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Institute Inbrief - 31/05/2017


Welcome to Edition 271 of Institute Inbrief! Most relaxation approaches understand that the main point is for the relaxation practitioner to attain a greater state of focus and concentration. What’s up for grabs with each technique is that which is focused on, and how. In this edition’s featured article we’ll explore techniques where the practitioner focuses in some way on the body, either just observing it, or in some cases, actively tensing and then relaxing it.


Also in this edition:

  • Helping Clients Relax: Techniques that Focus on the Body
  • Trauma, ASD and PTSD
  • Counselling and the Brain: Five Major Processes
  • Ten Commandments of Brain Fitness
  • Social Media Updates & Much More!

Enjoy your reading!





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Bachelor & Master of Counselling


Semester 2 Intake – CLOSING SOON


The available places in our Semester 2, 2017 intake into our Bachelor of Counselling and Master of Counselling are filling very quickly.


The programs are both government Fee-Help approved, so you can Learn Now and Pay Later.


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As places are strictly limited, we urge you to submit your obligation free expression of interest now.



Diploma of Counselling


It’s time to start loving what you do!


We’ve been training qualified Counsellors for over 25 years. Overwhelmingly, the number one reason people cite as why they became a Counsellor – to start loving what they do. They were stuck in a rut doing something they had no passion for, and it was dragging them down.


If you want a deeper understanding of yourself, and to use that knowledge to assist others overcome their challenges and start enjoying life again – then counselling is likely for you.


Too often we get drawn into a career that offers little personal satisfaction. Counsellors are passionate about the important work they do. They’re often someone that friends and family naturally come to for assistance. And they get immense personal reward helping others.


If that sounds like you, then it’s time to start pursuing your passion:

  • Learn about yourself and help others lead better lives
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Helping You Help Your Community!


We’ve helped people from all sorts of backgrounds become counsellors, and now we can assist you in fulfilling your goal of working within the Community Services sector! From 2017, AIPC is delivering the following two new courses:


Diploma of Community Services (Case Management) – learn more


Diploma of Youth Work – learn more


There has never been a better time for you to become involved and invested in the Community Services industries. It is predicted, between the years of 2015 to 2019, that employment within the Health Care and Social Assistance industries will increase by 18.7% (, 2015).


By gaining a qualification in Community Services (Case Management) or Youth Work, you will be contributing to an industry that serves a very important purpose: to assist those with personal or relationship challenges. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping others overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. And there’s no better time to do that than now!


To learn more about these programs, visit


AIPC courses:


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Masterclass Day: Last Chance to Register


If you want to learn to apply principles and techniques from cutting-edge parenting research and from positive psychology in your practice, this is a must-not miss event.


This is your last chance to join best-selling author, speaker and researcher, Dr Justin Coulson, in one of the most exciting and innovative workshops of 2017.


Here’s a snapshot of what you’ll enjoy:

  • A full-day, immersive learning experience with Dr Justin Coulson. Dr Coulson is consistently sought after by the media for his expertise, writing a weekly parenting advice column for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, and appearing regularly on The Project, the TODAY Show, Studio 10, Mornings, and a large number of radio stations around the nation.
  • Explore groundbreaking ideas on strengths-based parenting and discipline, resilience, growth-mindsets, gratitude, and wellbeing.
  • Participate in interactive, real-time webinar sessions (03/06/17).
  • Watch the entire event on-demand, at your leisure, for a full 7 days (4-11/06/17).
  • Download your personalised Certificate of Attendance for the event.

Save $149 – Mental Health Academy Premium members get free access to all Masterclass Days as a member benefit (on top of all the perks of MHA membership, including over 300 hours of online learning).


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Helping Clients Relax: Techniques that Focus on the Body


Most relaxation approaches understand that the main point is for the relaxation practitioner to attain a greater state of focus and concentration. What’s up for grabs with each technique is that which is focused on, and how. In this article, we’ll explore techniques where the practitioner focuses in some way on the body, either just observing it, or in some cases, actively tensing and then relaxing it. These techniques are: Progressive muscle relaxation, passive muscle relaxation, body scan meditation, yoga, Tai chi, and rhythmic movement techniques.


Progressive muscle relaxation


This common form of relaxation involves a two-step process in which the practitioner systematically tenses and relaxes different muscle groups in the body. As clients engage this regularly, they become intimately familiar with what tension, and also complete relaxation, feels like in the various parts of the body. As practitioners become more adept, they are able to spot early on the increasing muscular tension that comes with stress – and counteract it right away. As the client’s body relaxes, so does the mind. Generally, the sequence is to go from foot to head, pausing to tense and then relax each of these parts:

  • Right foot, then left foot
  • Right calf, left calf
  • Right thigh, left thigh
  • Hips and buttocks
  • Stomach
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Right arm and hand, left arm and hand
  • Neck and shoulders
  • Face

General instructions (to the client)

  1. With loose clothing, no shoes, and a comfortable position, take a few minutes to bring the focus inward, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.
  2. When you are ready to begin, shift your attention to your right foot, taking a moment to focus on how it feels.
  3. Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as possible. Hold for a count of 10.
  4. Relax your right foot. Notice the tension flowing away, and how your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
  5. Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
  6. When you’re ready, shift your attention to your left foot. Again squeeze tightly, holding for a count of 10 and then releasing the tension.
  7. Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the muscle groups as you go.
  8. Attempt to not tense muscles on which you are not focusing.



This form of relaxation practice can elevate blood pressure. Thus, those with high blood pressure and/or cardiovascular illness, and also those with a history of muscle spasms, back problems, or other injuries that may be aggravated by tensing muscles, should consult with their doctor before beginning this type of relaxation (Robinson et al, 2016).


Passive muscle relaxation


Similar to progressive muscle relaxation, passive muscle relaxation aims to relax each body part as it is focused on, but unlike the former, it does not involve tensing the muscles. In this sort of practice, clients imagine that their muscles are in a relaxed state. Does this work? Research has shown that just thinking about a stressor can cause muscles to tense up; similarly, thinking about relaxing them sends a signal to the brain to relax the muscles involved (Tripod, n.d.).


General instructions (to the client)


Work from foot to head, focusing on each body part in turn and imagining it relaxed. As with progressive muscle relaxation, you can use this sequence:

  • Right foot, then left foot
  • Right calf, left calf
  • Right thigh, left thigh
  • Hips and buttocks
  • Stomach
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Right arm and hand, left arm and hand
  • Neck and shoulders
  • Face



None indicated. Those with high blood pressure, cardiovascular illness, or chronic pain problems may be served better by this form of relaxation than progressive muscle relaxation in that muscle tension is avoided (Tripod, n.d.).


Body scan meditation


Similar to the previous two relaxation practices, the body scan meditation also focuses on each body part in turn, but rather than actively tense/relax each body part or imagine it to be relaxed, the practitioner simply brings the attention to each body part, focusing on the sensations that are found there. In this practice, more (and smaller) muscle groups are focused on.


General instructions (to the client)


Prepare for the meditation by lying on your back with legs uncrossed and arms at your sides; eyes can be open or closed. Spend a minute or two focusing on your breathing, watching your belly rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Then:

  1. Bring your attention to the toes of your right foot. Notice any sensations you feel while continuing to also focus on your breathing. Imagine each deep breath flowing to your toes. Keep this focus for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Move your attention to the sole of your right foot. Notice any sensations you feel there and imagine each breath flowing to the sole of your foot. After 1-2 minutes, shift your focus to the right ankle; repeat the sequence.
  3. Move to your calf, knee, thigh, and hip, again with a 1-2 minute focus on each.
  4. Repeat the sequence for each part of the left leg.
  5. Move up the torso, through the lower back and abdomen, the upper back and chest, and the shoulders, giving each part 1-2 minutes’ attention. Pay close attention to any part of the body causing pain or discomfort.
  6. Now bring your attention to the fingers of your right hand. After 1-2 minutes’ observation of sensations there, move to the wrist, forearm, and throat in turn, focusing 1-2 minutes on each of these parts. Repeat this sequence for your left arm.
  7. Then spend 1-2 minutes moving through each of the following: the neck and throat, all the areas of your face, the back of the head, and the top of the head. Pay close attention for 1-2 minutes each to your jaw, chin, lips, tongue, nose, cheeks, eyes, forehead, temples, and scalp.
  8. When you reach the very top of your head, let your breath reach out beyond your body and imagine hovering above yourself.
  9. After finishing the scan of each of the above body parts, relax for a while in silent stillness, staying attuned to how your body feels. Open your eyes, stretch, and slowly resume “normal life” (Robinson et al, 2016).



None indicated.




Yoga, the ancient Indian practice involving a series of both moving and stationary postures, combines with deep breathing to reduce anxiety and stress; enhance flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina; and induce the relaxation response. Having loyal proponents for thousands of years, yoga is now backed up by research showing that it lowers sympathetic nervous system arousal, blood pressure, and levels of stress hormones (such as cortisol). There are many forms of it, including satyananda yoga (a traditional form featuring gentle poses, deep relaxation, and meditation), hatha yoga (reasonably gentle and suitable for beginners), and power yoga, such as Astanga yoga: an intense style with dynamic postures.


General instructions


It is best to begin any practice of yoga with an instructor, either privately or in a class, as incorrect postures can lead to injuries. Failing a live teacher, the internet, most health-oriented outlets, and also some shops selling Indian goods have many choices of DVDs to guide new practitioners through the postures.




As noted, the intense stretches of some of the postures can exacerbate injuries when done incorrectly. Even when performed correctly, many yoga stretches may need to be modified for chronic injuries or even temporary conditions (such as when menstruating women agree to forgo upside-down postures to avoid discouraging the monthly flow from taking its normal course) (Robinson et al, 2016; Tripod, n.d.).


Tai Chi


Ever noticed that group of people in the park when walking the dog early in the morning? If they are moving slowly and rhythmically somewhat in unison, they may be doing Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese form of exercise originally conceived as a martial art. It is performed non-competitively now as a series of flowing movements which help calm the mind and tone the body, enhancing balance, and strengthening the relaxation response. Proponents claim it is also increases flexibility, strength, and muscular endurance (Weil, 2015). The focus in Tai Chi is on the breath and on being present in the moment.


General instructions


Clients should look for a class in their area, as most communities run a class through either community education programmes or sometimes privately.




The situation is more like indications than contraindications, as Tai Chi is a good low-impact option for all ages and fitness levels, and is particularly helpful for older adults and people recovering from injuries. With minimal stress put on joints and muscles and low risk of injury, it is an “anywhere, anytime” activity that can be done at one’s own pace (Weil, 2015; Robinson et al, 2016; Tripod, n.d.).


Other rhythmic movement techniques


Regular runners and swimmers can attest to the calming influence of rhythmic exercise movement, especially aerobic. One foot after the other, left arm/right arm in swimming strokes, or perhaps the regular, rhythmic movements of rowing: all can all create a meditative movement highly effective at producing the relaxation response. Dancing, walking, kayaking, and climbing can also engender the stress-relieving effects.


General instructions


The “trick” with these is to be fully engaged in the present moment, focusing not on thoughts, but on the sensation’s in one’s body and how breathing complements the movement. With walking, for example, a person could tend to the sensation of each foot as it hits the pavement/sand/grass, the rhythm of the breath, and the feel of the breeze against one’s body.  Especially for those who have experienced trauma, the mindfulness element of these movements can help “re-wire” nervous systems stuck in traumatic response.




Not all relaxation practitioners will be able to engage all forms of rhythmic movement techniques. Obvious examples are that those with arthritic knees will probably not be able to run. Shoulder or arm injuries may preclude rowing or kayaking. Some people do not know how to swim or feel traumatised being in/near water. Profoundly deaf people will not be able to hear the music in order to move in time to the beat for dancing, and so on. Too, other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, or other problems may prevent participation in these activities, but to the extent that one is able and interested, they can be helpful facilitators of the relaxation response (adapted from Robinson et al, 2016).


This article was adapted from Mental Health Academy’s upcoming “Helping Stressed Clients Relax” professional development course.




Robinson, L., Segal, R., Segal, J., & Smith, M. (2016). Relaxation techniques for stress relief. Retrieved on 22 March, 2017, from: hyperlink.


Tripod. (n.d.). Comparison between the fight/flight response and relaxation response. In Stress Management for Health Course. Retrieved on 22 March, 2017, from: hyperlink.


Weil, R. (2015). Tai Chi: What are the benefits of Tai Chi? Retrieved on 27 March, 2017, from: hyperlink.


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Trauma, ASD and PTSD


What is “trauma”? The word seems to be used inconsistently in the mental health field, sometimes referring to an adverse event and sometimes describing the psychological injury sustained from experiencing such an event. “Trauma” comes from the Greek word for “wound, hurt, or defeat”; before 1700 it was used to mean a physical injury, the sense in which many medical practitioners today use the word. The sense of a “psychic wound, [an] unpleasant experience which causes abnormal stress” has been in use from around 1900 (Harper, 2015) and is more aligned with the counselling and psychology sense. In this article, we will refer to trauma not as an event, but as the psychological injury which results from experience of the adverse event.


Click here to continue reading this article.



Counselling and the Brain: Five Major Processes


Counselling is shown to change the organisation of the brain: a learning process as the brain responds to stimuli and creates neural pathways to accommodate new information (Ivey, 2009). In this article we’ll briefly overview five important processes that explain the impact of counselling on the brain structure. These are: Neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, the importance of attention and focus, understanding emotion and focusing on strengths and positives.


Click here to continue reading this article.


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Have you visited Counselling Connection yet? There are hundreds of interesting posts including case studies, profiles, success stories, videos and much more. Make sure you too get connected (and thank you for those who have already submitted comments and suggestions).


Ten Commandments of Brain Fitness


Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it helps to keep us human beings alive, brain-wise. The basic idea of mind/brain fitness is to give your brain the best workout possible (to keep it growing and developing) by continuing to challenge it. The moment you find something is second nature, that is the moment to change it, bringing in some novelty. You can create that by being curious about your world and how it works. The brain is a physical organ, so diet and exercise come into play as well.


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Many students of the Diploma of Counselling attend seminars to complete the practical requirements of their course. Seminars provide an ideal opportunity to network with other students and liaise with qualified counselling professionals in conjunction with completing compulsory coursework.


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