This study aimed to understand the structure of paying attention to better train mental health clinicians in their client sessions. The study focused on expert meditators who are also psychotherapists because meditators are specifically trained to pay attention to their experience. This study provided rich descriptions of the meditators’ experience using a specific interview method. Fourteen clinicians were interviewed about a particular moment of paying attention in a psychotherapy session. The results showed that attention has two levels, a conscious awareness in the mind and a non-conscious awareness in the body. The expert meditators first tapped the knowledge of their bodies using a deliberate intuitive process, then intentionally taking the intuitive process into their minds to understand their attention and use with their clients in the session. Knowing the structure of attention as bodily-based is important in training clinicians and working with human beings in general. Attention is not limited to our minds; attention also involves our bodies. These results are important for everyone and should be extended to training children in the school system, students in university and adults in the work force. We should all learn specific ways to pay attention to our bodies, in addition to our minds.

Ellen Katz

University of Toronto