Mindfulness Coaching & Counseling Case Study #3
Client is male, 67 years old, retired, and participated in ten coaching sessions. The client experienced a difficult breakup with a girlfriend that left him feeling extreme levels of grief and loneliness. The client’s overactive analytical mind led him to spend much time in rumination and self-devaluing. The client was mentally drained, emotionally raw and was experiencing fight/flight/freeze responses on a daily basis. At times his anxiety levels reached the status of crisis.
The TSD Mindfulness Client Assessments were administered before the first session. Results showed high levels of the following in the “Mental Processing” category: stress, self-doubt, distraction, shame, feeling provoked and confusion; uneasiness, in the “Flight, Fight, Freeze” category at risk, anxiety, concern, overwhelm, and exposed; and in the “Grief and Trauma” category feelings of neglect, rejection, inferiority, helplessness, disappointed, numbness, grief, loneliness and guilt. High levels ranged from 50 to 100 on a 100-point scale.
Concepts and Exercises Coached
Mindfulness Coach, Sarah Vallely, met with the client during ten one-hour sessions. Vallely taught the stages of grief and how mental processing can drag out and intensify these stages. Vallely also broke down the aspects of a rumination cycle and the elements of a shame cycle so the client could better identify these episodes. She also explained how threats to emotional, physical and egotistical survival trigger a fight/flight/freeze response.
Vallely taught exercises in self-compassion. She also explained how to label thought cycles in the moment, such as rumination, to limit these episodes. Vallely also taught exercises in embracing uncertainty to support the client to move into acceptance and detach from outcome. Additionally, how to use single-pointed-focus on a physical stimulus, such as sound, physical sensations, or breath, to soothe emotions.
Based on a follow-up assessment after the tenth sessions, the client decreased the following on a scale of 100 total points: “feelings of shame” by 36 points, “feeling of being at risk” by 31 points, “uneasiness” by 33 points, “overwhelm” by 44 points, “disappointment” by 47, “guilt” by 38 and “helplessness” by 49 points. Any decrease of 30 or more points, is considered a significant shift and the points for each state are based on nine questions. For example, nine questions regarding “distraction” were used to create a score for distraction.
The client reported feeling more calm, clear and self-confident after his ten sessions. He reported what allowed him to move through his grief process the best were: mindfulness of his thinking, identifying and leaning into his emotions, exercises in soothing his nervous system, and self-compassion practice.
The client reported his practice in labeling his rumination episodes “rumination”, significantly reduced the amount of time he spent ruminating. He also sometimes stated to his thoughts, “I know you are there, that’s fine, go about your business, and I’m going to go about my business.”
He also realized his grief emotions were causing self-devaluing thoughts, which led to feelings of shame. For example, emotions of hurt and rejection were causing him to devalue himself. For example, “I am too irresponsible,” and “I’ve always been a klutz.” He was also able to identify fantasy thoughts and name his thinking “fantasy”, which reduced the amount of time he spent with these thoughts and supported him to move into acceptance.
The client reported because of mindfulness coaching he came to accept and understand his emotions were normal, especially considering the trauma he experienced. He also said stating, “Right now it’s like this,” when he experienced emotions, helped him better accept his circumstances. This acceptance freed him from using mental processes to evaluate his emotions and devalue himself for having them. He came to understand, “Regardless of how long it takes or the outcome, I will make it through, as I have in the past.”
The client also began to rephrase his thinking, “I am experiencing loneliness” instead of “I am lonely” which helped him experience his emotions as more temporary. He also used redirection by listening to nature sounds outside to help soothe his emotions.
The client reported self-compassion statements also helped him to accept his emotions. And self-compassion during episodes of rumination almost completely stopped his rumination. Moreover, his self-compassion practice helped him realize his pattern of self-devaluing and the negative impact it had on his experience.
The client reported mindfulness coaching helped him see his sympathetic nervous system was triggered by his trauma. He reported the exercise that soothed his nervous system most effectively was thinking about the people in his life he had healthy and strong relationships with and feeling gratitude for them. He also had good results soothing his sympathetic nervous system focusing on sounds in his environment.