Is body psychotherapy the same as massage?
No body psychotherapy is not massage. The difference between the two is in the relationship between client and therapist and in the intention. While both work on the muscules and fascia of the body, massage is most often a passive experience, where the client lies down on a massage table and is worked on by the therapist, with few words exchanged. Body psychotherapy, however, is interactive and expressive, with an ongoing voice and movement dialogue between client and therapist, as they develop their relationship, build trust and test boundaries. Touch is only one aspect of a session which may also include breathwork, movement, anger release, role play, creative expression and other therapeutic processes. There may also be times when there is no touch and the focus is on body awareness - guiding the client towards becoming more aware of the feelings and sensations of their body, and the stories they tell.
Massage is mostly on a massage table in a room with subdued lighting and soft music, while body psychotherapy moves from bodywork, done lying down on a futon on the floor, or a low massage table, to being up on your feet doing anger work, role play, using sound, dance, movement and moving around the room. The importance of being on your feet is that it grounds you and helps you come more fully into your body.
While massage can vary from the long sweeping strokes of Swedish massage to the deeper, more intense manipulations of deep tissue massage or sports massage, there is limited dialogue between client and therapist, and emotions that come up are not addressed. The intention of massage is to leave the client feeling calm and relaxed, or to relieve stress and tension but there is little emphasis on knowing the emotional experience of the client or helping them explore what is happening in their body. A massage client may also come for one session and not come again, or for a series of sessions with long gaps inbetween.
Body psychotherapy, however, works best when the client takes time to deepen their process and develop a relationship with their therapist that builds trust and safety . Like any relationship, taking time to get to know another and test boundaries to see what works best for you is always worthwhile. Weekly sessions are therefore the best way of developing a deeper understanding of yourself and your life over time and building the therapeutic relationship.
Body psychotherapists are also primarily interested in the inter-relationship between mind and body, how the past influences the present, and the emotions that reflect this. The focus is on healing the mind-body split, and integrating the two, so that the client can become more centered and whole again. The therapist is curious to know about the client, their history and psychological makeup, what is going on in their current life, and their psychosocial experience. Massage clients are not there for that, they are generally there to lie down and relax and be quiet as the therapist massages their body.
While long sweeping massage strokes may be used in a body psychotherapy session, attention is given more to working slowly using deep focused stokes into specific muscles and fascia, to release deep emotions that are held there. A body therapist also works from an understanding of how your character is structured, how this developed from childhood wounding, and how your way of being in your body as a result of this can affect you emotionally.
Why should I choose Body Psychotherapy over other forms of therapy?
There is no right or wrong form of therapy, each offers something of value. The more familiar traditional perspective gives prominence to the mind through talk therapies but there is growing recognition of the importance of the body. Body psychotherapy focuses on the body-mind, which sees the body and mind as connected and holding a wealth of knowledge about who you are on a deep spiritual and emotional level. It works with physical tensions, energy flows through the body and internal conflicts, which prevent you from being in full expression and knowing yourself more fully. Body psychotherapy is about giving voice to the intuitive knowing of the body to reconnect you with your deepest Self and bring you back into a state of wholeness.
People come to body psychotherapy for many reasons, often because,
* words aren’t enough
* they’re looking to explore on a boldily level
* aches and pains are drawing attention to their body
* they feel disconnected and want to reconnect with themselves through their body
* they recognise the body-mind connection when dealing with emotional issues
* they’re wanting to be more free and expressive and move their body
* they’re dealing with anger, rage, distress
* they’re wanting to resolve issues of the past
* they have emotional issues they want to deal with
* its been recommended to them
* out of curiosity
Whatever your reason, I would encourage you to trust yourself in knowing what is right for you. If you are drawn to this work, maybe for the first time, have the courage to step into the unknown and see where it may lead you.
How will it make me feel?
Each person brings their own personal life story so everyone’s experience will be different. Sessions may be challenging, active and energising, and at other times it may be peaceful and flowing. During a session you may go through a range of experiences; sometimes you may feel sad and angry while at other times you may feel energised and playful. Whatever feelings come up, my role is to hold the space for you to work through them in a way that feels safe for you.
Will it heal my body issue?
Body psychotherapy is a journey of exploration and discovery so neither of us can know how that journey will unfold and where it will lead. Wherever it leads, you are sure to gain deep insights about your life and greater self-awareness.
The body heals itself in its own time and the purpose of body psychotherapy is to give you space to make contact with yourself on a deep level and to access your body’s wisdom. It helps you know yourself in relationship to your body and gain greater self-love and self-acceptance. The outcome is often more freedom and ease in your body and greater self-expression and aliveness, which may lead to healing.
Do I have to be touched?
I work in a respectful manner where you are given the right to decide how close you will allow someone into your space and how near or how far feels comfortable for you. Touch is negotiated between us and you decide the level of contact. At times there may be no touch as you wait for the moment when it feels safe for you, and at no time are you touched without your permission. This allows you to reclaim on a deep bodily level your right to say ‘No’, to set the edges of your boundaries and experience your power.
Will I have to take off my clothes?
As with touch, you are given the right to say ‘No’ and to decide what feels comfortable for you. It is possible to work fully clothed focusing more on body awareness than touch. When using touch, however, being partially clothed allows for easier access to the muscles and fascia of the body, but this is not a requirement of the work.
How will I know if it’s right for me?
I would encourage you to trust yourself in knowing what is right for you. If you are drawn to this work, maybe for the first time, have the courage to step into the unknown and see where it may lead you. Come and experience a session and if you would like to continue then we can agree a number of short term sessions to give you time to decide if it’s right for you.
How long does a session last?
Sessions can be between one and two hours. A two hour session gives you more time for yourself and more space for things to unfold. This time is an investment in you and your life and your commitment to your growth and development, so the more time you can give to that the more can be achieved. We can agree how long is best for you after our first session.
How many sessions will I need?
The number of sessions can be decided at the end of your first session. Initially we agree to work for three sessions at the end of which we review your progress. Should you wish to continue then we can agree a number of sessions over a longer term.
I deal with a wide range of issues from sudden crises to problems which are deep seated and of long standing so the length of therapy will vary, depending on what you bring. You may be dealing with work issues or a relationship break-up which need immediate attention and can be dealt with in only a few sessions, or you may have re-occuring problems and many difficulties, which require a longer time and deeper exploration of your life and the challenges that have brought you to this point.