Our Work Together
We tend to deal with labels and I try to look beyond these at a fuller picture of the strengths and potential in people, as well as the areas that are troubling them. Psychotherapy is, however, useful in helping with conditions such as anxiety and depression when these become persistent and affect your quality of life. I work with the whole person - the mind and the body, and find that anxiety, depression as well as trauma-based symptoms (panic attacks, freeze etc), relationship and sexual problems, physical health problems as well as eating and body image disorders, can all benefit from a body-based approach.
What is Body Psychotherapy?
Body psychotherapy is part of the group of Humanistic therapies, which focuses on helping an individual gain a healthier and stronger sense of self. As with other more familiar traditions, sessions usually involve us getting to know each other and talking, as part of the therapy.
Where body psychotherapy differs from other therapies is, as the name suggests, in the belief that feelings and emotional regulation involve the body as much as the mind. The practice derives from the theories of Wilhelm Reich, who worked with Freud. Reich observed that very young infants can develop a defence system in order to cope with difficult feelings. This defensive patterning can emerge at a time when the infant's brain is in quite early stages of development, involving the limbic (emotional) centres and the body. The 'thinking' part of the brain, the frontal lobes, develops later as infancy progresses. The infant learns to repress their feelings, a process which involves our autonomic nervous system (breathing, heart-rate, digestive system etc) as well as our muscular system. This defence system becomes embodied, and is not easily accessible to conscious thought. This is why we sometimes feel that 'talking isn't going to do any good', or won't 'get to the bottom' of our problem. Sometimes we think: 'this is just the way I am', but it isn't necessarily the case. The work of the body psychotherapist can involve helping the client track what is happening to them in their body and what they might be feeling, below the level of conscious processing.
“When you are suppressing energy, you don’t have energy to really live. You’re not living; you’re using your energy to keep it down.”
Dr Peter Levine
What will a typical session involve?
There are no 'typical' sessions and what will emerge will be a safely-held experience which will involve our collaborative response, in the moment, to what is happening. Sometimes this means we work face-to-face in chairs for the whole session. Other times we will include movement, sometimes physicalising our explorations using cushions (Gestalt therapy), or sometimes we might feel work could be deeper and more contacting with you, the client, relaxing on a mattress. This is called vegetotherapy and is a kind of stream-of-consciousness for the body where we wait to see what emerges (from your 'non-conscious'). The sensations and feelings that arise in the body can connect profoundly with your sense of 'aliveness' and a 'felt' understanding of who you are (often emanating from the very early periods described above).
Sometimes in a session, body psychotherapists use touch as a therapeutic tool involving a form of massage called Biodynamic Massage.
What is Biodynamic Massage?
Biodynamic massage is a contact-lead form of massage, sometimes practised as a stand-alone therapy at complementary level. I tend to integrate biodynamic massage into my psychotherapy work with clients. We continue the relationship we had in chairs, on the massage table and work to deepen a 'felt' sense of where you are in yourself, to release tension and emotional blocks in a safe and grounded way. The body is a safe container but sometimes we need help to realise this, to feel where we begin and end and to strengthen our sense of physical and emotional boundaries. Touch can also help us feel contacted - 'reached' at a non-verbal level, repairing early difficulties and healing losses in human communication.
I often use a stethoscope, placed just below the abdomen, to track the autonomic nervous system. Tummy rumblings are a good indicator of emotional processing , and most clients find it interesting and comforting to track their own internal responses in this way!
You can find out more about Biodynamic Massage at www.abmt.org.uk