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What is Body Psychotherapy?

Body Psychotherapy sees our body as indivisible from our mind.  It places body-mind connection as central to a person's sense of their self;  a person's sense of self is seen as experienced in the body and through the body. 
 
Most modern modalities of Body Psychotherapy have been developed from, and maintain a link to, theories developed by Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957).  Reich was a student and colleague of Freud and further developed Freud's theories of childhood development and how it affects the mind.  While Freud withdrew from using touch in psychoanalysis and developed his talking cure, Reich wished to reclaim the body as a source of aliveness and connectedness and believed this could be done by working directly with the body.  Reich developed his theory of Character structure and saw muscular armour as history frozen in space;  He saw that different early development shocks or difficulties relating to birth, feeding, expression of childhood anger and sexuality can affect the free flow of body energy, producing energetic blocks, which he called ‘character armouring’.  Reich believed that this muscular armour held locked-up energy which could be released by loosening these chronically contracted muscles and did this by using breath, massage, bodily postures and exercises.  

Following Reich, there were many developments and strands of Body Psychotherapy.  Tim Brown gives an excellent summary of this and Body Psychotherapy in general in his article on Body Listening, 2012.
The drive energy theories of traditional body psychotherapy have become more relational in recent approaches. 
 
Disconnection from our own embodiment both protects and deepens our wounds.  We are disconnected from relationship because we are disconnected from our bodies, and vice versa.  Much of the work of body psychotherapy is about freeing our ability to access our current body experience and to process complex somatic states. It aims to harmonise our bodies, emotions and thoughts, honouring somatic, non-verbal and the unconscious alongside the verbal.

Somatic methods within trauma therapy have increased the awareness of Body Psychotherapy within Psychotherapy as a whole.

Some useful books to read around Trauma are:
Kimberley Ann Johnson:  Call of the Wild (2021) - (A brilliant introduction to the work with a particular focus on trauma in Women.)
Babette Rothschild: The Body Remembers (2000)
Peter Levine:  Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma (1997)
and 
Bessel Van der Kolk:  The Body Keeps the Score (2014)


 

"Embodiment" is a name for the moment-by-moment experience of our existence as living bodies, with all the joy and grief, pleasure and pain, power and vulnerability which that involves.  Embodiment in this sense does not represent a state, something to be achieved as a finality...but an ongoing process of becoming embodied, more and more (or occasionally temporarily less and less).  

This understanding of embodiment challenges us to own and integrate the various woundings we encounter in life, rather than leaving them frozen in patterns of bodily tension and avoidance which create a local numbing in our awareness and sensitivity.

The contribution of Body Psychotherapy to the relational approach of therapy is to flesh it out, as a general commitment to supporting clients in fleshing out their whole experience of life." 

Nick Totton, 2015

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