Somatic Body-Oriented Counseling and Therapy Frequently Asked Questions
A: Somatic counseling is a neo-Reichian therapy practice derived from the work of Wilhelm Reich. Like other somatic or "body-centered" therapy practices such as Radix, Bioenergetics, Hakomi, and Core Energetics, somatic counseling practically applies the principle of mind-body unity using an integrated approach that includes working with the body (somatic), feelings (affective), and thought (cognitive) to effect profound personal growth.
A: There are at least three important differences to consider. First, traditional therapy was founded by doctors. Therefore therapy was founded upon a medical model that sees clients as patients who are ill. Instead, somatic counseling is founded upon the humanistic model that sees clients as persons whose different issues place them differently on a continuing spectrum of personal growth. somatic counseling clients are not patients; they are not "pathologized."
Yet another important difference is how somatic counseling considers personal growth. The mind/body principle implies that profound change must not only be insightful (cognitive), but also they must be experienced emotionally (affective), and be reflected in the body (somatic). Deep personal growth is not just a mental experience, it is a whole person experience.
Therefore whereas traditional therapies rely primarily upon verbal dialogue as their technique for generating insight and change, the scope of somatic counseling techniques is considerably more vast. Given the modern theoretical base of mind/body unity, the somatic counselor can apply verbal (cognitive) techniques when needed; she can also apply a host of techniques for working with feelings (affective); and she can apply numerous techniques for working with the body (somatic).
A: Somatic counseling awakens clients to a vital and authentic experience of life. As the work progresses, not only do clients resolve their presenting issues, but also they begin to experience themselves becoming more fully alive, more fully themselves. Although somatic counseling work is applied differently to clients with different needs and different problems, certain themes tend to underlie the work. They include:
- Develop mind/body integration, reducing dissociation, enhancing the experience of being fully alive.
- Ground you in your body and your experience of life, enabling greater competence in your dealing with life's daily issues.
- Center you in your experience of your own body, feelings, and thoughts, enabling your experience of your own authentic self.
- Create boundaries that define you to yourself, your relationships, and the world.
- Contain feelings that might overwhelm you, until they can be expressed at an appropriate time in an appropriate manner.
- Strengthen your ego, your sense of and your experience of self.
- Restore the flow of your life force, enhancing its pulsation, your aliveness, and expressiveness.
- Enhance your capacity to increase and contain your biophysical energy -- to charge with energy and to tolerate increased amounts of energy, thereby enhancing your capacity for pleasure.
- Discharge long-held feelings anger, fear, pain, and longing allowing thereby for the enhanced capacity for feelings of love, trust, pleasure, and fulfillment.
- Increase your capacity for interpersonal contact, allowing therefore for greater emotional and sexual intimacy.
- Discover and express your authentic self, resulting in enhanced autonomy amp; self-direction.
A: The mind and body are a unity. Each is mirrored in the other. For example, the unconscious is mirrored in the body's patterns of chronic muscular tension. The principle of mind/body unity confirms Wilhelm Reich's discovery that you cannot effect lasting personal change without also having changed the body, especially its chronic tensions.
More obviously, we experience emotion when the body's subtle biophysical energy (orgone, qi, prana) flows through the body. "Stuck" feelings of fear, pain, anger, longing, complexes, character defenses, repressions, and other issues are held in the chronic tensions of your body. These tensions distort the flow of our life force, and we experience these distortions as mental discomfort.
If the principle of mind/body unity is real, then it follows that working with the body's tensions can provide us yet another avenue for affecting personal change.
A: No. The old styles of Reichian work can indeed be intrusive and demanding, given the practitioner's possibly forceful manipulations of the body's muscles. But later generations of neo-Reichian work, especially somatic counseling, have tended to become much softer in their approach to working with the body. Keep in mind that neo-Reichian schools such as somatic counseling, Bioenergetics, and Core Energetics have been around for almost 40 years. During that time, their theories have evolved significantly from Reich's old-school of orgonomy therapy. Furthermore, the somatic counseling experience draws not only upon traditional Reichian methods, but also since its inception, it has borrowed techniques from a variety of humanistic schools of therapy. Additionally, the evolution of somatic counseling theory over the past 40 years has lead to especially "soft" and yet effective methods of working with persons.
A: somatic counseling differs significantly from verbal therapies in that should feelings be "up" to be worked, the client often will be encouraged to experience those feelings, not just talk about them. So, often sessions will work with feelings such as fear, pain, anger, and longing, and this may involve crying, yelling, etc.
Why focus on feeling feelings, rather than just talk about them? Because in the feeling of feelings, the biophysical energy locked in the body's chronic tensions can become released. And though hard to describe, it is important to understand that the experience of our feelings for what they really are, leads to their transformation. And so usually the result of feeling your difficult feelings is that end of session you experience a genuine feeling of relief and well-being.
A: For some clients, the direction of their work is to rediscover their capacity to feel their feelings and to integrate those feelings. Typically these clients feel deadened, unalive, as if they are missing out on life's richness. For these persons, the direction of somatic counseling work is towards centering the clients in their inner experience, loosening chronic muscular tensions so as to allow for the experience and discharge of long-held feelings, and developing more flexible interpersonal boundaries. As these clients release stuck feelings of anger, fear, pain, and longing, they awaken to their capacity for love, trust, pleasure, and fulfillment.
A: While some persons need to develop their capacity to feel their feelings, other clients are all to familiar with their feelings; they are swamped and flooded by chaotic feelings that sometimes are overwhelming and seemingly unmanageable. For these persons, the direction of somatic counseling work is towards strengthening the sense of self, defining and strengthening boundaries, learning to contain feelings, enhancing body/mind integration, and developing a greater sense of being grounded. Sensitivity to this very common problem is one of the features of somatic counseling work that distinguishes it from other neo-Reichian practices.
A: The reasons why my somatic counseling clients choose somatic counseling work of course are diverse and individual. For example, some of my clients are drawn to the holistic mind/body/feelings approach of the somatic counseling work; they are convinced that "just talking" about their issues will not lead to profound change. They feel out of touch or dissociated from the deeper experience of their feelings, their body, their aliveness that they sense is possible. They understand that a purely verbal approach to personal growth work cannot induce the depth of change that they seek.
Other clients are all too immersed in their feelings. They are swamped by feelings that seem ever changing, never allowing them an enduring sense of self. They seek clearer personal boundaries, and a grounded, solid sense of self. While verbal work can help somewhat, ultimately the experience of self is rooted in the experience of the body.
Whichever the individual reason that a client seeks to change, each person is served by somatic counseling's comprehensive approach to personal growth. somatic counseling integrates a whole-person approach to personal development that works with body, feeling, and mind. This allows a depth of change that extends beyond word and thought to include changed feelings and changed body awareness and structure, resulting in greater aliveness and personal fulfillment.
A: Most of my clients meet with me weekly for a 50-minute session. Several clients meet with me bi-weekly, as my schedule may permit. I do not encourage working with clients less frequently than bi-weekly, because I feel little momentum can be sustained from one session to another over a month.
Some of my clients live out-of-town, and it isn't possible for them to see me weekly or bi-weekly. When they know in advance that they will be visiting the Portland area, they schedule with me several sessions in a day or over several days in a row in order to do concentrated work. Some instead attend My somatic counseling workshops for meaningful concentrated work.
A: How long I work with a client depends upon what my client's goals are. Some clients come to see me with very specific issues that can be resolved in a matter of months. Though this question is of course so very dependent upon the individual, when pressed I would say that typically I work with my clients from six months to a year. The personal issues that we work together to resolve often have been life long; their resolution is not immediate. Nevertheless the discovery and experience of significant personal growth and change can occur is as little as just a few sessions.
As my clients experience themselves changing, some of them become enamored with the somatic counseling process, and continue working just for the sake of continuing personal growth. Indeed some even wish to become somatic counseling practitioners. Other clients may work with me for a period of months, then discontinue, and then resume working again when other issues arise.
Consider a free consultation
I believe that it is important that you have the opportunity to explore your interest in counseling at no cost to you. Therefore I offer prospective clients the opportunity to meet with me for a 50-minute complimentary consultation.
The easiest way to arrange a consultation or counseling session is to use this "Online Appointment Booking" link. There you can book your appointment at a day and time of your convenience. Of course this can be done by phone (503.226.2771) or email, but given my busy practice, I may not reply to you in a timely manner.
Directions and maps to my near-downtown office may be found using this "Portland office location" link.