Browsing: body psychotherapy


Touch is essential to human life. From the earliest writings by Ashley Montaqu (1971) who discussed the importance of nurturing touch to help babies thrive physiologically and emotionally to a recent study lead by Nathalie Maitre at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio that demonstrated the significance of sensory experiences in early life on brain development— physical attention during a baby’s development, during our entire lives in fact, is important—the more you hug and cuddle your babies, the more their brains grow.

According to Maitre, our sensory system supporting touch and bodily sensation is the earliest to develop in human beings; further, it forms the basis for other sensory development as well as our cognitive and social development. Maitre’s study established that nurturing touch is essential for infant development with study outcome demonstrating that positive proper touch increased brain activity while negative touch (pin pricks, tube insertions) decreased brain activity.

As human beings, we crave touch. There’s an instinctive need to feel another—be it a lover’s hand, a mother’s breast. The soft fuzz of an animal’s fur, even the gristle of a father’s beard can create pleasurable sensations when contact is loving and supportive. As body psychotherapists, many of us acknowledge the value of appropriate touch in the therapeutic setting—of course within proper boundaries and acceptable containment and with the client’s permission. As therapists, we must be clear about why we want to integrate touch, discuss what kind of touch, and for whose purpose the touch is occuring (certainty not to make the therapist feel better!).


What is your relationship to your defenses? Can you name them? Can you name your self-destructive habits? Maybe notice where you keep feeling helpless or stuck?

From a psychological perspective, defenses are survival skills that resulted from negative childhood experiences—when our external environment threatened our internal sense of safety and wellbeing, be it overwhelming feelings such as abandonment, fear/terror, feeling unloved and unlovable and so forth. In response, we created survival skills to endure destructive emotional, physical and spiritual experiences. Due to our codependence on our caretakers, our defenses truly become survival skills.

The most mainstream defenses include denial, rationalization, repression, dissociation, projection, manipulation, caretaking and even humor. Although these skills allowed us to grow from child to adult, I often wonder about our relationship to our defenses as adults. A great survival skill for a child may not serve you as an adult.


The portals are ready! We can now register for the USABP Fall Conference at Pacifica Graduate Institute, at their Retreat Center.

The pre-conferences on Thursday, November 1, 2018m are offered by Rae Johnson, Aline LaPierre and Lawrence Hedges. All three presenters are proven to offer excellent information and current insights in our field.

The conference, entitled,The Science of Connection, is November 2-4 beginning at 8 am! 


“Letting go” has long been a central concept in the psychological process of healing. It has been cast/seen as an essential step in getting unstuck and moving forward. Over the years of working with clients through Transformative Touch, the bodies of our clients have opened us to another consideration. In order to let go of something , you first need to be holding on to something. When this is the case, “letting go” makes sense and works. However, we have found with some clients , another scenario has registered in their body- that of something having a hold of it. Letting go in this instance will not work, and will actually increase frustration and self-judgement.


I wondered a few years ago how it might be possible that the fetus could know “the flavour of the relationship with the mother” while immersed in a liquid environment, given that the introduction of sweet substances into the amniotic fluid led to an increase in deglutition (swallowing), while the intro- duction of bitter substances led to a reduction.

I believe the answer lies in Ludwig Jacobson’s (1813) vomeronasal organ, which is situated just above the incisors and is capable of transducing the aroma of substances in liquid solutions into taste in the embryonal-fetal period. This organ atrophies after birth, but, during our intrauterine time, it permits us to know the flavor of the primary object relationship, which is ‘a mirror taste’, which is to say that it already informs us of a primary intercorporeity that may prepare the ground for later subjectivity and intersubjectivity, and even psychopathology.

This sense of a primary intercorporeity lead me to consider corporeity’s place in general in psychotherapy and how it interacts with what I consider to be the two main ingredients in the psychotherapeutic setting, namely the relationship (between therapist and client) and therapeutic embodied activation.

What is Corporeity in Psychotherapy?


We’ve just posted our Winter 2018 issue on so our readers can access our articles digitally. And you can pay for a print copy as well.

Our Winter issue deals with  addiction. Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, food, social media, digital games, movies, whatever the ‘substance’ the effect is the same—numb out, dissociate, flee from the perception of pain (be it physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual). The number of people who are considered addicts has reached pandemic proportions—no one place, no one race, no one culture is free of this infectious disease. But, is it a disease or is it a reflection of our inability to self and/or mutually regulate our affective state? Are these behaviors, labeled as addiction or addictive, are these monikers—addict, addicted— accurate? Or, do labels simply shadow deeper manifestations motivating people to reach for something to quell their emotional fluctuations, to smooth the ups and downs in their bodily being?

These questions and more are considered in our Winter issue. Our contributors share their thoughts on addiction, on behavioral patterns that become ‘stuck’, automated, reactionary in the face of overwhelm and affective arousal. Possible physiological causes are considered—think trauma and all that comes with that terminology—and potential interventions are pondered.


Introduction. This new edited collection will explore the practise of counselling and psychotherapy by self-identified survivors of sexual violence/abuse: #MeToo for psychotherapy and counselling. It will show:

• That sexual violence/abuse is widespread rather than rare – so widespread, in fact, that all contributors to this book about it have experienced sexual violence/abuse;
• That victims/survivors are more than victims/survivors – including that we can be counsellors and psychotherapists;
• That pathologising and objectifying victims/survivors – something which often happens in ‘mental health’ settings – can be challenged….

We’re aiming to make a rich and nuanced contribution to #MeToo, a significant political intervention for psychotherapists and counsellors, qualified and in-training. We are interested in exploring a wide variety of potential contributions to the book…

Structure and content. An initial chapter will offer an introduction to social, cultural and political understandings of sexual violence for counsellors and psychotherapists. After some notes about the ethical underpinnings of our project, the main body of the collection (with space here for approximately 12 main contributions) will be original (previously-unpublished) chapters about working as a therapist and being a survivor (or however you prefer to term yourself) in a variety of counselling and psychotherapy modalities. There will be at least one chapter concerned with supervision; and there will be exploration of activism beyond the therapy room.


Join SPT at the USABP 2018 conference November 2-4, at Pacifica Graduate Institute. The theme this year is: The Science of Connection: Honoring Somatic Intelligence. Pre registration begins March 15, 2018. Housing is available on campus.  A great time to meet the new USABP Board of Directors and connect with colleagues from across the globe. We plan to be there with a special book auction as well! See you in November! 


I’ve loved writing regularly for Somatic Psychotherapy Today. The initial writing brief for my first Bodywise article back in the summer of 2012 was to say something about my work from ‘across the pond’ – as many contributors are based in the States. Brief sounds chilly and formal. The reality was a warm invitation from Nancy Eichhorn, the founding Editor-in-Chief, to reflect on my current work as a relational body psychotherapist, my Buddhist practice, and my work as an ecopsychologist, and then to write about them. So, I did, associating as best I could the work I was currently doing with the theme of each edition of Somatic Psychotherapy Today. It was an enjoyable challenge! Somatic Psychotherapy Today’s themes over the past five years have been many and varied, from diversity, diagnosis, and trauma to pre and perinatal psychology, embodied spirituality and societal embodiment and disembodiment, amongst others.


I had just gotten my first job at Kent State University Counseling Center after finishing my course work at the University of Kentucky and my internship at Wake Forest University. I lived in the Shaker Heights district of Cleveland and was driving down Route 480 that turns into Route 14 toward work at Kent when I was struck by a deep wave of depression. I felt like I used to feel earlier in my life. At some point I got off the road onto the sideline and just sat and was struck by the deep dark feelings of depression I was having and could not understand why that was happening. Here I was, having achieved what I was searching for my entire life, a position as a psychologist, and I was so summarily bummed out. After catching my breath, I continued driving to Kent.

Then an unusual event occurred when I was passing through the city of Twin Lakes. It was foggy out. The lake was barely visible. But on one of the lakes, just through the dense fog, I could perceive a rower in his boat. It was so striking to me that I had to stop. Amazingly enough I had my camera with me. I pulled it out, got out of the car, took his picture and then continued to work. At the time of this event, the thought did not strike me that perhaps I identified with that rower in the midst of the fog — my old feelings of depression.

Once I got to Kent and focused on work the depression lifted. On my way back to Cleveland on Route 14, I was contemplating, which I often did on the drive to and from work. My thoughts turned to the depressive episode in the morning. I was no longer feeling depressed on the return trip. I was struck by the fact that in spite of feeling depressed earlier, I stopped to exercise my creative abilities and took the photograph of the fisherman. And during the day, I did not remain depressed. I did work demanding higher order reasoning, knowledge of human behavior and emotional wounding, as well as compassion. What happened in the morning was an unusual and temporary setback. It was a pseudo-setback not characteristic at all of where I was in my mental health and functioning.