Body psychotherapy

Sometimes you will hear that body psychotherapy is a classic psychotherapy which includes the body – that would be the so-called top-down approach in which we start from the rational part of the problem, from what we are aware of, and slowly descend into the body, into what remains unconscious and unexpressed. Another approach, the so-called bottom-up, is one in which the body itself is the center of experience: we take bodily sensations and movements as precious and complete information from which feelings will emerge, and then possibly conclusions or insights. In the therapeutic process, these two approaches are constantly interchanging and complementing each other.  The basis of my body-psychotherapy work is Core Energetics, a neo-Reichian approach by Dr. John Pierrakos that works simultaneously on five levels of the human being:

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  • Body – capacity for pleasure and connection with the needs and sensations of the body
  • Feelings – the capacity to both hold and express emotions
  • Mind – the capacity to recognize one’s own patterns and understand the causes and effects of one’s own and others’ behavior
  • Will – the agency, capacity to act and to approach life with a positive intention
  • Spirit – connection with something greater than ourselves; being rooted in the meaningfulness of one’s own existence

Regardless of the desired outcome, every client brings to therapy at least three levels of their problem: mental, emotional and physical. If you come to therapy, for example, with an anxiety problem, it means that you come with certain attitudes, insights or memories concerning that condition; on an emotional level you probably feel fear or apprehension; but inevitably you also come with physical symptoms, which in the case of anxiety could be, for example, rapid shallow breathing, increased sweating, problems with sleep or digestion, etc. A human being is a complex entity and intervention at any level (new insight, emotional expression or movement/touch) inevitably ripples out towards other levels and these levels are not in any hierarchical order, each one is equally important.

The value of body psychotherapy lies in the fact that our body remembers experiences that the mind has forgotten, as well as experiences from the pre-verbal period that are very difficult to tap into with talk therapy. For this reason, body psychotherapy is indispensable in working with trauma – trauma is an experience that remains in our body after an encounter with something that was too much for us. Talking about the traumatic event itself can worsen the trauma symptoms and in order to release the experience we’re stuck in, we need conscious work with the body as well, finely tuning it to the needs of each client. Why is it even necessary to change anything in a body that is relatively healthy? One of the principles of body psychotherapy is muscle armoring – a protective mechanism defined by Wilhelm Reich as “the sum total of chronic muscular spasms which an individual develops as a block against the breakthrough of emotions and organ sensations, particularly anxiety, rage and sexual excitation.” (Reich, 1936). A person’s character is manifested through typical patterns of behavior that can be seen on the somatic level through the shape and patterns of body movement – the defenses that we see in a person’s behavior appear in the body as typical muscular armouring. The activation and opening of the segments of the muscle armor also activates and opens the underlying causes against which the armor in question was created, which eventually brings the person into a state of free flow: a state of increased liveliness, relaxation and pleasure.

Working with the body in body psychotherapy involves a combination of several techniques:

  • Working with body awareness (interoception and proprioception)
  • Opening of the muscular armor through movement in a lying, sitting or standing position
  • Opening of the muscular armor through touch and contact
  • Working with the breath
  • Working with voice

Note: I am not able to accept new clients at the moment.


Somatic Experiencing

As a nature lover, the founder of SE, dr. Peter Levine noticed that mammals living freely in nature deal with stress differently than humans. How is it possible that animals that are exposed to mortal danger almost every day are able to quickly return to a state of relaxation and security, without visible traces of trauma? Why do wild animals not suffer from stomach ulcers, insomnia or addiction? That question led him to the realization that the human autonomic nervous system is evolutionarily equipped to deal with trauma, but that this powerful mechanism is often unused due to the modern way of living and that we remain stuck in patterns of flight, fight and freeze.

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In everyday life, the word trauma often refers to an event, for example an earthquake is a trauma. But the fact is that an earthquake does not traumatize every person who experiences it. An earthquake can be a traumatic event, but trauma is the reaction of our body, our nervous system, which is stuck at that moment of the earthquake and may relive it for years to come.

SE offers the tools and skills needed to access and release traumatic energy in the body by completing unfinished bodily reactions and returning to a healthy balance, without requiring the client to relive, or even retell, the traumatic experience.

In SE work, we help clients monitor their bodily experiences using resourcing, pendulation and titration techniques.

  • Resourcing means connecting with feelings of security, with the physical sensation that everything is OK here and now. Most people know what triggers are – little things that cause us to feel fear, dissatisfaction or anger. In SE, we also pay attention to the so-called glimmers: little things inside and outside us that cause feeling of calmness, joy and relaxation. By resourcing, we teach the client’s nervous system to get used to recognizing safety in its environment, and not just a threat, which is typical for traumatized people.
  • Pendulation is a natural movement between opposites that we see everywhere in nature. At the level of the nervous system, it is the capacity to feel states of stress and contraction and still return to peace and relaxation – trauma significantly narrows this capacity. With pendulation we help a person develop confidence in their nervous system’s ability to handle the extremes of different experiences.
  • Titration is the principle of offering the client the smallest possible dose that works – less is more, slower is better. This means that we work exclusively with pieces of difficult experiences, pausing often to pay extra attention to the body’s reactions, without great breakthroughs and intensity, giving the body a chance to metabolize the experience and find a way out of the trauma.

Note: I am not able to accept new clients at the moment.


Expressive art therapy

Unlike classical therapy in which there is a therapist-client dyad, in EAT there is a triad – client-art-therapist in which art is studied as a bridge between the inner world of the client and the topic they bring to therapy.

By presenting their own dilemmas and situations through non-verbal media, the client dives into the world of the personal unconscious. A liminal process begins between conscious creation and unconscious motivation and inspiration in the background, a process of communication through all the senses, in which it is impossible to know in advance what the end result will be.   

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Expressive Art Therapy (EAT) developed by Dr. Avi Goren-Bar is an intermodal psychotherapy approach based on creative expression, Jungian psychoanalysis, Gestalt and object relations theory.  Carl Gustav Jung claimed that the biggest part of our psyche is unconscious and it contains everything that we have forgotten or repressed or that was never in our consciousness, and that our unconscious communicates with us primarily through images and symbols. He also claimed that the instinct to create is one of the fundamental instincts of the mind. EAT is based on several assumptions:

  • that people can positively influence their own mental health using imagination, play, movement and expression
  • anyone can create art and this process is always beneficial for the client
  • artistic talent is not necessary because the process of creation is important, not the final product
  • our unconscious already has everything we need to find a solution to our own dilemmas

The use of art therapy is especially useful for children and young people, people who have difficulties with verbalizing or interpreting their own feelings, people who are stuck in the classical psychotherapy process, but also for anyone interested in deeper work on themselves.

Note: I am not able to accept new clients at the moment.