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Apr 15, 2021
Darcy Adamson
Core Spirit member since Mar 23, 2021
Reading time 6 min.

Working with the body is becoming widespread and in demand, which is not surprising in this age of the power of offices over the life of the citizen. To your taste, all kinds of body practices, “telesca”, massage, Thai massage, osteopathy, kinesiology, craniosacral therapy, tantra, yoga, qigong, Tai chi, various martial arts, Aikido, neo-Raikhian and other “pulsations”, contact improvisation, body-work, dance-movement therapy, authentic movement, Feldenkrais method, Alexander method, Rosen method and many other obscure words.

Working with the body is different, and body-oriented psychotherapy is also very different. But in order not to drown in all this volume of offers and choose what you need and want for yourself, let’s define the concepts.


“Psychotherapy is an impact on the psyche and through the psyche on the human body,” is the classic official Russian definition. You can find fault with it and criticize it, but the main idea is still transparent. We work with the human psyche, and not only the client’s psyche is involved in the work, but also the therapist’s psyche (the therapist will not be able to sit on the sidelines). It is this live “informal” meeting of two people that is the basis of the basics of psychotherapeutic work.

What is the difference between body-oriented psychotherapy and other methods?

To put it very simply, body-oriented psychotherapy (TOP) is a type of psychotherapy that works with the client’s body in order to achieve improvements in his mental well-being. Under this term, many methods are hidden, sometimes very different from each other. But they are all united by the fact that the physical body in these methods goes from the periphery to the center. The physical body becomes one of the main figures in the psychotherapeutic process, the direct key to access to the spiritual experiences of a person.

I found a more concise but succinct description in V. Berezkina-Orlova in her article “Body-oriented psychotherapy”.

There are a large number of areas of body psychotherapy ( … ) The general assumption underlying these theories is the recognition of the existence of integrity and functional unity between the body and the psyche, the interconnectedness and continuity of their relations. The body is not just a “soma” separated from the”psyche”. And, if other areas of psychotherapy only casually touch on this position, then body psychotherapy considers it fundamental.

What are the main methods of body-oriented psychotherapy?

Reich’s vegetotherapy.

The founder, the “Pope” of body-oriented psychotherapy is Wilhelm Reich, a psychoanalyst with a very difficult fate and revolutionary views on the nature of man and society. “Muscle clamp”, “muscle carapace”, “character carapace” - these terms were introduced and actively used by Wilhelm Reich. The direction he founded is called V. Reich’s vegototherapy.

Reich irritated the American medical community ( … ) he claimed that domesticated primates are trained to a degree of masochistic submission that literally makes them sick “physically” and “mentally”. In addition, Reich irritated the influential American community of psychoanalysts by arguing that Freudian therapy alone does not cure anything and should be accompanied by so-called “body exercises”.

Quote from the book “The New Inquisition”, - Robert Anton Wilson.

The Reich method is based on both the direct effect of the therapist on the client’s “muscle clamps”, and exercises that aim to increase the chronic little-conscious tension in the human body to such an extent that the muscles at the peak of tension begin to relax. Usually this can be accompanied by an emotional reaction, the “release” of repressed emotions. It is quite difficult to find certified specialists in this field. Although in one form or another, V. Reich’s methods of work are used by many of the psychotherapists, and even a number of representatives of the new Age and esotericism. I wrote more about Wilhelm Reich on my website.

Bioenergetics by Alexander Lowen.

Alexander Lowen, a student of W. Reich, continued and developed some of his teacher’s ideas. He was in more friendly contact with society, and eventually created his own direction – Bioenergetics (not to be confused with cosmoenergetics, esotericism). Alexander lived a long and rich life.

The goal of therapy is an animated body, an individual capable of full expression of pleasure and pain, joy and frustration. The analysis of unresolved conflicts, the release of restrained feelings and the elimination of chronic muscle tensions and blocks-all this is aimed at increasing the ability to have fun, — wrote A. Lowen in one of his many books.

This method involves performing certain experiments and exercises. “Bioenergetic experiences provide an opportunity to experience and touch the expression of feelings in a specially organized safe environment.” A large number of books by A. Lowen have been published and translated into Russian. Among these books there is a practical guide for self-study, - I will give a link to the book later.


This method offers its own view of the person, linking the psychological and motor (muscle) development of the child. Alas, in St. Petersburg this interesting and modern method is not presented in any way. The bulk of the specialists are located in Moscow Time.


I don’t know much about him, so I can’t write anything sane. As soon as I find out, I’ll finish it )


In Russia, there is a domestic patented method of body-oriented psychotherapy, the author of which is a well-known specialist-Vladimir Baskakov.

I wrote about this method in detail in the articles on my website.

Methods that work with the body, but are not body-oriented psychotherapy.

And now I would like to separate the methods of working with the body, which are often confused with body-oriented psychotherapy, but which are not. The fact that these methods do not belong to body-oriented psychotherapy does not mean that they are bad or ineffective for improving a person’s well-being and quality of life. All these systems are united by the fact that the human body is in the focus of attention. Working with the body can have different goals, and it all depends on the ideology and goals of the system in which these body techniques exist. I propose to consider the most common, and known to me systems.

Somatic training.

So, very close to body-oriented psychotherapy is the so-called Somatic training. This is a collective name for a number of methods, which can include the Alexander technique, the Feldenkrais method, and the Elsa Gindler approach. The overall goal of these approaches is to achieve a more correct, efficient, balanced, harmonious and relaxed functioning of the human body. Restoring the natural grace and freedom of movement that all young children have. These methods are excellent and respected by many psychotherapists, doctors, actors and dancers. These methods allow you to “unlearn”, overcome bad habits in the use of the body, and learn to move more optimally, harmoniously, naturally, gracefully, and ultimately in a healthier way.

Eastern analogues of somatic training can be called traditional martial arts (Tai chi chuan, Xinyi chuan, Bagua Zhang, Yiliquan, Hong za Vietnam, etc.) and qigong methods. These methods have become widespread, but, alas, as the quantity increases, the quality decreases.

Dance-movement therapy (TDT).

TDT is not directly related to body-oriented psychotherapy. But it is a method of psychotherapy, where, as the name implies, dance is actively used.

Contact improvisation.

This is an extremely interesting type of modern dance, which actively uses somatic training techniques, attention to your body and your feelings.

Manual (Latin: Manus — brush) therapy and its variants.

These are a number of methods that are popular with doctors, especially neurologists. This includes classical manual therapy, osteopathy, applied kinesiology, and cranio-sacral therapy. These methods also have a therapeutic effect, in professional hands they are excellent. But they are not psychotherapy in themselves.

What is the key advantage of body-oriented psychotherapy over other methods?

If you are experiencing difficulties with identifying and defining your emotions, feelings and experiences, then body-oriented psychotherapy will be very useful to you. Emotions and experiences are realized and manifested through the body, so direct attention to the body helps you get closer to what you feel.

Also, body-oriented psychotherapy is perfect:

If you think that your body often causes you a lot of trouble and problems

If you want to establish a more trusting contact with your body

If the life of your body is a blind spot in your life.

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