06 Nov THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF BODY PSYCHOTHERAPY
The term “Somatic Psychotherapy” began to establish itself in the field of Psychotherapy in the 1980s. Its scientific and administrative body in Europe, the EABP, was founded in 1988, while the USABP is active in America. At this time we are already in the fourth “generation” of Somatic Psychotherapists, starting with Reich and Raknes.
Somatic Psychotherapy encompasses a set of psychotherapeutic approaches that share the same basic principles:
The body plays an important role in the mental state of the individual
Mind and body are interconnected.
The involvement of the body and the emphasis on it increases the therapeutic effects of the body.
The involvement and participation of the body and the body’s involvement enhances the therapeutic potential of psychotherapy.
Dr. Pierre Janet (1889)
We could say that the history of Somatic Psychotherapy begins with the work of Dr. Pierre Janet (1889), at least 3 years before Freud formally established psychoanalysis (1892). According to David Boadella (1997), Janet emphasized the patient’s body and non-verbal communication, and his findings are directly related to Somatic Psychotherapy since they include, among other things, important insights into diaphragm blockage, the impact of emotional tensions on the flow of body fluids, and the importance of bodywork in patients who have suffered traumatic shock.
Albert Abrams (1891-1910)
Another important researcher in the history of Somatic Psychotherapy was Albert Abrams (1891-1910) who based some of his theories on the work of Franz Anton Mesmer (1779) and Armand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet and Marquis de Puységur (1784) on the mind-body interface.
As Boadella (1997) states, Freud became involved in research on Janet’s findings and was influenced by his ideas, but then ignored the study of the body and focused exclusively on verbal communication. Initially Freud had described the concept of the ego as “first and foremost a bodily ego” (Freud, 1923), suggesting an interconnection of body and mind. Also, his initial conception of libido was within a context of homeostasis with a fervent support for the release of body energy. However, he later made a shift, rather believing that the body represents the dangerously dominant power of the instincts which should be kept under the control of the mind. The mind now became the focus of classical psychotherapy as the means by which man could express the core of himself by processing his thoughts and beliefs.
Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957)
The Austro-Hungarian physician and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), a student and later collaborator of Freud, gradually became the most important pioneer of Somatic Psychotherapy. Reich focused on the analysand’s “Character” – the individual’s personal particular way of being – which forms the basis of the symptoms that manifest themselves. He introduced the concept of “Shielding” which refers to the defense mechanism a person develops to cope with intense sensations and unbearable emotions. ‘Armour’ has a characterological and physical component. He developed “Neurophytotherapy”, a method of restoring healthy functioning of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) through specific physical techniques and exercises followed by verbal expression and processing.
Reich’s ideas of “Character” and the processing of resistance and negative transference were widely accepted in the psychoanalytic world, and, his emphasis on bodywork, emotional discharge and sexuality was continued and developed by various Neo-Raich and Bioenergetic schools.
Later, Reich further developed the concepts of orgasmic capacity, around sexual energy, into what he called “orgone energy”, which made him even less popular in psychoanalytic circles.
Groddeck and Ferenczi
Other modernists such as Groddeck and Ferenczi also experimented by working more directly with the body, while Adler, Jung and others were concerned with how psychic energy is distributed within the body and the relationship between body and mind.
Several psychotherapists, contemporaries of Reich, were greatly influenced by his work with the body, particularly Fritz Perls (1969), founder of Gestalt therapy, Arthur Janov (1970) who founded Primary Therapy, and Stanislav Grof (1986) who called his technique Holotropic Breathwork. None of them, however, admitted it.
Reich’s work with the body, muscle armor and resistance attracted many followers. In Norway and America, Reich worked with many practitioners who incorporated his theory into their work. An international Somatic Psychotherapy movement developed with many variations that either derived directly from Reich’s work or added something substantial to it, or at least owed much to it.
In America, Elsworth Baker and colleagues – known as “Orgonomists” – founded the College of Orgonomy (1968) and published the Journal of Orgonomy, continuing the tradition of Reich’s Medical Orgonomy.
The second generation of Somatic Psychotherapists, trained by Reich in America and called “Neo-Reichians”, includes Alexander Lowen, John Pierrakos, Myron Sharaf and Eva Reich.
Alexander Lowen (1910-2008)
Doctor Alexander Lowen (1910-2008) created Bioenergetic Analysis (1975), developing and adding very important concepts-techniques to Somatic Psychotherapy: “grounding” in therapy, therapeutic work in standing posture and expanding the breath.
John Pierrakos (1921-2001)
John Pierrakos (1921-2001), an original collaborator of Lowen, developed Core Energetics (1987) aimed at facilitating the release of the core self by combining his therapeutic experience in the practice of Bioenergetics with a kind of spiritual meditation used by his wife and focusing on the pleasure of living.
Eva Reich, W. Reich’s youngest daughter, developed the technique of Gentle Bioenergetics or Gentle Infant Massage (1996), a kind of gentle massage that mothers can give their premature babies to assist the process of developing a bond with her that has been disrupted.
Ola Raknes (1887-1975)
In Norway, the psychoanalyst Ola Raknes (1887-1975), was also trained by Reich in Characteristic Analytic Neurophysiotherapy and then in turn trained other scientists such as A.S. Neill, Paul Ritter, Peter Jones, David Boadella, Gerda Boyesen and Malcolm Brown. Several of them developed their own kind of Somatic Psychotherapy and formed the third generation of Somatic Psychotherapists.
So David Boadella created Biosynthesis, which delves into how the three embryological layers – endoderm, mesoderm and exoderm – affect the current structures in the body. Boadella was a very important figure in the field of Body Psychotherapy, particularly from 1970 to 1990. He created the first journal for Somatic Psychotherapy: Energy & Character, which helped it gain an independent identity as a discipline and internal consistency. He also helped found the European Association of Body Psychotherapy (EABP, 1988) and became its first president.
Gerda Boyesen (1922-2005)
Gerda Boyesen (1922-2005) founded Biodynamic Psychology (1980), adding the understanding that the system of self-regulation of emotional tension lies not only in the orgasm reflex or the relaxation of muscle armour, but also in the parasympathetic activity of the digestive system. He introduced the terms “emotional assimilation” and “psycho-peristalsis” and developed theory and techniques for the relaxation of armor in connective tissue and muscle armor by Reich. He also developed a type of very gentle massage that relaxes and balances the ANS, thereby enhancing the expression of emotions underlying physical tensions.
Her son, Paul Boyesen, later created his own method which he called Psycho-organic Analysis.
Malcolm Brown & Katherine Ennis Brown
Malcolm Brown and his wife Katherine Ennis Brown, influenced by Gestalt psychotherapy and Charlotte Selver, Carl Rogers (2003), Reich, Lowen, Boadella (1987) and Boyesen (1980), developed Organismal Psychotherapy. Brown delved into the effect of the therapist’s touch and how this varies depending on whether the therapist is male or female. Malcolm Brown explored the different functionality that ‘vertical grounding’ (standing position) has, in therapy, compared to ‘horizontal grounding’.
Lillemore Johnsen (1981)
Lillemore Johnsen (1981), with influences from Freud and Reich and through a more existential perspective, developed a particular method of “reading the body”, gentle touch and breath restoration, with a precise diagnostic procedure. She called her approach Integrated Respiration Therapy.
Lisbeth Marcher (1989)
Lisbeth Marcher (1989), using some of Johnsen’s ideas, created the Bodynamics approach, which holds that personality problems and elements of character structure are created as a result of conflict in relationships. Her techniques aim to transform old and persistent patterns of behaviour through the training and activation of motor and psychological resources.
Charles Kelley (1922-2005)
Charles Kelley (1922-2005) created the Radix method (1970s), a kind of “training in emotion, purpose and vision improvement”, combining Reich’s techniques for emotional discharge and William Bates’ method for improving vision.
Stanley Keleman (1986)
Stanley Keleman (1986), a student of Alexander Lowen and Ola Raknes, differed significantly from Reich, demonstrating that the concept of armouring, the flow of energy and its containment, extends not only to the muscles but also to the soft tissues of the body, the viscera.
Ron Kurtz (1990)
Ron Kurtz (1990), combining his influences from Gestalt therapy, Arthur Janov’s primary therapy, Rolfing, Bioenergetic Analysis and J. Pierrakos, Al Pesso and Moshe Feldenkrais, developed the Hakomi method, which helps the individual to bring out what they have the potential to be or what they should be.
Jack Lee Rosenberg (1996)
Jack Lee Rosenberg (1996) created Synthetic Somatic Psychotherapy by incorporating elements from yoga, Bioenergetic Analysis, Raichian Analysis, psychoanalysis, Co-analysis and object relations.
Jerome Liss (1986)
Psychiatrist Jerome Liss (1986) developed the Biosystemic approach, which combines various ways of working with the body to explore the relationship between the parasympathetic and sympathetic aspects of the ANS. The resulting emotional deepening helps the individual to return to a healthy balance.
Jacob “Jay” Stattman (1989 and 1991)
Moving on to the next generation of Somatic Psychotherapists who had no contact with Reich’s colleagues and students, Jacob “Jay” Stattman (1989 and 1991) founded Unitarian Psychology, integrating elements of Humanistic Psychology with Reich’s theoretical work and some psychodynamic elements of Character Analysis. He used various techniques with the body focusing on breath, movement and touch, influenced by Gerda Boyesen, Reich, Lowen and Feldenkrais.
Yvonne Maurer (1993)
Influenced by Gestalt and Bioenergetics, psychiatrist Yvonne Maurer (1993) developed Body-Centered Psychotherapy.
Luciano Rispoli (2008)
Luciano Rispoli (2008) developed Functional Psychology which examines the functioning of the individual at all levels: mental, emotional, physical, physiological. Therapy aims to mobilize and reintegrate altered functions and restore early fundamental experiences.
Arnold Mindell, originally a Jungian analyst, developed his own Process Oriented Psychotherapy approach in the late 1970s, which follows the psychological process of the individual as it develops and moves through many different channels.
Contemporary Dance-Movement Psychotherapy
Another important current is Modern Dance-Movement Psychotherapy, a Somatic Psychotherapy version of Dance-Movement Therapy developed by Elsa Gindler between 1910 and 1920.
Ilana Rubenfeld (1998)
Ilana Rubenfeld (1998) developed the Rubenfeld Synergy Method, which uses a type of hand touch that is quite similar to Gerda Boyesen’s gentle biodynamic massage technique.
There are also several people who have engaged in some kind of “somatic therapy” to which they then added psychotherapeutic elements to make it into Somatic Psychotherapy.
For example, in Europe, Jack Painter’s (1987) Postural Integration method was transformed into Psychotherapeutic Postural Integration by incorporating Gestalt psychotherapy. Also in America, Susan Aposhyan (2004) converted Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Body – Mind Centering into Somatic Psychotherapy. Albert Pesso and his wife Diane Boyden-Pesso (1961), coming from a professional dance background, studied how movement can facilitate the expression of emotions. Thus, they developed the Psychokinetic Approach, which has now evolved into a kind of somatically oriented psychodrama.
There are also a number of people who engaged in some kind of “somatic therapy” to which they then added psychotherapeutic elements to make it into Somatic Psychotherapy. For example, in Europe, Jack Painter’s (1987) Postural Integration method was transformed into Psychotherapeutic Postural Integration by incorporating Gestalt psychotherapy. Also in America, Susan Aposhyan (2004) converted Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Body – Mind Centering into Somatic Psychotherapy. Albert Pesso and his wife Diane Boyden-Pesso (1961), coming from a professional dance background, studied how movement can facilitate the expression of emotions. Thus, they developed the Psychokinetic Approach, which has now evolved into a kind of somatically oriented psychodrama.
It took 70 years, from 1934 to 2004, until the Cambridge Conference “On the Body: Working with the Embodied Mind in Psychotherapy”, to reclaim the body’s place in psychotherapy.
Neuroscience, too, is now helping towards a unified approach to the science of psychology to humans and their bodies.
Body Psychotherapy has benefited from psychoanalysis in terms of integrating the concept of the therapeutic relationship and the proper use of transference and countertransference.
On the other hand, the concept of somatic resonance as a kind of “somatic transference”, essential for many Somatic Psychotherapists, is now increasingly accepted in the field of psychotherapy in general as an important aspect of the therapeutic relationship.
The psychotherapist’s body is now recognised as an important element in the therapeutic process (Shaw, 2003).
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