Body Psychotherapy

Body Psychotherapy considers an individual as a whole, by addressing the physical body, emotions, mind and spirit: it understands all emotional and mental problems in the context of the body/mind as a whole system. For recurring problems to be resolved, mental insight is often not enough – something needs to happen that affects all levels of our being. Body Psychotherapists pay a lot of attention to the connections (or disconnections) between feeling and thinking, between physical sensations and images, between spontaneous impulses and patterns of relating. So a session may involve anything from touch to movement, massage, art, imagery, physical exercise or any combination of these. This is because psychotherapy should be a space in which you can be and become who you really are. For that to come about, ALL of your body/mind needs to be involved.

About Body Psychotherapy

The body is like a mirror of thoughts and feelings. All our attitudes express themselves in the manner in which we move, hold, contract or tense, relax or expand our bodies. In every situation of our lives all external and internal circumstances are somehow memorised and stored in the cells of the body, creating innumerable inner connections.

Pleasurable thoughts and feelings bring about an expansion and lightness in the physical body; repeated or chronic conflicts with others at home or work cause tightness and a sense of narrowness, in the mind as well as in the muscles and other body tissues. If this ‘narrowness’ goes on for too long or becomes unbearable, the body remains in a constant state of contraction and may get ill. In the early stages, dis-ease may manifest as aches, pains, tensions, fatigue, listlessness and exhaustion. If little or no attention is paid to these symptoms they may eventually develop into more severe emotional/physical disturbances such as depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunctions, desperate loneliness and illness.

Body Psychotherapists may make use of an eclectic range of techniques, some of which could involve working directly with the body. Some of these are derived from other therapeutic approaches (e.g. Biodynamic Massage, Gestalt, Psychodrama, Transactional Analysis, Psychosynthesis). Even the simple use of body awareness can open up a whole neglected world of information, both for client and therapist.

Integrative Body Psychotherapy

The term ‘Body Psychotherapy’ was coined by the European Association for Body Psychotherapy in 1991 and is rooted in a tradition since 1920 which has developed from the work of Wilhelm Reich. Integrative Body Psychotherapy encompasses various different approaches to working with the body, mainly Reichian Vegetotherapy and Biodynamic Psychology. It is integrative because it assimilates other philosophies, models and methods such as Gestalt, transpersonal approaches and Object Relations. It is called Body Psychotherapy because it takes particular account of the way the body too is involved in our psychological life, holding trauma and expressing distress, as well as embodying and expressing well-being and pleasure.

Our approach is holistic. We believe that we have to pay attention to the whole person. Only by increasing our awareness of our body, mind, heart and soul can we develop a deeper and truer sense of our self.

The therapist may sometimes work directly with the body, using touch – in massage for example – or work with breathing or body sensations without touching. This work may take place while you sit on a chair, mattress or cushion, or you may lie down on a massage table or a mattress on the floor.

Alternatively, you may spend some or most of your time sitting in chairs, when talking and listening are the main activities. Exactly how you work together will develop out of discussions, and will take as much account as possible of your expressed needs and wishes as well as being guided by the therapist’s professional judgment.

Chiron ‘the Wounded Healer’
In Greek mythology, Chiron was a wise elder and healer amongst the centaurs, and although a healer, he could not cure the wound in his own knee. The Wounded Healer symbol encourages and allows therapists to stay connected with their own wounds and vulnerability as the basis for understanding and meeting both the pain and the potential of those they work with.

For more information on Body Psychotherapy, see the CABP website