What Happens During a Body Psychotherapy Session
Several things occur during most body psychotherapy sessions. The initial sessions include an inquiry into what the client hopes to gain from the entire undertaking and a history of the client’s life. During each session, there may be questions about what is currently happening in the client’s life and what he or she hopes to work on during the present session. Some type of work with the body is included usually during most sessions. There may be fewer words and more bodywork, or more words and less bodywork, depending on what is happening at the time. All will help the client become more fully aware of his or her body and feelings and way of functioning. Whatever comes up will be integrated into the total picture of the client’s way of being in life.
Beyond that, there is no predictable pattern to a body psychotherapy session. The content differs widely depending upon the client and the type of body psychotherapy being practiced. A variety of modalities or methods of body psychotherapy exist. However, a characteristic they share is that body psychotherapy uses techniques that are an integral part of psychotherapy to help you understand what feelings you are holding back and why and to facilitate the release of those emotions.
Body psychotherapy methods could be divided generally between “hard” and “soft” techniques. “Hard” techniques are those that apply direct pressure on rigid muscles or on the connective tissue that is causing muscles to be tightly held. As the pressure of the therapist’s hands directly confronts the holding patterns, there may be some discomfort as the holding is released. “Soft” techniques can be equally effective. Rather than use forceful movement and pressure, many of them emphasize light touch, often without hand movement, that encourages greater sensing or awareness of bodily feeling. Another comparison is hard techniques tend to emphasize outward expression of feeling, while soft techniques tend to emphasize inner sensing of feeling, or some would say, of energy flow. However, as always, there are exceptions. Some methods, rather than employ direct touch, emphasize body-centered awareness. Such sessions may not feature touch at all.
Clients may work standing up, sitting, or lying down. They may work fully clothed, or if comfortable, in a leotard, tights or shorts. Some body psychotherapists will work directly with muscle tension, or with breathing. The body psychotherapist may ask a client to do specific physical actions, e.g. , to move their hips or shoulders, kick, or hold a certain stance for an amount of time. Props, such as a breathing stool, gym ball, mat on the floor, balls to roll under the foot, something to bite or suck, or something with which to hit, may be used to facilitate certain physical actions. The therapist may ask the client, sometimes using meditative or guided imagery techniques, to notice the sensations in his or her body, and describe what is being felt and where. Some therapists will elicit eye movement, sometimes using a flashlight. Others will ask questions to elicit responses including bodily sensations. Touch may be used when appropriate and agreed upon, but sexual touching is never permitted in any type of body psychotherapy.
If you have any questions about what to expect, you can certainly ask your body psychotherapist for more information.