- I work with the whole person – with you as you are – the body-emotion-imagination-mind individual within their social context
- I work with your whole experience including your thinking and reflection – pre-verbal AND non-verbal AND verbal, rather than restricting our work to language and insight
- I work with feelings – whether they are overwhelming, raw, repressed or absent – as an important aspect of your reality
- I work with ‘character’ – those deep habits and patterns which over the course of your lifetime you have grown into, i.e. habitual ways of experiencing yourself and the world, habitual ways of perceiving, feeling, thinking, behaving which you take to be ‘normal’, but which tend to repeat past wounds and patterns
- I work with the ‘therapeutic relationship’ – with our interaction as a reflection or a microcosm of your life, based on the (partially true) notion that how you are in therapy is how you are in life – in a nutshell
- I work with the ‘inner world’ – with the various parts and aspects that populate your psyche and their multi-faceted interrelationships (as often revealed in dreams)
- I work with the ‘unconscious’ – with those powerful, underlying forces that shape you and organise you (often against your conscious intentions)
- I work with spontaneous processes – with how things are as well as how they ‘should’ be, and with the often strong conflict and opposition between your spontaneous and your reflective identity
- I work with the ‘body-mind split’ – with the dualism between body and mind embedded in Western culture and your particular share in this
- I work with ‘identity’ – those familial, cultural and sub-cultural webs and networks that you belong to and that shape who you are (whether you identify with them or battle against them)
- I work with you as the subject and potential ‘author’ of your life – i.e. with your inalienable and undeniable potential for a meaningful, wholesome and fulfilled life whatever your inner or outer reality
- I work with Jung’s idea of the ‘individuation process’ – the idea that there is the possibility of finding an experience and a way of being that we might point to with the mysterious and elusive notion of ‘Self’
- I work with processes that may be called ‘transpersonal’, that go beyond your individual identity and constitute a larger sense of belonging and interdependence with others and the world at large
I will work in all of these areas and ways by paying attention to how they operate in me as well as you (i.e. with my ‘self’ as an ‘instrument’ of perception, attunement and resonance). I will be mindful of the patterns and interactions that are engendered between the two of us, and how these replicate or transform your past experience. As most people come to therapy when their conscious resources have already been accessed and explored (and often exhausted), we usually need to attend to all levels of your experience, including unconscious ones. In many ways these are often the levels that ‘matter’, i.e. before and beyond any conscious decisions made by your ‘personality’.
Integral-Relational Body Psychotherapy
Therefore, I call my approach Integral-Relational Body Psychotherapy, to emphasise what I now consider the main ingredients:
- integral – this implies bodymind, holistic, systemic, evolutionary perspectives, attending to evolving wholeness; it also implies an integrative rather than singular one-sided approach, attempting to draw on diverse, and often contradictory theories, finding validity in each
- relational – this implies (for me) both person-centred-humanistic-existential AND intersubjective-psychoanalytic perspectives (and the tension between them – I can explain this, but not in one line)
- Body Psychotherapy – this implies an appreciation of the tradition I trained in and its many powerful theories and techniques, although as an approach it has evolved beyond its origins (an evolution that I have contributed to – see some of my writing available on this website for the distinctions between traditional and modern forms of body-oriented therapy). In many respects, my own brand of Body Psychotherapy is beyond recognition in comparison with the 1970’s cushion-bashing, catharsis-obsessed version of Body Psychotherapy which haunts the popular imagination and leads to misconceptions and prejudices.
What follows is an indication of my approach in jargon-terms, i.e. in the various languages and dialects of psychotherapy.
The development of my therapeutic approach
I have described the development of my approach in several articles and papers, notably in “What therapeutic hope for a subjective mind in an objectified body?” and especially in my chapter “From humanistic holism via the ‘integrative project’ towards integral-relational Body Psychotherapy”.
There, I distinguish several phases of development, stretching from traditional Body Psychotherapy going back to Wilhelm Reich’s character analysis and vegetotherapy through the various post-Reichian schools and Gerda Boyesen’s biodynamic psychology to the origins of Chiron in the early 1980’s. The development after that I divide into the initial years of Holistic Psychotherapy, which was then renamed to Chiron Body Psychotherapy – following the formation of the European Association of Body Psychotherapy in the early 1990’s. The next phase can be called integrative Body Psychotherapy, followed in the late 1990’s by integrative-relational. Since 2005 I prefer the term integral-relational to denote another shift, both theoretical and practical.
These phases do, of course, overlap and blend into one another and the sequential categorisation is an abstraction imposed on what was not a straightforward linear process.
For a detailed description of these phases and what ideas and principles characterised them and distinguished them from one another, please follow the above references.
Generally speaking, the development was from adherence to a more dogmatic, one-sided and partial perspective to a discovery of the shadow aspects and limitations of that original approach, and then beyond into an integration of other, previously excluded approaches. This led eventually to a re-integration of Body Psychotherapy with modern psychoanalytic principles and a formulation of the paradoxes inherent in the therapeutic endeavour.
From the beginning, my training included a variety of humanistic approaches and techniques (breathwork and rebirthing, Gestalt, psychodrama, Transactional Analysis as well as Neurolinguistic Programming), but I branched out into Jungian, post-Jungian and archetypal approaches, both in terms of my own therapy as well as in my work and my thinking. With the integrative project, more and more perspectives found their way into my practice, both from the humanistic spectrum and from the variety of psychoanalytic schools (including classical and Kleinian, object relations, self psychology, intersubjectivity, relational psychoanalysis).
My integrative approach: Integral-Relational Body Psychotherapy
unique integration of a wide variety of therapeutic approaches:
- drawing on all the schools of the Body Psychotherapy tradition (Reichian, vegeto, bioenergetics, biosynthesis, biodynamic, etc)
- wide range of humanistic-integrative approaches, incl. Gestalt, Process-Oriented Psychology, breathwork & rebirthing, Transactional Analysis, Psychodrama, and others like NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) and existential approach
- psychoanalytic: object relations, self psychology, intersubjectivity & relational perspectives
- systemic: Bert Hellinger’s family constellations
- transpersonal: Jungian and archetypal psychology, psychosynthesis
- diagram of the whole field incl cognitive-behavioural focus, constructivist, NLP