Can the Alba Method be used in therapy and coaching practices?
Alba Emoting was first used to train actors during its initial development in the late 1900s. It is now a sought-after and highly valuable technique for use in various professional fields, including coaching and therapy. The Alba Method can be used to facilitate emotion awareness, regulation and transformation. It can also be used to help coaches and therapists better recognize their own and their clients’ emotions.
Alba training workshops focus on teaching participants how to replicate the six respiratory-postural-facial emotional patterns. This is a slow and intensive training process (typically taught over 5-7 days with 4-6 hours of study each day) where participants learn to replicate specific breathing patterns and also isolate muscles in the face and body that organically trigger the basic emotions. Once these patterns are successfully applied by the participant, an emotional induction is felt. Participants then learn to control and master these patterns, as well as apply them to simple daily activities like walking, sitting, speaking, and interacting with others. Throughout this training process participants gain a clear and de-personalized knowledge of how emotions are felt throughout the entire body and how they are expressed in various activities. Mixed emotional states are demystified, because practitioners can now de-construct these complex expressions down to their basic components and recognize where and how the mixes are coming in and being expressed. Participants gain incredible personal insight on their own expressive habits, as well as learn how to read the emotions expressed by others so much more clearly.
Training in the Alba Method can be achieved on various levels, and Alba Associations and Boards indentify their practitioner’s knowledge and allowable use of the technique in the form of certifications. Certification Levels (CL) are awarded from Level One (Personal Use) all the way up to Level Five (Academic Level and Teacher Trainer). After each workshop, participants are informed of their certification level and provided with clarifications on their qualifications and abilities for using, sharing, coaching, and/or teaching the patterns to others. However, it is ultimately up to the individual to determine how they would use this method within their own profession, and ascertain its appropriateness. Nancy Mercer, a therapist and CL1 Alba Practitioner, offers that “both therapists and coaches have strong ethical guidelines that precludes them practicing in a discipline for which they have no training. Navigating this grey area seems to be a normal part of practice. The therapist has an ethical responsibility to use techniques and methods that are appropriate and relevant to the client’s needs and related goals of therapy—so the Alba Method would be used only in this context.”[i]
The Alba method, and the science behind it, is a stand-alone technique that can be used by coaches and therapists toward meeting their unique and discrete goals and objectives. Psychotherapy and coaching naturally overlap and it is up to the coach to be clear where the line might be crossed into therapy.
Coaching can be distinguished from therapy in a number of ways, explains Deanne Prymek, Newfield Network Director of Programs and CL2 trained Alba practitioner.
“Coaching, as defined by the International Coach Federation[i], is a profession that supports personal and professional growth and development based on individual-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is forward moving and future focused. Therapy, on the other hand, deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past which hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with present life and work circumstances in more emotionally healthy ways. Therapy outcomes often include improved emotional/feeling states. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life.”[ii]
Nancy Mercer further explains the distinctions between these two professions by stating, “Therapy can be defined as the treatment of mental and emotional disorders through the use of psychological techniques designed to encourage communication of conflicts and insight into problems, with the goal being relief of symptoms, personality growth, and behavior modification.”
The study of emotions and its direct application to therapy is a fairly new development in psychotherapy practices. Therapist and CL5 certified Alba Practitioner, Juan Pablo Kalawski explains “For decades psychological theories viewed emotions as third-class phenomena, after behavior and cognition. In recent years, psychological science has finally began to acknowledge that emotions are not just epiphenomena but rather serve important functions in organizing thoughts and behavior. Understandably, theories of psychotherapy have lagged behind in integrating the science of emotions into clinical practice. Lacking a theoretical understanding of emotions and specific methods to work with them, therapists fall back on what they know, that is, working with behaviors and thoughts and hoping that emotions follow suit. Slowly, however, theorists have begun to present coherent approaches to working with emotions in psychotherapy.” [iii]
Nancy Mercer offers that good therapy practices incorporate many different approaches, “There are multiple models and approaches to psychotherapy and some are borrowed from other disciplines. The use of Alba in therapy would be an example of this. (Other examples might be Mindfulness, Yoga, Expressive Arts).”
In the domain of ontological coaching, Deanne Prymek clarifies how the coach might use the Alba Method, “The ontological coach embodies powerful distinctions in language, moods & emotions, and somatics. The Alba method is strongly effective in supporting clients designing they’re way forward with specific practices in how they want to show up in emotion & postural stance as they prepare for that meeting with their boss, the board members, or their employees without needing to go in to the past in a therapeutic way.”Newfield Coach and CL1 certified Alba practitioner Carol Harris-Fike, further explains[iv] “Our emotions are influenced by our breath, body disposition, and especially facial muscles. It gets one out of the story and supports a shift if the client wants to go there. I support Alba as another tool for the coach in understanding and identifying emotions (in themselves as well as the client)”
Emotional awareness skills are greatly enhanced by studying the Alba Method. Not only will learning the method help coaches and therapists more clearly understand how they and their clients are expressing themselves, but after more advanced training a coach or therapist can work with a client to become more clear on what they are really feeling and expressing. Juan Pablo Kalawski clarifies this need by explaining, “Some clients can easily identify their feelings, whereas others have great difficulty. Often, clients may only be able to identify being ‘upset’ or ‘stressed’ without further elaboration. A finer distinction among emotions may help clients better identify their associated needs and action tendencies. Alba Emoting provides a clear and physical way to distinguish among different emotions. When a client has experienced the respiratory postural-facial patterns of the basic emotions, he or she is subsequently better able to recognize when those patterns are spontaneously aroused.”
A CL3 trained Alba practitioner can take the Alba Method and its use to a higher level in their practice, if they determine its use as appropriate, and actually coach a client in and out of different emotions and help them become aware of how the emotion really feels in their breath and muscles. At this level of their expertise an Alba practitioner can not only deconstruct the emotional expressions of their clients and more clearly identify if a client is blocking, suppressing, or avoiding emotions, but they can also help guide a client through experiencing the differences between emotional states. Juan Pablo Kalawski points out, “Emotional awareness necessitates actual emotional experience. This process, however, can be blocked by emotional avoidance. Often, clients avoid experiencing painful feelings due to fears of being overwhelmed by them, of being out of control or of not being able to calm down afterwards. Alba Emoting can be a valuable resource in helping clients deal with these concerns. Alba Emoting is empowering, as it provides clients with a tool to step in and out of an emotion at will.”
Therapist, Ontological Coach, and CL1 trained Alba practitioner, Ondine Norman, describes the objective, and non-therapeutic, learning environment established within Alba trainings, “Anytime you explore the emotional realm it can potentially bring up “real life” feelings for people. But the exploration is not a form of psychotherapy nor are any of the teachers of alba emoting therapists. Just as in coaching, Alba Emoting workshops may have a therapeutic impact on people because it creates a safe place to explore emotions and how to express them in the body, but that is not the point of the workshop. The purpose is to be able to explore the emotional realm in a somatic and objective way without a lot of story attached.” [i]
The Alba Method is an incredibly valuable technique that can be used in various ways to support the work of coaches and therapists as they deem appropriate to their practice and within the boundaries of their profession. Laura’s Alba Method workshops in 2015 and 2016 are approved by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) for Continuing Coaching Education Credits (CCEs). Learn more about upcoming Alba workshops here.
(This post is a segment from a larger article found through this link – Alba_for Coaches and Therapists)
[i] Email interview conducted in September, 2015
[i] International Coaching Federation web page and FAQs http://www.coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=978&navItemNumber=567
[ii] Email interview conducted in September, 2015
[iii] Using alba emoting to work with emotions in psychotherapy, Juan Pablo Kalawski, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Wiley Online Library, DOI:10.1002/cpp.790
[iv] Email interview conducted in September, 2015
[i] Email interview conducted in September, 2015