Body-oriented psychotherapy has a long history and is informed by a comprehensive body of knowledge concerning the complexity of mind-body functioning. Body- oriented therapists work from a common premise that mind and body, psyche and soma, are not separate but inextricably linked aspects of a person’s whole being.
Each person ‘embodies’ their life experience. Emotions, sensations, impulses, movement and thought are interconnected parts of one’s bodily experience and which influence a person’s internal life as well as their external behaviours, actions and ways of relating. Body-oriented psychotherapy involves work both directly and indirectly with clients’ ‘embodied’ experiences of their emotional, relational/social and spiritual life.
Therapist and client together work to restore and develop the client’s well-being and this work may be through empathic verbal exploration of issues, where themes are identified and connections made and, where appropriate, through working more directly at a bodily level.
The work of body oriented therapy is primary experiential, with a focus on such things as breathing, posture, energy, sensation and movement while exploring what blocks the physical experience of empowerment, satisfaction, safety and pleasure. Focusing on and exploring how we embody our experiences is a potent way to both (i) understand how we structure our world and (ii) experience, in our body, other more satisfying possibilities of being. Often much of our experience can be missed if we keep the counselling/psychotherapeutic work solely on a verbal level.
Much recent work in the trauma field has been influenced by theory and practice that has been know within the somatic psychotherapy tradition for years. Research now understands that trauma processing needs to include the body as what occurs in trauma impacts the nervous system and has all sorts of physiological consequences that impact our sense of being, our ability to relate and how we are in the world. Somatic Experiencing and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy are two well-known research oriented models somatic psychotherapy that are primarily oriented to trauma processing.
Somatic psychotherapy is a broad and inclusive counselling and therapy approach that is useful for most concerns people bring to therapy. It can, though, be particularly useful for people who have experienced trauma and its consequences (dissociation, difficulty with emotional regulation, issues with body image), people who feel disconnected from their body/themselves and from life, people who struggle with connecting to and understanding their emotions, people who experience psycho-somatic complaints (that medicine has no model for), for managing stress and adrenal exhaustion and ‘catching up with oneself’.
Within the tradition of somatic psychotherapy also lie wonderful tools to support an exploration of pleasure and aliveness and what blocks their experience.
I have undertaken 2 yrs/426hrs training in somatic psychotherapy, (2003: Somatics College of Body Oriented Psychotherapy) and have a 4 yrs Masters in Gestalt Therapy which has a strong orientation to working with embodiment. Before training in counselling/psychotherapy and leaving bodywork behind I worked as a somatic therapist with training in Shiatsu (1999: Zen Shiatsu College of Sydney) and also Cranio-sacral therapy and Chi Nei Tsang. I have also had training in Zapchen somatics and, over the years, have engaged in much embodied practice including Zenergetics, 5-rhythms dancing, various yoga asana traditions and Chi Kung traditions and the embodied mindfulness practices arising out Buddhist Insight traditions.