Body centered psychotherapy, also known as 心理治療 somatic psychotherapy, encompasses a variety of approaches to psychological health that acknowledge the importance of the body in forming our experience of life and actively use the body in therapy as a source of information and a resource for healing. The feelings, emotions and impulses that arise from the body are an integral part of our experience of life but we often repress, cut off or don’t recognize them due to our physiological and psychological adaptations to the constraints of our environment.
Working with the body in psychotherapy opens up a wealth of options for understanding, experiencing and healing that conventional talk therapy is often unable to tap due to the control of the conscious over cognition and verbal expression, the body’s role in creating the physical sensations that are the root of emotion and the bodies role in maintaining muscular tension that anchors and reinforces our characterological responses to our environment. Body centered psychotherapy helps us deal with our concerns by helping us become deeply aware of our bodily sensations, feelings and impulses as well as our emotions, thoughts and behavior.
Body centered psychotherapy does this largely through awareness, action and resourcing. Awareness is developed in body centered psychotherapy through scanning and tracking such things as sensations, feelings, emotions, breath and tension. Action expresses impulses, releases tension or constriction and either builds or releases energy through grounding, movement and expression. Body centered psychotherapy exponentially teaches clients to value and utilizing their bodies as a resource for security, power and pleasure.
Throughout the process of body psychotherapy the client is directed to develop increasing awareness of their bodily sensations and experiences. As a client of body centered psychotherapy, you will become more conscious of how you breathe, move, speak, and where you experience feelings in your body. This is beneficial in numerous ways.
- Emotions are cognitive interpretations of feelings that develop out of bodily reactions to stimuli. Because emotions are generated out of bodily sensation, developing a greater awareness of bodily sensations gives us a much more immediate, profound and nuanced experience and understanding of our emotional experiences and the feeling states that generate them than is possible through purely cognitive work.
- Body centered psychotherapy directs the client’s awareness to tightness and constriction that choke off feelings, emotions, vitality and lock the client into a limited pattern of perceiving and reacting to their environment.
- It creates awareness about the experience or belief that led to a particular constriction, impulse or sensation and allows the client to reevaluate the usefulness of the belief to them in the present on a much more primal level than is possible through discourse.
- Awareness of bodily sensations also put us in touch with our natural rhythms of breathing, moving, acting and healing. Moving at the pace of these natural rhythms allows our body, mind and psyche to operate as efficiently as possible, which allows us to deal with challenges more effectively, aids in our healing and contributes to our growth and evolution.
- Awareness exercises are particularly useful for managing anxiety, dissociation and compulsions.
A Body Centered Psychotherapist is also able to assist the client in using movement and physical expression in therapy. This can be very directive, such as through the use of Bioenergetic stances and exercises or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, involve physical contact, such as in Reichian muscle armor manipulation, or be non-directive, such as in Authentic Movement, and many variations in between.
- Use of physical expression develops greater awareness of physical sensation and impulses.
- Release tension and constriction in the body
- Release trauma reactions held in the nervous system and musculature of the body
- Can either build or release energy
- Movement and physical expression can be a powerful tool for moving through areas in our life where we are stuck such as when we are struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain and compulsions.
Body centered psychotherapy directs the client’s awareness to a broad array of sensations and movements that can become a powerful source of grounding, wisdom and pleasure for the client. Client’s who have use Body Centered Psychotherapy as a path to healing often find their body to be a tremendous resource for them outside of therapy. The consciousness and skills developed in Body Centered Psychotherapy can serve as:
- A source of grounding and energy management to deal with anxiety, depression and tension
- A secure base and source of power for accomplishing your dreams
- A resource for information, intuition and wisdom that our busy mind often overlooks
- A tremendous source of pleasure and joy.
- A guide for finding one’s true path when navigating difficult transitions and adjustments such as relationship issues, career changes, sexual identity issues, gender identity issues and coping with grief and loss.
- It is also tremendously valuable to clients who are committed to going beyond the point of being conventionally “healthy” and who want to developing deeper self awareness and achieving a greater sense of joy and fulfillment in their lives.
Body centered psychotherapy takes many forms running the range from highly directive to completely nondirective, involving a lot of physical contact between therapist and client to none at all or using specific exercises and interventions to focusing solely on breath or bodily experience. Some modalities such as Bioenergetic Analysis, Hakomi Method or EMDR are highly psychological while others such as Feldenkrais Method or Rolfing look more like massage or physical therapy; still others such as Authentic Movement are more akin to dance.
Some exercise modalities such as yoga, qigong and tai chi are rarely classified as body centered psychotherapy but operate with similar principles and can produce some similar results. Within the scope of body centered psychotherapy is a broad range of options for clients to choose from. Overall, the awareness of the self developed through body centered psychotherapy deepens our cognitive understanding of ourselves, provides us with a rich and rewarding understanding of ourselves and others, a solid foundation for stability and growth, and a great source of dynamic power, pleasure and vitality.