Psycho-Physical Therapy

Explorations in Somatic Psychotherapy

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What is Psycho-Physical Therapy? *

Psycho-Physical Therapy is a method of therapy that integrates approaches of both psychotherapy and body therapy in one simultaneous process. The therapeutic work is continually integrating the physical with the psychological and vice versa. The normal cultural distinctions about the separation of body, mind and spirit are viewed as occasionally useful dichotomies, but are not seen as a true picture of reality. We are a complex interacting system where all parts are inseparable from the whole. This therapeutic method requires a fundamental attitude shift away from the standard cultural paradigm of seeing and working with the separation of body, mind and spirit. It is important to address and work with these many parts. The process of Psycho-Physical Therapy is based on the following principles.

The Psycho-Physical Therapy Principles:

Parts are never separate from the whole.
All aspects of human experience are integrative in nature. They mutually influence each other and contribute to an integrated whole life experience. If one level of our complex functioning is diminished, dissociated or dysfunctional, the whole life experience is affected. The functioning of our mind and the functioning of our body is integrated. The therapeutic work builds from this attitude.

The body is the primary vehicle through which the therapeutic work is done.
All therapeutic actions either include the body or are integrated back to the body. The body is actively engaged at all stages of the therapy process. Psychological work is grounded in the body. Spiritual work is embodied. Body therapy methods and techniques are used through out the process. These may include somatic awareness, physical patterning and education, movement work, hands -on bodywork, etc. The style of body therapy is dependent on the needs of the session and the appropriateness for the client's process.

The therapeutic relationship creates the container of the therapy.
It is the quality of the relationship between therapist and client that creates the container that holds the therapeutic process. The therapist's task is to create this holding structure though meeting the client with presence, honesty, wisdom, compassion, caring and a wealth of skills developed through training and life experience. The therapist needs to model the qualities of wholeness and integration that is implied in the principles of this approach to therapy. In this meeting the client can then develop the trust, confidence and courage necessary to more deeply explore the issues that brought them to therapy.

The work serves the clients therapeutic goals.
The intention of the therapy is to serve the transformative goals of the client. These goals may or may not be clear when the client starts therapy, but they are clarified during the therapeutic process. A client usually has a sense or an image of who they are becoming, of how their life is meant to be lived. They often come to therapy because they feel a dissonance, a sense of misalignment between how they experience their life is going and the dream they carry of how their life is meant to be lived. The work of clarifying or refining the client's goals is an essential part of therapy. The therapist needs to ask, "what is the clients dream?", "what is their calling?", "what is emerging for the client in this therapeutic process?", "What brings them to therapy?". The client's goals for therapy are worked out together with the therapist and become the focus of the work.

The work is focused on building resources.
Therapeutically, resources are defined as those actions, awarenesses, and abilities that support a person in maintaining a sense of self and a feeling of competency, regardless of what is occurring in his or her environment. When a person has inadequate resources, their ability to function fully and successfully in the demanding situations of life is undermined. The therapeutic work is focused on building resources that support the goals that the client brings to the therapeutic meeting rather than on pathology. The work is focused on what is needed in the next unfolding step of the client's process, not on what is not working.

Awareness is the foundation of the transformation process.
The therapeutic process encourages awareness on all levels of experience, including the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. In Psycho-Physical Therapy specific attention is given to developing somatic awareness. Somatic awareness refers to the ability to be conscious of the various functions of the body by being aware of body based feelings and sensations. Greater awareness enhances the capability of a person to feel an embodied sense of self (what is called the somatic sense of self). Awareness of this somatic sense of self is the most fundamental and essential somatic resource. From this awareness comes a clients ability to observe and if necessary alter the functioning of his or her body. The awareness of new options is a key to the process of transforming ineffective psychological or physical patterns into newer and more effective patterns.

The therapeutic approach is a balance of analytic and process orientation.
The therapeutic process needs a balance of both analysis and processing. Clinical assessment, both physically and psychologically, is important for successful therapy. The therapist's assessments are done in active relationship with the client. These assessments are not looking to place a client in a ridged category, or for what is "wrong", but rather for what needs to be enhanced or developed. The assessments bring to light the client's emerging process and what resources are needed for that emergence to successfully happen. Each therapeutic process follows its own unique path. It is important to allow the therapeutic process to creatively unfold, following its own route, while at the same time observing and assessing the process. Both need to be happening in balance.

The therapeutic work is grounded in the client's daily life.
Transformation happens in the client's daily life. The therapy process is training for the transformation that later takes root and grows in the client's life. The therapy needs to regularly reference the client's life. Therapy is not an abstract event; it needs to be a life relevant activity. The establishment of homework for the client is an important part of transformational therapy.

* Please note: PPT is a mind-body therapeutic and educational process. It is not a Clinical Psychology, Psychiatric, or medical based Physical Therapy.