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 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 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.
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 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.