PSYCHOTHERAPY BLOG

Having trained as a yoga teacher and as a psychotherapist and counsellor, I’ve been particularly interested in the growing […] Read more...

Body Psychotherapy

 

“And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?”

Walt Whitman

 

Recent research has shown the importance of the bodily dimension in lasting psychotherapeutic change. Developmental psychology, neuroscience and contemporary psychoanalytic investigation have clearly demonstrated that what we may  experience as ‘psychological’ process has a ‘physiological’ dimension.

One good example of this is ‘engrams’, which were discovered and named by neurologists discovered some years ago.   The Collins English Dictionary defines engrams succinctly as ‘the physical basis of an individual memory.’ According to Totton et al, neurologists have long realized that these engrams are not stored in specific locations but holographically. Increasingly they realize, like Body Psychotherapy, that memory happens not simply in the neural tissues of the brain, but in the body as a whole.

While ‘talking therapy’ helps to unfold difficult and traumatic experience mainly at the level of the mind and emotions (although there is a bodily aspect to this as well), body therapy aims to facilitate change by exploring and working with bodily symptoms, breath, movement, habitual gestures and internal feelings.

Crucially, body psychotherapy can be useful to help us engage with our emotional, felt experience more deeply. It can be especially helpful for those of us who suffer from persistent physical symptoms, which may have no obvious organic cause; those of us who get particularly caught up in our heads and thinking processes; or those of who feel out of relationship with our bodies in some way.

My background in yoga, meditation and yoga therapy supports my practice as a counsellor and body psychotherapist. Embodied Relational Therapy, the type of body psychotherapy which I’m trained in, centres on the core premise that as human beings, we are integrated body-mind-spirit; and on the whole, we find this condition hard to manage. Our nature seeks to express itself freely, while at the same time protecting itself in conditions sometimes of great difficulty. This double task of expression and protection makes us often subject to contradictory pulls, offering double messages about what we feel, want and need. Through a non-invasive relationship, which is challenging but supportive, it is possible to disentangle our double-ness and allow our process to unfold.