Successfully navigating the many faces of our emotional states including sadness, fear and anger often compromises our abilities to maintain the very relationships that we cherish.  For a child or teen it will be our family members, teachers and schoolmates, and our peers and friends.  For an adult it will be our partner, aging parents, siblings, children, workmates and friends.  Regulating our feelings is crucial to making and keeping friends, being successful in school, and maintaining a job.  Positive relationships are the cornerstone of achieving calmness and happiness.

Bruce Perry, trauma expert, points out that the way we heal and lead healthy lives is to have patterned repetitive and calm, predictable experiences.  Breathe Rock Draw! promotes invitational, calm conversations by structuring activities in three areas (breathing exercises, rhythm routines, and drawing/ writing), strategies so simple that anyone can develop their own “exercise program” and practice these skills several times a day.  Such therapeutic and calm experiences, while not erasing old memories, provide new and healthy memories.  Our brains were originally designed for a more primitive and dangerous world rather than our modern world.  Yet, it is our brains that act as the control centre for everything we do from scratching our noses to falling in love. Our brains store and organize memories, and brains filter our experiences, based on our past experiences.

The Breathe! Rock! Draw! Structure:

There are three components of “Breathe! Rock! Draw!”  Each session will always include a breathing warm-up (reconnection to body), a physical activity to include rhythmic or rocking motion (recalibration of body) and a drawing component (reflection) that leads to a talking/sharing wrap-up.  The format of the session will be structured as:

Positive Affirmation:  such as "I am kind. I am smart. I am important." Remember that what we say and what we think, we create!  The example affirmation came from the movie called The Help, where a maid/nanny was teaching the affirmation to young charges in her care. When we wish loving kindness to others and ourselves, when we wish safe wellbeing and have gratitude for others, then kindness and compassion come naturally.

Warm-up and Discussion: A quick "thermometer check" comment from the individual such as addressing "give one word which shows how you are feeling today" starts the therapeutic conversation.  Psychoeducation of trauma, relaxation ideas, sharing the trauma narrative, addressing safety, cognitively understanding the process all contribute to a healthier self through attention and emotional regulation.    

Breathing Activity: Introducing breathing techniques and ideas as a "way of life" to calm the brain in order help people make important decisions is a cornerstone of Breathe! Rock! Draw! 

Rock/Rhythm Activity:  Encouraging a "bottom up" approach in terms of brain science involves calming the body and regulating body sensations first.  Trauma is a sensory experience.  Our bodies take in stress and trauma through our senses.  Also we can be affected by  images on our 'inner television screen', and also be driven by our feelings and our thoughts. Clear thinking can result in breathing calmly first to slow down our anxiety and traumatic emotional and physical reactions, and then rhythmically introducing a rocking/walking activity to regulate and balance our bodies.  Many people under stress have had the experience of feeling "off" and unbalanced or even worse, acting like they have flipped their "brain lids" and become completely dysregulated by the smallest of events.  You are not alone.  Introducing this type of exercise program must be done frequently, often several times a day, before transitioning to any new (and especially stressful) activity.  

Drawing Activities:   The role of the co-regulator is to be a curious observer asking questions about the art activity once completed, and not to process or projectively interpret the art product itself.  Drawing, journalling, writing and painting all bring out the creative and imaginative side of an individual.  If one can "draw" one can imagine.  If one can imagine, one can also return to a state of hope.    

Homework assignment:  Homework assignments will be unique in nature and promote the practice of emotional self-regulation, recalibration of the body, and encourage reflection of this therapeutic journey. 

Breathe! Rock! Draw! is not "just" counselling.  While time is devoted to sharing one's story and making connections to the current situation, it is a life approach about helping people of all ages make good decisions. Equipped with the newest information about the brain, and the right tools to help calm oneself, clients become the master of their own future and feel safe and connected to the important people in their lives.