Psychotherapy what? body-centered? The terminology is a little strange. Why is there a need to connect the body and the mind? After all, they exist on one continuum and there is no separation between them. But some would argue otherwise. In essence, the terminology represents an attempt to correct a historical injustice that created an artificial split between the body and the mind with far-reaching consequences in almost all areas of life.
The truth is that the connection between the body and the mind cannot be undone.
Our body has a lot of important information for us and we need to renew our connection with it, hence the term "body psychotherapy". Support for this also comes from brain science research which proves an inseparable connection between physical sensations, emotions and thoughts. The growing awareness of the effects of trauma on our lives, our psyche and our bodies, also strengthens these insights.
In short, we are moving forward (or deviating and then getting back on track…..)
Hundreds of years ago, the medieval rabbi and philosopher Maimonides (Rambam), who was a brilliant physician, treated the patient rather than the illness and saw the integrity of a person's psyche as inseparable from his health. In the book: The Leadership of Health, - an essay in which Maimonides lays out his medical doctrine and expands on the psychosomatic connection between the patient's mental state and his physical sensations, he writes: "The physician should think, every sick person has a constricted heart while the healthy is of a broad psyche" ...
The truth is that we are completely aware of the natural connection between the body and the mind. "I feel things in my stomach", "I sometimes have tightness in my chest", "I feel weakness in my knees due to excitement or fear", I have "nerves" in my body, anger "rises to my head", I feel disconnected and so on. In addition, we express feelings that we might prefer to hide through body language and respond spontaneously to other people's body language. Is their body language inviting? open? attractive? repelling? threatening? or electrifying?
Psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich (who is also considered the father of body psychotherapy), was among the first in his field to examine how mental distress effects the body while paying attention to the body's crucial role in developing defense mechanisms. In addition, all his research revolved around the universal life energy he discovered in inanimate matter, in the living cell and in the body. He understood the inseparable connection between the body and the psyche but also the connection of life itself to a field of universal energy, which he called Oregon. Later his research expanded to also include the ways of using that cosmic energy. He was looking for how to bring back the "pulsating flow", frozen in time to the life of the physical body and beyond. According to Reich, negative life experiences since childhood, cause an energetic blockage in the body which damages and reduces it's vitality. His perception was that identifying these blockages and the physical, mental and emotional ways to remove them, opens the way to well being and health.
Here, perhaps it is appropriate to point out that I was not certified in "body psychotherapy" for its own sake. I was certified in Polarity Therapy, founded by Dr. Randolph Stone, and all the principles of body-centered psychotherapy apply to it.
Reich was born in Austria in 1897 and immigrated to the USA in 1939.
Stone was born in Austria in 1890 and immigrated with his family to the USA in 1898.
It's quite amazing how similar their approach was.
Dr. Randolph Stone was a doctor of Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Naturopathy but also studied Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and Western and Eastern spiritual teachings. He concluded that electromagnetic polarity (like Reich's pulsatile flow) reflects a person's state of health. He held the opinion that this life energy is affected by movement, touch, state of mind and attitude toward life, as well as nutrition and environmental factors. According to his approach, we are conscious vibrating beings living in an infinite vibrating universe and the combination of physical, mental and spiritual well-being works to encourage the flow of energy, the restoration of health and the natural vibration in each person. Dr. Stone retired in 1973 and moved to India where he died happily in 1981 at the age of 91. Over the years, the psychotherapy module was also added to the Polarity Therapy curriculum thanks to Dr. John Beaulieu, Psychiatrist (& Musician) by training and was called Body-Centered Counseling
"Health is not merely of the body, it is the natural expression of the body, mind & soul, of love, when they are in rhythm with the One Life; True health is the harmony of life within us, consisting of peace of mind, happiness and well-being. It is not merely a question of physical fitness, but is rather the result of the soul finding free expression through the mind and body of that individual. The body is an earthly temple and has only the happiness in its fields that the thinker or the artist in the body builds into it.'
״Life is a song.
It has its own rhythm of harmony.
It is a symphony of all things which exist in major and minor keys of Polarity.
It blends the discords, by opposites, into a harmony which unites the whole into a grand symphony of life.
To learn through experience in this life, to appreciate the symphony and lessons of life
and to blend with the whole,
is the object of our being here״.
Dr. Randolph Stone. Founder of Polarity Therapy
What Treatment does body psychotherapy offers?
Basically, this is an integrative treatment that combines diverse therapeutic techniques, emphasizing the continuum between words, feelings and body sensations. Words can deceive and the mind is a master of illusion but the body never lies. Our body tries to signal us, and reflect the conflicts we carry, the unresolved feelings we have learned to ignore and our very sensitive nervous system that cannot always regulate the flood of information. Most of the time, our body expresses this through sensations, aches & pains as well as illnesses.
"The mind is our inner politician" wrote Dr. Toby Browning (originator of Holistic Pulsing), "capable of selling us any theory, fantasy and denial of reality that we refuse to see clearly, and it's fickle and tends to change its mind frequently. Our body will urge us to change our way of life, if it's not right for us, and will cry out loud by any means possible; from fatigue and back pain to cancer. On the other hand, our mind, which is afraid of changes, will try to divert us from listening to our truth even when we are subjected to extreme situations."
Guidelines in body psychotherapy:
- All the information needed for recovery exists within the person and/or their field.
- Body awareness is an integral part of the therapeutic process and is a reliable source of information about a person's inner world.
- We will always attend to body language while listening to narratives and will pay attention to incompatibility between them.
- We will find creative and experiential ways to connect with the body, focus and follow its sensations.
- We will allow a safe space for the emotional and sensory presence of a charged experience here and now so that we can process it.
- With the help of the tools at our disposal, we will strive to develop the ability to regulate senses and emotions in real time.
Among the methods, techniques & tools integrated in body psychotherapy:
Mindfulness, Breathing & Relaxation, Focusing, the Tourney, Guided Visualisation, Family-Systemic Constellation, Psychodrama & Movement, working with internal parts such as Voice Dialogue or IFS (Internal Family Systems) or Gestalt, Somatic Experiencing according to Peter Levin, Polarity Therapy, The Rosen Method, Hakomi and more.
Treatment by a body psychotherapist does not require touch, but in some cases the therapist may offer the patient touch therapy in order to access deeper feelings which are less accessible with presencing alone and in order to release energetic blockages. The use of touch in treatment will be by consent and the patient's feelings and experience during the session will be monitored.
What is the difference between body treatments and body psychotherapy?
Body psychotherapy puts at the center of focus the emotional & cognitive well-being of the patient and the body, being an inseparable part of life, is helping to presence it. In body work such as Reflexology or Shiatsu or any other work that emphasizes the release of blockages and the flow of energy in the body, a shift in the emotional well-being is one of the desired results, but the emphasis is more physical.
How does Body Psychotherapy expresses in my room?
I am present with the patient and "tailor" the session for them, for their needs and preferences. I practice psychotherapy and always maintain in therapy the continuum between the mind, the body, the current and the inter-generational field as well as the soul's journey. In addition to traditional tools, I integrate tools from Mindfulness, Presencing & Transparent Communication, Family Constellation, Trauma-focused Psychotherapy, use of cards such as COPE, drawing & writing, Internal Parts Dialogue, NLP, Resourcing and integrating different patterns through the intuitive tools of Theta Healing, Guided Visualization, and more.
(More detailed information about all the methods I learned here.)