Body of Evidence

So you believe in psychotherapy, but after God knows how many
sessions on the couch, you just feel all yakked out. Or you hurt
all over, but your doctor says there’s nothing physically wrong.
You may be a candidate for the growing number of body-centered
therapies (also known as somatic psychology) that bridge the
mind/body gap.

Christine Caldwell, founder of the Naropa Institute’s Somatic
Psychology Department, says somatic psychology ‘values the physical
body as a structural blueprint for our consciousness and essential
aliveness. It seeks to rectify a historical overemphasis on
cognitive processes being central in human experience.’
Practitioners believe that memories are stored in our bodies’
tissues, and that by tapping directly into the emotional roots of
our aches, we can break through physical or emotional pain on a
more gut (as opposed to intellectualized) level.

The grande dame of somatic psychotherapy is Ilana Rubenfeld. In
a conversation with Family Therapy Networker editor Richard Simon
(Sept./Oct. 1997), she discusses how her ‘listening touch’
technique, the Rubenfeld Synergy method, adds another dimension to
a therapist’s understanding of a person’s story. ‘It’s like taking
a black-and-white photograph and suddenly adding the dimension of
color,’ she explains. ‘Being able to listen to and understand their
body’s story lets you cover territory that would take three to four
times longer to deal with using only words.’

A typical Rubenfeld Synergy session begins with the client
(fully clothed) lying face up on a massage table. After a verbal
check-in, the practitioner slides his or her hands under a client’s
back or lightly touches the neck or shoulder to get a sense of the
person’s physical and emotional state. As the client talks, the
practitioner listens to the ‘body story’ or the patterns of
excitement or tension or relaxation that occur.

Clients report experiencing a feeling of powerful catharsis
during these sessions. ‘After the 15-minute hit of Rubenfeld
Synergy, I felt as light and present as if I’d spent two weeks at a
spa,’ Simon said. And he didn’t even have to go on any hikes.

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