What is body psychotherapy?

Body psychotherapy uses the skills of attention to the body to deepen awareness of ourselves as a body. Its premise is that the very act of directing attention to our bodies creates a movement connecting body and soul, and between emotions, sensations and thoughts. Developing a felt sense helps us experience ourselves as mind-body, and the more we embody our physical experiences, the greater our chances of releasing physical and mental fixations. This happens because alongside cognitive-affective language, as a result of this process, we have more than language to help us in creating change and movement. Thus, the main skill in body psychotherapy does not pertain to any kind of therapeutic intervention, but rather to therapeutic positioning characterized by an active and alert curiosity about somatic processes occurring in the patient, the therapist and the dyadic space between them. (Rolef Ben-Shahar, 2013).

Body psychotherapy is based on the understanding that there is no living human body without a soul – no soma without psycho, and thus, when we approach the human body we approach the soul as well. The same tools that are appropriate for talk therapy are also appropriate, with some changes, to the body-oriented approach. This is a key distinction between body psychotherapists and other therapists who work with the body. Like other psychotherapists, body-focused psychotherapists are aware of all the different ways in which humans resist, avoid, deny, attack, distort, and erase deep connections with themselves and each other. Therefore, they understand that the assumption that patients want to cooperate, “recover”, or improve can sometimes be a serious mistake. They understand the winding ways of human will. (Totton, 2003)

The primary focus of body psychotherapy is the use of various techniques that involve the body, through which the dialogue between therapist and the patient, as well as the experience of therapy, can be supported. In this kind of therapy, the non-verbal elements that the patients bring to the session are also taken into account. The body functions as a mirror for emotions, thoughts and sensations, and all of these are expressed in the body’s manifestations, when the therapist directs the patient to create a conscious relationship with their body and environment (Heller, 2012).

Body psychotherapy includes a wide variety of techniques, some of which involve the body, through touch, movement and breathing. It is possible to find a connection between these techniques and certain body-oriented therapies, somatic techniques and various disciplines of holistic medicine. However, even though they involve touch and movement, all of these are still very different and distinct from body psychotherapy. That is to say, body psychotherapy and working with the body are not one and the same. (Totton, 2003).

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סדנאות יוני 2022


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