Classical psychotherapy preoccupies itself with the psychological functions, Yoga Parivrtta Trikonasana Pose that is, with the ways a person perceives and experiences what is happening. The first psychotherapeutic approaches, like Freudian psychoanalysis and Jungian analysis, mostly used two approaches to access the patient’s psyche:
1. An explicit access that uses verbal communication to construct a shared representation of the patient’s experience.
2. An implicit access composed of impressions about what is happening during a psychotherapy session. For psychoanalysts, this type of access led to discussions on transference and countertransference. The boundaries of this form of communication remain imprecise, even when one accepts that information can be transferred from one person to another and influences how each person experiences what is going on. This mode of communication is ofen considered preverbal. It is explicitly present in all forms of psychotherapy and may become central in child psychotherapy and in the treatment of psychotic patients.
A first characterization of body psychotherapy is to include in this category all forms of psychotherapy that explicitly use body techniques to strengthen the developing dialogue between patient and psychotherapist about what is being experienced and perceived. In most schools of body psychotherapy, the body is considered a means of communication and exploration just as complex and rich as verbal communication: The body is no longer experienced as an object of awareness but as an aspect of awarenessâ (Salveson, 1997, p. 35). It is often a shared understanding among the schools of body psychotherapy that language and body became increasingly complex within the same developmental process, and language is a subsystem of the organism’s capacity to communicate.1 Initially, the body psychotherapeutic approaches integrated two dimensions associated with the body:
1. An explicit exploration of behavior. The psychotherapist serves as a mirror and describes the way he perceives the patient’s behavior. He also asks the patient to explore what is happening when he tries to behave differently.
2. The utilization of body techniques developed in the fields of physical therapy, dance, and sports. The focus is first on the interaction between muscle tone, respiration, the coordination of movements, and the psyche.
More recently, certain body psychotherapists integrate a larger scope of body-related phenomena, like the analysis of nonverbal communication. These visible and spontaneous activities are situated at the intersection of social norms, behavior, the body, and habitual movements.2
Psychotherapy that systematically explores behavior is not referred to as body psychotherapy but as behavior therapy. The integration in psychotherapy of what the anthropologist Marcel Mauss (1934) called the techniques of the bodyâ characterizes the field of body psychotherapy. To create a model that integrates bodily and psychological dynamics, body psychotherapists found it necessary to modify classical theories, which had been developed to explain what happens in one of these two domains: When we take into account the impact of body phenomena on relational dynamics, we quickly notice to what extent the current theoretical constructs relative to interaction need to be radically reformulatedâ (Rispoli, 1995; translated by Marcel Duclos). In this my yoga blog, I elected to discuss that which essentially establishes the domain of body psychotherapy. There exist age-old practices and discussions that permit us to affirm that the body-mind approaches carry with them robust experience and robust3 expertise. Because scientific researchers have not yet studied this domain in a systematic way, we count mostly on phenomena that have often been observed over time in a great variety of cultural contexts. The relevance of integrating body techniques in psychotherapeutic approaches is supported by extensive clinical research and numerous collegial interactions. It is, above all, these robust models that merit learning by body psychotherapists in training and by those who would like to reflect on what these approaches are discovering and proposing.
The following section is a theoretical summary of the reference model used for this volume. Some may prefer to read the concrete examples in the chapters of this my yoga blog and then read this section later.