What is Body Psychotherapy?
Body Psychotherapy is a specific form of psychotherapy rooted in the principle that we are a ‘body-mind’ and our conscious experiencing is created through a fusion of our body, made up of our bodily hormones, nervous system, glands, physiology and sensory motor systems; and our minds comprising our cognition and active perception. The principle of Body Psychotherapy is that the body is a reflection of our affective states and as such our affective states become reflected in our bodies. Working with our bodies allows us to develop insight and understanding into how and why we experience the world in the way we do.
History of Body Psychotherapy
Body Psychotherapy evolved from the work of Wilhelm Reich who took forward and adapted Freud’s original work on the body and libido. He established the theory of character-structure that proposes how the human body physically constricts based on the degree to which an individual suffers from each section of a seven-fold existential crises based on their innate rights to exist, to need, to express, to exert, to succeed, to defend and to err. When these rights are excessively violated by a primary caregiver, or to a lesser extent by later relationships throughout the lifecycle, the body physical constricts as a result of the muscular tension required to prevent natural expression of these needs.
Body Psychotherapy developed through the foundation of Reich’s work but also through the pioneering influence of others such as Alexander Lowen and his concept of Bioenergetics, Pierrakos’ Core Energetics and Raknes’ Biodynamic Psychology. It has been established and developed in the UK by the Chiron Association for Body Psychotherapists.
Key Terms in Body Psychotherapy
- Affect Regulation
- Character Structures
- Body Scan
- Mind-Body Split
Where Body Psychotherapy is useful
The techniques in Body Psychotherapy provide help with connecting with one’s own physiological states and understanding the relationship between emotions and physiology. These can include:
- Freeing and releasing muscular tension and emotional blockages related to trauma or developmental issues
- Developing the relationship between the mind and the body
- Understanding the integration between mind and body
- Understanding the causes of psycho-somatic issues and helping reverse them
- Discovering existential issues that relate to physiological character structuring
- Discovering your relational physiology
Where Body Psychotherapy may not be useful
Body Psychotherapy is not a historical or contextual psychotherapy in that it does not help provide tools to build identity and narrative for an individual’s lifecycle which are sometimes a very necessary foundation before exploring the inner workings and potential traumas of the physical body. Many of the techniques in Body Psychotherapy can also be found in Yoga, Meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Mindfulness and other disciplines that require focus and attention on the breath and the body and thus when used in context of a talking therapy can be better applied in conjunction with such disciplines and other integrated therapeutic perspectives.