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Therapy in 3D

Therapy in 3D

Lessons from Body Psychotherapy

By Barbara Goodrich-Dunn

July/August 2004

For many therapists, the world of somatic psychotherapy still has the somewhat exotic and bewildering quality of an undiscovered country, despite the fact that it 's been around now for more than 80 years. In fact, while there are a wide range of approaches to somatic psychotherapy (see sidebar page 42), all with their own terminology and specialized methods, they all share the same core assumption: the body is inseparable from our feelings of ourselves and our experience of others. From a body-psychotherapy perspective, even talk therapists are still "feeling" their clients ' bodies and emotions just below their conscious awareness.

So what makes the body psychotherapist 's work any different from that of a more traditional talk therapist? The body psychotherapist is far more likely to make the ways clients move, stand, hold themselves, and breathe as important in the assessment of who they are and what they need as what they say about themselves. Beyond that, body psychotherapy typically involves bringing clients ' bodies into their treatment in some way, usually through breathing, movement, vocalizing, or touch.

As therapists, we may not be aware of exactly how much our bodies are sensors of our clients ' underlying reality and communicators of our own. I remember 30 years ago in my own training as a body psychotherapist the day that we were studying how emotional patterns underlie people 's postures. At one point my teacher said to me, "You 're really shy,…

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