approach Awareness Centered Therapy (ACT). The play on "act" to take action, is a happy coincidence.

In ACT, the point of entry and discovery for all these relationships is most usually through development of body awareness skill using a specific ACT relaxation technique. The underlying assumption here is that the body is a perfect mirror for all the facets of the human energy field. Discovery of held tension in one area of the body can lead to discovery of blocked emotions, personal beliefs about self and the relative safety of the past and present experience with our external environment.

It is important to note that I have developed the ACT approach within both the context of my own personal exploration as well as within the context of the therapeutic relationship. While there are many similarities between the two, there are some differences that are worth noting.

ACT can be used within the context of self discovery and self healing in a very direct manner. This can be accomplished by active exploration to become aware of ones energy field using ACT skills, to notice specific areas of contraction, and to actively discover methods to allow the body/energy field to gain a more naturally balanced openness.

There are many reasons why the body's energy field may be in a state of contraction. In the context of self discovery and self healing, some of these reasons may be more difficult to discover then if the journey is undertaken within the context of a therapeutic relationship. Having the presence of a guide to hold the safety of the space, to ask and seek clarifications of emotions, personal beliefs and self-talk, can be a decided advantage in deep healing personal transformation.

The work is not easy, nor is it quick. This work is however quite powerful and transformative. The client who is able to undertake the journey and work with their patterns can often experience profound change and relief from a variety of symptoms that cannot otherwise be helped through medical intervention.