What is Body-Oriented Pyschotherapy?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

The term "body-oriented psychotherapy" is used to refer to a practice that emphasizes reciprocal relationships within the body and mind. Body-oriented psychotherapy is a branch of psychotherapy that has origins in clinical psychology and the work of Wilhelm Reich, Pierre Janet, and Sigmund Freud. Body-oriented psychotherapists seek to help patients by encouraging and facilitating both internal self-regulation as well as the accurate perception of external reality.

Body-oriented pyschotherapy involves breathing exercises.
Body-oriented pyschotherapy involves breathing exercises.

Body-oriented psychotherapy is also known as body psychotherapy or somatic psychology. Areas of specialization within this broader field can include character analytic vegetotherapy, postural integration, biosynthesis, Rubenfeld synergy, unitive psychotherapy, Brennan healing science, and sensorimotor psychotherapy.

Body-oriented psychotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, depression, and relationship problems.
Body-oriented psychotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, depression, and relationship problems.

Body-oriented psychotherapy has been around in some form since the 1930s. However, body-oriented psychotherapists gained widespread recognition in the 1980s, as practitioners joined together to form professional associations relating to this type of psychotherapy, including associations of body psychotherapy in Europe and America. Scholarly journals discussing advances in the field of body-oriented psychotherapy include Energy & Character, The USABP Journal of Body Psychotherapy, and The Journal of Body, Dance & Movement in Psychotherapy.

In a body-oriented psychotherapy session, a person will talk about their problems while being encouraged to become aware of their emotions and behaviors.
In a body-oriented psychotherapy session, a person will talk about their problems while being encouraged to become aware of their emotions and behaviors.

According to the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP), body-oriented psychotherapists draw from research in biology, anthropology, ethology, neurophysiology, neuropsychology, developmental psychology, neonatology, and perinatal studies. They consider the field both a science and an art.

Body-oriented psychotherapy may focus on relieving lower back pain.
Body-oriented psychotherapy may focus on relieving lower back pain.

Body-oriented psychotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, depression, sexual difficulties, or relationship problems as well as troublesome physical concerns such as headaches or lower back pain. In a body-oriented psychotherapy session, patients talk about their problems just as you'd expect in any type of psychotherapy. However, they are also encouraged to become aware of their bodily sensations, emotions, and behaviors. Therapists often use touch, movement, and breathing exercises to assist in this goal. While the experience of having a therapist physically touch the patient can make some people feel nervous, practitioners are willing to make accommodations when necessary.

If you think you might benefit from body-oriented psychotherapy, USABP recommends keeping in mind "the five R's" - respect, rapport, responsiveness, readiness, and reputation – as you select a therapist that best fits your needs. If you choose someone who does not meet all of these criteria, you will likely feel too uncomfortable to truly benefit from this treatment approach. It is perfectly acceptable to schedule initial meetings with several different therapists before choosing someone to help you begin a more extensive treatment plan.

Body-oriented psychotherapy often encourages relaxation techniques and meditation.
Body-oriented psychotherapy often encourages relaxation techniques and meditation.
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the wiseGEEK team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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Discussion Comments

GreenWeaver

@Sneakers41 - Recognizing the physical symptoms of anxiety really helps to reduce its power over the person. If you are aware of your racing heart and sweaty palms you can also take a moment to do deep breathing exercises in order to control your anxiety.

If every time you feel this negative sensation you take the time to relax and breathe deeply, you will eventually become more relaxed over time and realize that the worst case scenario that you have built up in your head is not real.

It is smart to think about the physical sensations that you feel because this way you can be in control of your emotions rather than have your emotions control you.

sneakers41

Body-oriented psychotherapy can really help people with addictions.

The client can talk about the physical sensations that they feel when they crave the addiction which can help them deal with the addiction in a more constructive way.

The client can also be given shock therapy which is also a form of touching therapy. Whenever they think of the forbidden feeling the client is lightly shocked. This sensation over time will have the client associate the negative feelings with physical pain.

Clickrick524

What would be an example of where a Therapist would be required to "Touch" a Patient?

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