Dr. Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.
Body-oriented psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as somatic psychotherapy, is a group of therapies that are an interdisciplinary field involving therapeutic and holistic approaches to the body, somatic experience, and the embodied self.
Each body-oriented psychotherapy is rooted in psychological, developmental, medical, neurological, social and cultural sciences, but many of them also have a holistic philosophy associated with them.
The idea is that being more aware of the sensations that run through our body puts us more in touch with our natural rhythm and allows the psyche to operate more efficiently when it comes to healing, moving, acting and breathing, so that we face any challenge with an increased chance of success.
The awareness exercises increase the person’s strength to fight against compulsion, dissociation, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and other disorders.
Although touch is considered a part of the therapy, it is not the main focus. But because touch is a highly controversial issue among mental health professional, licensing boards, and clients who attend therapy, there are not a lot of therapists who practice body-oriented therapies. This is unfortunate, because this approach can be very useful in treating anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and insomnia and sleep problems in general.
Types of Body-Oriented Psychotherapy
When I use body-oriented therapies as a psychotherapist in San Jose CA, I emphasize the reciprocal relationships within body and mind and their underlying meaning. Examples of body-oriented psychotherapies include Hakomi, bioenergetics, and relational somatics. The psychotherapist who uses body oriented therapy is able to guide the patient concerning the physical approach of his issues.
Therapist and client together work to restore and develop the client’s well-being through empathic verbal exploration of issues, where themes are identified and connections made and, where appropriate, through working more directly at a bodily level. The therapist works with patterns of breathing, posture, energy, sensation and movement, body image, and metaphor.
The therapist often uses special exercises for increasing physical awareness, as well as muscle and eyes manipulation and reprocessing. As a result of the body oriented therapy, people find tremendous resources within their own bodies and they can therefore better fight against whatever disorder or other kinds of challenges.
Body-oriented psychotherapists believe that psychological, social, and cultural forces encourage the fragmentation of mind-body unity, leading to stress that affects an individual’s mental, biological, and relational health. The therapist seeks to join and balance these elements.
Levy Berg, A., Sandell, R., & Sandahl, C. (2009). Affect-focused body psychotherapy in patients with generalized anxiety disorder: Evaluation of an integrative method. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 19(1), 67-85.
Totton, N. (2003). Body psychotherapy: An introduction. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.
Steckler, L. H. (2006). Somatic soulmates. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy, 1(1), 29–42.
Caldwell, C. (1997) ‘Dreams and the dreaming body. Amy and Arny Mindell’ in C. Caldwell (Ed.) Getting in touch: The guide to new body-centered therapies. Wheaton, IL: Quest.
About the Author
Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. is a practicing therapist, researcher and author specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and related disorders. Dr. Fredricks is a best-selling author of several books on complementary and alternative treatments for mental health. For more information on Dr. Fredricks work, visit her practice website DrRandiFredricks.com.