History of the Model

Foojan Zeine

Dr. Foojan Zeine, Originator of Awareness Integration Model

Dr. Foojan Zeine, is the originator of the Awareness Integration Model, She has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist.

She writes about her 25 years journey in developing this model:

The journey toward the creation of the AI model begins with the time that I attended a Humanistic Existentialist school, learned gestalt theory, and became very proficient in Cognitive Behavioral theory and techniques while being trained under an object relation oriented supervisor. I learned EMDR and hypnosis and EFT to work on traumas. Therapy had become about the now and the past. What I noticed was that although I facilitated a process for my clients to revisit their past and heal themselves through the emotions, perceptions and the meaning of what that they had experienced, the negative core beliefs and the emotional charge that was stored there would remain, and fuel the schema that they had created in different areas of their lives. It seemed that at best, a very seasoned client could first get triggered, and somewhere in the middle of emoting or acting out, would notice this behavior and consciously stop. Clients often had to then shift the meaning to change the emotion temporarily, until the next automatic trigger would appear.

One day on a cruise to Mexico as I was sitting beside the pool placing an order with the waiter, I felt an intense emotion take hold of my heart and stomach as the waiter walked away. As I was watching his back move farther and farther away, I started tearing up, my throat tightened, I could not breath easily anymore and an overwhelming pain physically drew me inward. I closed my eyes and focused on my body’s sensations; I felt sorrow, grief and abandonment. My conscious self knew very well that this intense emotion was not toward the waiter, who I just saw and met for a short period of time, but that he had triggered some memory that I had held on to with intense emotional charge and had tucked away for some reason.

Digging deeper, I realized that this feeling stemmed all the way back to my parents’ divorce. My parents divorced when I was five years old, and at the time of their separation I lived with my mother. As a result, I did not see my father that much, and my feeling of abandonment and subsequent sorrow resonated from that place. This seemed a very logical conclusion. I checked all the meanings that I had assigned to those events and reframed those events, as I had done so much work on these issues with my therapists and had facilitated these procedures for my clients. However, the emotions persisted and the physical sensation that appeared with it remained uncomfortable.

I decided to be with the emotion and experience the sensations fully in my body, to name it and see what thoughts were associated with it, and to explore the negative core belief that was fueling the experience. Then I wondered if I stayed with the sensation and the muscles of that particular area of my body to guide me to the first time or any time that I had felt sorrow and grief and had told myself that I am being left and abandoned. This question took me through a time tunnel of memories that passed in front of my eyes, similar to the experience I had with EMDR, but this time I was not moving my eyes, nor someone was tapping on my body. I then saw, visually, a memory of myself as a very young girl in a cold room, sitting on a changing table with both my parents all ready and dressed up, standing beside another lady who looked neither kind nor caring. I watched my parents waving their hands, turning around and walking out the door. I saw my dad’s back as he walked out last. The little girl in my memory was shocked and had no idea where they went, or why. She was only left with a woman she did not know inside a cold room. I started crying and felt the muscles of my gut, stomach and chest finally release and let go. I noticed myself crying like I cried when I was a 6-month-old baby and let go of the emotion. I had learned from Dr. Albert Ellis how to focus and bring down my emotion consciously, but this time I was conscious and it was happening naturally.

That intense charge and trigger never came back and I never it felt again no matter how many times men moved away from me.

I began practicing this method on any emotionally charged experience, and I was releasing constantly with no relapse. I began using the technique with my clients, many of whom I had worked with to release their childhood traumas, real or perceived, via CBT, hypnosis and EMDR. And my clients reported accessing memories, and especially original memories, with which the emotional charges were related; and they were releasing them like never before. They no longer felt emotionally charged up and reactive during their daily activities.

Then I brought all that I knew and had learned from the two worlds of coaching and psychotherapy, all the great theorists, my supervisors, teachers, and most of all my clients, to formulate a structured model: Awareness Integration Model ®. As a model, it addresses the past, present, and the future. It focuses on beliefs, emotions, and behavior, and integrates the mind and body, awareness of who we are for ourselves, who we are with others, and who others are for us. It identifies negative core beliefs, the negative emotional charges around them, and releases the emotional charge, providing healing from the real or perceived traumatic events of the past and bringing those who experienced them to neutral or positive beliefs and emotions about the self and others. It lends itself to the creation of conscious goals and committed action plans to create specific and tangible results in all areas of one’s life.

The structure of looking at every aspect of life has helped clients to consciously address different areas of their lives, including family, children, finances, past relationships, current intimate relations/marriage, sexuality, and a broad spectrum of interpersonal spheres. These areas would not necessarily be addressed when a client comes to therapy with a particular concern.

I had learned in many years of practicing Yoga, how to observe my thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. I frequently wondered how come we are not taught this as a part of a school curriculum. Self-observation and reflection is one of the most unique and important tasks that we do as human beings in comparison with animals, and yet this skill is not consciously taught to us as we mature. If we are to be co-creators of our lives, if we are to be responsible and accountable for who we are, how we are, what we create and our impact toward others, we must first be proficient in the skill of self-observation. Therefore, a series of questions were designed to promote self-awareness and observation of self-thought, emotion, and behavior toward oneself and others.

Since we do get trained to be externally oriented and therefore utilize projection as an important tool to relate to the external world, it is also important to become aware of how we project thoughts, intentions, and emotions from others as well as the ways we interpret others behaviors through our projections. We relate and then act and react to others from our own projected thought and emotion. We automatically live a projected life with others. In order to have healthier relations with others, to be closer to the objective reality than the subjective one in our own minds, we need to become conscious of our projections. Therefore, a series of questions were also designed to promote the awareness of our projections.

In the years that I have worked with clients, I have noticed that clients hold an identity that translates into particular roles in different areas of their lives. The same person could hold a particular identity and play a particular part being a business owner, an employee, a dad, a son, or a husband. At times these roles conjure up a different set of values, beliefs and therefore, emotions and behaviors from one area of life to another. For example, a man could operate from a different set of values and beliefs as a son to his father versus being a father to his own child. It is apparent that childhood experiences and core beliefs have structured these identities to operate automatically in different areas of life. In order to evaluate and enhance or change the outcome and/or relatedness of any area of our life, we have to become conscious of the identity that we are operating from subconsciously. Only then are we able to shift parts of it. Therefore, a series of questions have similarly been created so that the client becomes aware of the beliefs, emotions, and behaviors that set up their identity and how they view themselves in each role.

The Structure of asking specific questions in every area that a client deals with on a daily basis helps the client to become aware and conscious of their thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviors. This supports the client becoming more responsible and accountable about the results that they create and the effect that they have on others and their surroundings with their behaviors, and raises their self-esteem and confidence.

The structured questions in every area that the client relates to and deals with create a foundation for awareness and therefore accountability of the results that they have and continuously create in their lives. However, the structure is open and flexible enough that it allows the therapists to ask as many more questions as they see fit.

As the client experiences emotional charge about a particular belief or memory while answering the questions, therapist can entice deeper exploration with body focusing and hypnotic techniques within the AI model. This deeper exploration can lead to finding the original memories that have ignited the negative core beliefs and the extreme emotions that have separated and dissociated from the whole system. Here the therapist has a chance with the client to heal the past real or perceived trauma and re-parent and integrate that part into the whole system.

After the re-integration of the past has completed, then an envisioning of the future with a specific action plan can be set up for different areas of the client’s life. Skill building for new goals in different areas of life can be identified and learned.

Awareness Integration Model® has added depth and healing to coaching, brief, and solution focused theories and interventions.

AI has also added structure, systematic skill building, and future planning toward achieving one’s tangible goals to long-term in-depth theories and interventions. With AI the client experiences deep therapy within a brief period of time while cleaning up the past, and builds a vision and action plan towards a future. Most importantly, AI model’s structure is flexible enough that the therapist with any chosen orientation can use this model and bring who they are as a therapist in the room with the client.