Episode 72 How To Teach Meditation in Sessions: Solo Episode by Chris McDonald

Jul 20, 2022

Are you ready to integrate meditation into your practice? Are you unsure about how to start teaching clients how to meditate? 


  • What is meditation? 1:16
  • Figuring out the best way to teach meditation 5:25
  • What is Concentrative Meditation 11:38
  • What is Mindfulness Meditation? 19:35

What Is Meditation?

  • What meditation is NOT!
  • Overcoming obstacles by being consistent in your meditation practice
  • Engaging in the present moment without trying to change anything
  • What is the importance of meditation and the benefits from it

 Figuring Out The Best Way To Teach Meditation

  • The importance of setting up an invitation to your clients
  • Setting up the appropriate space for you and your client to begin the meditation process
  • Finding and practicing the appropriate voice for each client during guided meditation
  • Why it is important to let go of any projected outcome in guided meditation

What Is Concentrative Meditation?

  • Integrating sound into concentrative meditation
  • Teaching clients to use their breath as an anchor in concentrative meditation
  • Techniques for using Mantra in meditation
  • How to use an image in concentrative meditation

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

  • What is “Noting?”
  • Noticing our thoughts without judgment
  • Using imagery in mindfulness meditation
  • Mindfulness meditation walkthrough


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Episode 72 How to Teach Clients Meditation in Sessions

Welcome to the holistic counseling podcast, where you discover diverse wellness modalities, advice on growing your integrative practice and grow confidence in being your unique self. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. I'm so glad you're here for the journey.

This is the holistic counseling podcast. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. Welcome to today's episode. This is going to be a solo episode and I'm going to divide it into two parts. So today's part will be an introduction to meditation. The benefits, the basics of setting it up with clients as well. Some skills on getting started for teaching meditation, because I know in my focus groups, thanks to all those who participated by the.

Um, I did learn that some of you are interested in teaching meditation, but just are kind of unsure how to get started. So hopefully this can be just the start for you to give you a little bit of background, to get things rolling. And I will end today's episode with a brief mindfulness meditation, so you can experience it.

And also just know that that meditation, you can use it as your own practice with it so that you can give it to your clients as well. So let's just dive right in. I thought we'd start first at the very beginning. A very good place to start. Right? so what is meditation? You hear that word a lot. One thing I will tell you, it is not meditation is not trying to clear your mind.

I know I have most of my clients that come in and they'll say, oh, I just sat down and tried to meditate, but I couldn't do it. I can't clear my mind. I keep having thoughts. Very common experience. Yes. You have thoughts. You will always have thoughts. Even the most pronoun famous meditators still have thoughts that come up.

Of course, I've been doing this for a long time, so going on probably eight years. So I have less thoughts. That's the good news. So if you do get in a daily practice, you will have less [00:02:00] thoughts. That's gonna help tremendously. So the more you do this again, it's a practice. So we have to keep it rolling.

The more you do it, the less us at com, but I will teach you today. Of how to teach clients what to do with those thoughts. So that's the difference, but just going back to the initial questions, what is meditation? So it's that focused attention. It's not just sitting there doing nothing. So there is some skills that you can use with this, some different strategies to help you be able to teach clients as well as developing your own practice.

So it encourages that heightened state of awareness, really tuning in to what is coming up in the present moment, engaging the present moment, seeing what's there without trying to change anything without a desired income. I think that's a common misnomer too, that people wanna feel a certain way or have something happen or geez.

Did I reach enlightenment yeah. So, but it is going into it without desired income. Seeing what comes up, that is all right. So we have a couple other ways you can do it too, is the concentrative meditation, which I'll get more into that, which is focusing on one thing while tuning out the external world or experience and trying to get to that higher state of being.

And I'll talk to you a little bit about that or the mindfulness meditation, which is focused more. On the present moment. So let's think about this for AMO. So what is the importance of meditation? Why should we teach this to clients? This is the best part. It is research based and I know our ethical guidelines say that we should be using research based interventions.

And of course, meditation has lots and loads of history of research. Just to give you a little bit, we could do a whole episode on the benefits. Here are some of the benefits. So decreased anxiety, stress management, manage symptoms of depression, of course, is not gonna make depression go away, but it can allow clients to manage the symptoms a little bit better.

What I've found in my practice is decreased reactivity. It takes a lot more to get me riled up. So even same triggers that used to get me going. It would take a lot more to get me activated in my nervous system. Improve. Decrease blood pressure. And that's a test you can always do with meditation too, is, um, just noticing too, even your heart rate, what is your heart rate before meditation?

You can check during and after increase self-awareness and for those clients that have ADHD, or if you do . It helps with focused attention. There's so many benefits and research also says, as far as brain based that you have more gray matter volume in brains, they've found in their research for those that do it for extended periods of time.

They did look at people doing it for 20 years, but the benefits can happen. What I've read with research within two weeks. That's pretty awesome. What does that mean? More gray matter volume in the brain. It it's all over the brain too, is what they found. This translates to more positive emotions, which of course we all want that emotional stability and that increased focus in our everyday living who doesn't want those benefits.

Right. So just keeping that in mind. Wow. Let's think about that. All those benefits for our clients to have really helping 'em, but how do we do this? So if you are a newbie, which is totally cool, and I'm glad you're here and still listening, it does take. Some time to get used to this and figure out the best way to teach somebody.

Cuz of course you can do it yourself, but if you've never taught someone, I know it can feel a little unsettling, a little awkward, unstable as you're trying to do this and figur it out. And the first part is to start your own practice meditation practice. I'm not gonna get. Into that today, cuz that would be a whole other discussion that is gonna be next week's episode.

So that's something that I've developed for myself, the consistent personal practice, cuz most people do get into that mode of just doing it. Oh, I'm having a bad day. Let me meditate, which is fine. I'm glad you're meditating. Trust me. I think it's so helpful, but the more consistent, the better the result.

So just tune in next week for that. So let. Let's get back to, how do we set this up with clients? And let's say you have a client who has a lot of anxiety, have difficulty relaxing, very restless, tense muscles. They really are not totally connected to their body. We set it up with an invitation, just like in yoga, we set things up so that clients are invited to do this.

They're not required. We can't say we will meditate today. so we have to really make this an invitation. And here's an example for you, cuz I know from hearing from a lot of listeners, like how do you say this to them? How do you invite them? One way I do that. Of course, using your counseling skills. I know you've been struggling a lot with managing your anxiety.

I know we've tried some different strategies. Would you be open to learning how to do meditation to help manage your symptoms? Period. Question mark. That's it. So you don't have to get into long explanations and they'll either be like, eh, I don't know. Or no. And then move on or you could also, if they do say no.

Can you tell me a little bit more about that? And maybe they do have, I can't do it. I've tried it. Would you like to try a different kind? We could just experiment using that word experiment, I think is so helpful. We're just experiment. We're just giving it a go and see just for a few minutes. And if they don't and if they're really set, of course, we don't wanna push things on clients.

[00:07:34] That's okay. Just to honor that respect. So let's say they say yes. So noticing your space. So if you're in person for your sessions, where are you seated as far as you and your client? So you wanna make sure that they're comfortable, especially if they're gonna close their eyes so that you have enough distance from them.

[00:07:52] Cause you don't wanna be. Too close to them. Hopefully if you have enough space to separate from them and just ask them too. I I've asked that when I was [00:08:00] in physical sessions, now I'm all virtual, but is this enough space between us? Where would you feel more comfortable? Would you rather sit in another seat?

Sit on the floor, lay on the floor. That's a possibility. Now the goal of meditation is not to go to sleep unless you're actually doing a sleep meditation. The goal is to be seated with a straight spine so that you can have that focused awareness, cuz otherwise you will fall asleep. Not saying I never fall asleep meditation.

Sometimes I do. If I'm over tired, but that's not the goal. So normal everyday meditation is to be in that awareness space and that's by seated. So just allow them to figure out where would I feel most comfortable and settled in this room and just be open if they wanna sit on the floor. That's cool. Or at a cushion, cuz some people don't wanna sit in the chair or maybe they wanna sit in your desk chair.

[00:08:49] So once you get them in their chair, just allow them to get comfortable. Some people like to sit cross-legged, which is fine. Also you can have them sit with, if [00:09:00] let's say they're in a chair, office chair, for example, have their feet on the floor. And legs not crossed if they have their feet on the floor, which is helpful.

But some people, like I said, whatever works for them. So I'm not gonna get too structured with this, that they have to be seated with feet on the floor, cuz that may not work for them. So feet on the floor or sit across legging spine straight. You can also do some joint rotations, have them roll their shoulders back, get comfortable, noticing their spine, noticing their body.

And their breath using that grounding, the start, just that presence of mind and making it trauma informed. You can say, you can close your eyes for this, or if you wanna leave your eyes open, looking gently at the floor. Some people, especially those with severe trauma or PTSD may not be comfortable with keeping their eyes closed and watch your voice.

[00:09:48] Cuz one thing you don't wanna do is be monotone or. If you're reading, if you're using a script, that's cool, but don't just sit there and read it like this. So you wanna have some emotion [00:10:00] in there, lots of pauses watching your pacing and practicing before. If you have a guided one, I still use guided ones at times with clients, but I try to really read it before, cuz I know sometimes I haven't and then I get to a part and I'm like, oh, I should have read this before.

Because then you kind of stuck, right? or it doesn't sound right as you read it out loud, it sounds different than when you read it in your mind. But using that calm, soothing voice to try to find that soothing voice in practice, practice with a partner friend, recording yourself too, and play it back, cuz then you can discover, Ooh.

I don't sound so good here or I'm rushing and you don't wanna rush through this. Oh, I'm anxious about teaching my client meditation. I'm just gonna go as fast as I can. cause your energy is gonna impact their energy. So again, that co-regulation the more that you can stay calm in this cuz of course there might be a little nervous and that is something you can also explore them on the invitation.

[00:10:58] How do you feel about that? [00:11:00] Does this bring up any anxiety for you and just work through that a little bit in the initial and just let them know. We have a little anxious working with us today, too. I understand. And especially when I first started meditation, so you can share your own experiences and part of it too is just encouraging them to be present to what is, and not having that frame of mind.

[00:11:21] I have to stop all my thoughts and clear my mind, or I have to have some kind of projected outcome letting that go. And a lot of it is letting go, letting go of how you think it should be letting go of how your breathing should be and seeing what is. So two types of meditation that I think are helpful in therapy.

[00:11:41] So the first one, like I mentioned before is the concentrate meditation, and there's lots of different ways to do this. This is the perfect way to get started. If you've never done this before, first one is to use sound. How do we use sound? This could just be music. So I have [00:12:00] some spa music, like, you know, the music you listen to, like for a massage, or you can look on Spotify, YouTube for yoga music.

[00:12:09] That really soothing, calm music that just puts you in a nice soothing, quiet mood. Just play that. And the only thing you have to say to a client is just listen to the music that is it. And they can always come back to their sensations in their body if they want, but just hear the music. See what comes.

[00:12:31] That's the only expectation. If you wanna start teaching meditation, focusing on sound is the best way to start, or it could be just noticing the sounds in the room, noticing the sounds outside of the room. See how the sounds shift and change. I've also used a fan or one of those white noise machines, and I'm sure you could.

[00:12:53] Some of those white noise machines that also have different sounds like the sound of the ocean. If that's soothing [00:13:00] or maybe play some of the sounds, the sounds of crickets that would drive me crazy. But some people may like that. A thunderstorm doesn't matter what the sound is, as long as it is soothing to them.

[00:13:12] And you can start slow when you teach your client, say, we'll just do a few minutes today and we can increase it next time. Or start five minutes, see where they're at, see where they feel most comfortable. And then breath is another way. If you don't wanna do sound, you can just tune into the breath.

[00:13:31] There's lots of ways to focus with the breath. Sometimes it's just following the breath. We don't have to change it. And just start with, just notice where your breath is today. Is it more in your chest or your belly? Now? See if you can follow your breath as your chest rises on the inhale falls on the exhale.

[00:13:56] Notice that rising and [00:14:00] falling. Notice your belly, how it rises on the inhale. Falls on the exhale

[00:14:13] and notice the tip of your nose. Notice the air coming in through the nose and out

[00:14:24] and pick one of those areas, either your nose, your chest, or your belly, and use that as your anchor to the present moment. And this is what you can be telling clients by the way. That using one of those as an anchor can be so powerful. Now this can be uncomfortable for clients who aren't used to this. So just, you can preface that before that.

[00:14:50] We'll just start with three minutes today following your breath. And it can be just listening to the sound of your breath on the inhale and XLE. [00:15:00] If you don't wanna do the anchor can be just tuning into one part of their body. Even if you don't wanna do the belly, it could be the ribs expanding on the inhale, falling on the exhale, or if they'd rather count, if their mind is very active and busy, just counting.

[00:15:21] What is the count breathing in? Does it go to four? And what is the count going out on the exhale? So maybe their inhale, they count to four exhale, count to five. So those are just some strategies for using breath as part of concentrative meditation. Another way to anchor and settle the mind. And then this is especially true for those with ADHD or really busy monkey mind is using a mantra.

[00:15:54] So a mantra can be a short phrase or word just to get them present and to [00:16:00] stay with it. Cuz sometimes using sound or breath is gonna be too much or from a trauma informed lens can be too much. So using a mantra can help keep them engaged in the present moment and give their mind something to do. So one mantra could be, I am love, so hum, which means translated.

[00:16:22] I am that which means we are all connected. We are all part of universal energy or ask them to pick one. Maybe they have one and sometimes it can be just a word, like love joy. Or peace. And how do we use the mantra? So on the inhale, if it's, I am love, I, it would be, I am on the exhale love, or if it's two words we do.

[00:16:51] So on the inhale home on the exhale. And just tell them to keep rolling with that. Keep [00:17:00] going. And you're gonna set a timer and, oh, that's the other piece I forgot to mention. So you can use a timer or use a Tibetan singing bowl to start the meditation session and let them know that you'll gently tap or have a timer at the end.

[00:17:17] And they'll just hear your voice if, if it's too loud of a timer, cuz of course keeping it trauma informed. We don't wanna have loud noises. So keeping with the mantra. And that is it. That's all they do. Just focusing on that. Staying with the mantra. And one more concentrated meditation is to have an image.

[00:17:35] This is how I started with meditation. It really helped me to get focused and just allowed the exterior world to kind of fade away. So I could get back into my internal world. I used to think about the moon at night and try to picture a beautiful scene of a full moon, barely a cloud in the sky, seeing the colors.

[00:17:56] Shapes on the moon, keeping that in the forefront of my mind, [00:18:00] encourage clients that they can use. Any parts of nature could be just a sunset or a scene, a mountain snowy mountain, or a mountain with wildflowers on it. Trees and blue or an object like a candle, thinking about a candle flame. Or a flower. It doesn't really matter so much what the image or object is.

[00:18:27] What does it mean to them? Does that feel like an object that soothes them or calms them? So, because of course you don't wanna suggest something that could be triggering for them. That's that defeats the whole purpose. And if they're not sure what they wanna use, just have, 'em sit with it for a. So I'm gonna have you sit for a moment and just think about what would be a soothing image, an object or something in nature that you would like to bring up into your mind and you phrase it like that, and just [00:19:00] give space, be quiet for a bit, and just show them that you can allow that space for them.

[00:19:08] And let me know when you're ready. When you come up with something. now, if you have a very anxious client and they struggle, give some, then give some examples, cuz what you don't wanna do is force them into a certain image or object and getting those people pleasing that they agree with, whatever you say.

[00:19:24] So I hope that helps with some of the concentrative meditation ideas. There's so many ways to do this, but I do recommend trying sound first and moving on to breath and then mantra. So what is mindfulness meditation? That is mostly what I've been trained in is focusing on the present moment to all that arises with noticing bodily sensations, any thoughts that come up feelings, even if you hear like a dog barking, a lawnmower.

[00:19:53] Noticing that as part of your experience and a couple ways you can do it. One is by noting. [00:20:00] So noting means that let's say that I'm sitting here closing my eyes and my meditation position, and I notice my thoughts keep coming. So I will label them with one word. I'll say, thinking in my mind, and then as I'm sitting here, what am I gonna have for dinner is a thought that comes up planning.

[00:20:18] I'm gonna name it, planning. And then I, my stomach grumbles. Hungry. So it's just labeling the different experiences that come up. It could be maybe I'm having back pain. So pain would be a label. Just bringing it back to that present moment without judgment. And that's another thing to stay tuned in with man mindfulness meditation is you wanna teach clients not to judge themselves, cuz a lot will get into that habit of Ugh, I'm thinking again, those there's those thoughts.

[00:20:50] So it's all about noticing the thoughts. There it is. Another thought came up. Without judgment. And that's really hard to do, [00:21:00] especially for people that are used to that self judgment. And I'm not do it this right. Or I don't know what I'm doing instead, just stepping back saying, there's a thought, I notice it without judgment.

[00:21:12] I'm gonna let that go. I'm a teacher. How to do that in a second and another way that you can teach clients. And again, as I got ready for today's episode, I realized, holy cow, there are so many components to this, more than I thought. It's one of those things. I think once you've done something for a long time, when you go to teach it, you're like, wow, I really do know more than I thought with this topic.

[00:21:35] And sometimes we take for granted what we do know. It is stepping back for a minute and you might already know a lot of this anyway, especially if you've tried some meditation on your own, and hopefully that can help build some of your confidence. And if not, then developing that private practice first, right at home so that you can be more comfortable with meditation.

[00:21:56] So I think it would be very hard to teach meditation if you've not done [00:22:00] it yourself. So again, that will be next week's episode. So mindfulness meditation can be not. It could be Sensa noticing, sensation, a feeling comes up anxiety. Let me sit with that anxiety. See how that settles just being, or one way I was taught mindfulness meditation is with imagery.

[00:22:23] So I would like to offer you a meditation today. That is a mindfulness meditation. For you to experience this, of course, before you teach it is, is the key. So if you're driving either pull over or pause this and wait till you get home, cuz it does help. I think with imagery to close your eyes, if that feels safe for you.

[00:22:44] And if you're at home, just see if you can find a quiet spot, if you can put headphones on, I think that's helpful, earbuds, whatever, and just allow yourself to get comfortable. Finding that meditation position that's comfortable for you. You can sit on a cushion or in a [00:23:00] chair feet on the floor. If you'd like, or sit cross-legged, you can have your hands on your lap.

[00:23:07] Wherever feels most comfortable. Spine straight, gently, roll your shoulders back, and then allowing them to settle. Noticing the shoulder blades down the back body. We're gonna take an imaginary journey in your mind.

[00:23:29] So just notice before we start your hands, if they're feeling tense are relaxed, notice the air around you, how it feels on your skin. Does it feel warm or cool or neutral? We're just tuning in before we start,

[00:23:55] notice your breath for a moment. Where are you with your breathing? [00:24:00] Do you have deeper breaths or more shallow breaths noticing without judgment. Notice what is, and I invite you just to be present to whatever comes up today. Present to all that is without trying to change anything. That is the challenge for you.

[00:24:24] So on this journey, imagine that you're walking through the woods. So warm, soothing day, it's not too hot, not too cold. You listen to your feet as they hit the earth in a soft walking stride, not rushing. Comfortable pace, feeling your arms as they swing back and forth, you feel the breeze on your face, breeze, through your hair, feeling the sun warm, you [00:25:00] noticing the blue sky above.

[00:25:03] And as you're walking on this path through the woods, you hear some water. You just keep walking, noticing that it's getting closer to the water. The sound's getting louder. You feel your heartbeat going up a little bit as you're going up a hill, you notice the trees blowing in the wind sounds of a Hawk overhead.

[00:25:30] You notice the sky again, the clouds just floating by. And eventually come to a small waterfall to the right. So you VE gently off the path and go to this waterfall. You notice the beautiful water coming down, the rocks, the sounds of it, feeling your feet on the earth, connected supporting you, [00:26:00] smelling the fresh air.

[00:26:04] you decide to have a seat next to this waterfall and a thought comes up. Am I doing this meditation? Right. Just notice that thought. Imagine for a moment that that thought is written on a leaf from one of the trees above. So you notice that thought and that leaf floating on down, leaving the tree and you watch it as it goes into the stream.

[00:26:31] Floating on down into the stream all the way down the mountain until you can't see it anymore. And you come back to your breathing

[00:26:44] and you stay focused looking into the water, noticing any fish with any bugs rocks. Seeing the clear mountain water. [00:27:00] And another thought comes up for you and you notice without judgment. There's a thought I'm gonna notice, see what it is. And then again, noticing it written on a leaf, falling from the tree, falling, falling into the water, letting it go.

[00:27:23] And you go back to your breath. This could happen even a hundred times when you meditate and just accepting that's okay. Just noticing the thought without judgment, letting it go and just connect back to your anchor. Maybe you notice your anger with your breath is in your belly with the rise and fall of your breath or in your chest, or maybe through your nose.

[00:27:55] Feeling the air coming in through your nose and out, [00:28:00] staying present with the breath.

[00:28:06] And you notice any sensations that are coming up for you as you sit by this waterfall, what emotions arise? What other sounds do you hear? Are there any objects around you? Take a look around

[00:28:31] and you just feel hypnotized by the power of the water. Soothing sounds.

[00:28:41] You try to take it all in memorizing it, knowing that you can always come back to this space in your mind, this comfortable place. Anytime you need to, to take a one minute vacation. Now you decide to stand up and come back to the [00:29:00] space you're in walking back down the mountain in peace, tranquility groundedness, and again, noticing the breeze on your face.

[00:29:14] The sun shining on you, feeling the earth beneath you. As you walk down. And coming back into the space. You're in

[00:29:29] noticing any sounds in the room you're in reconnecting, feeling the ground beneath you, supporting you, tuning into those hands. Again, noticing if they're clenched or relaxed. Noticing your shoulders, try to soften your shoulders. If they feel tense at all. And when you're ready, gently blinking your eyes open [00:30:00] and notice how you feel.

[00:30:05] Connecting back. Take a look around your room, noticing your surroundings. What colors do you see?

[00:30:15] What objects? I hope that was helpful. That's my favorite mindfulness meditation. And of course, one thing that I've done a lot with clients is I will experience a meditation on like insight timer, the app, or other meditations through YouTube. And I will. Learn it, but then put my own, spin on it to teach clients.

[00:30:38] I, to me, that's fun and creative. That's one thing for you to think about too. How can I use this as my own? And I've created some of my own meditations that way, which I think is, is really fun in a way to kind of engage yourself a little bit more out of your comfort zone if you're not used to doing that.

[00:30:55] And just remember you have a lot to give you have your own experiences. Your [00:31:00] own creative brain that you can tap into for this. But if the thought of creating your own is too much. That's okay too. There are guided scripts available. That's how I started actually printing one out or reading it from your computer is totally fine.

[00:31:14] But again, how you do that is important. I actually did a meditation this morning. That was. Kind of torture to listen to because the person I could tell they were reading, number one, their voice was just very like this and just breathe. That's just not gonna connect. And they, I could tell they were kind of rushing through it.

[00:31:35] So that's what you don't wanna do. You wanna make sure that you're engaged, that you really are connecting with it? Using a lot of pauses. If you notice, I did that with that meditation, nice pacing and noticing the time cuz what you don't wanna do is only give yourself, you know, four minutes and it's almost the end of the session.

[00:31:53] And then you're find yourself rushing. That's just gonna defeat the whole purpose, allowing enough space and time in your session [00:32:00] without rushing and being present with it. And the more you practice, the more comfortable you'll. and it goes back again to the personal practice of your own comfort with meditation.

[00:32:10] Cause if you're not comfortable with meditation, you're not ready to teach it. Just keep that in mind as well. I hope this was helpful for you. And like I said, I hope you can tune in next week where I'll be discussing how to create your own personal meditation practice. And I wanna thank you so much for being a listener and tuning in today, but I still need your help.

[00:32:32] I know you probably thought. Rating this podcast, if you really like it, or maybe you just haven't gotten around to it, but can I ask you to do so today? I need lots more reviews to keep this podcast going and to reach more holistic therapists and other therapists who wanna learn more about holistic strategies so that we can continue to build this holistic community.

[00:32:52] The more positive ratings reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Just keep that in mind. And this again is Chris McDonald sending [00:33:00] each one of you much light and low. Until next time, take care. Thanks for listening to the holistic counseling podcast. Ready to engage with other holistic counselors.

[00:33:11] Head on over to my Facebook group, the holistic counseling and self care group, where you'll be able to connect with other holistic counselors, just like you. You'll also gain invaluable resources on holistic practices daily and connect with others in a fun drama, free environment. Remember to tune in next Wednesday for another episode.

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