What is Reichian Therapy?
Reichian therapy is the name given to a type of therapy developed by Wilhem Reich, often also referred to as Orgone Therapy, Orgonomy Therapy, or Orgonomy. It is an alternative, holistic therapy, that has found increasing interest over the past few decades, and is one of the major alternative therapeutic modalities in the West.
Wilhelm Reich was born at the end of the 19th century in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His early life on a farm was filled with sexual openness and experimentation that would influence much of his later work. Reich fought in World War I, and then went to school in Vienna, studying Freud, and becoming a part of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association by the time he was 23. At 25 he set up his own private practice, and by his mid-30s he had developed a great deal of theories which would later underpin Reichian therapy.
This style of therapy basically holds that our capacity to experience joy and fully-realized lives is constricted by walls and armor we put up to protect us from the world. It looks at the attitudes patients use to close themselves off, and helps the patient analyze them and eventually break them down, in order to live more expressive, open lives.
Reichian therapy begins with some sort of character assessment. The therapist looks at everything from how the patient interacts with them, to how they hold themselves and move in the world, to begin to understand the mode in which the patient is operating. The therapist endeavors to build a genuine, trusting, and friendly relationship with the patient, supporting them and actively engaging them at every opportunity.
Therapy in the Reichian style is somewhat innovative in its integration of physical bodywork with psychological assessment. Deep tissue massage plays a large role in it, helping the patient to relax and open themselves more fully. Guided breathing exercises further help the patient of Reichian therapy relax and realize their expansive potential.
Reichian therapy also utilizes a number of traditional psychoanalytic approaches to find root causes of closure in patients. Dream analysis is used by a number of Reichian practitioners, as is a prolonged set of analysis sessions designed to uncover deeply hidden issues and walls.
Traditionally, Reichian therapy acted from the understanding that all neurosis grew out of sexual frustration and repressed sexuality. This was a very Freudian view, and one no doubt influenced largely Reich’s personal experiences. Many modern Reichian therapists, however, believe that while sexuality plays an important role in neuroses, other causes may also play a role. Usually this difference of opinion is acknowledged by referring to Orthodox and Neo-Reichian therapy. Orthodox practitioners continue to practice from the belief that sexuality is the root cause of neuroses. Neo-Reichian practitioners believe that other causes, such as abandonment or non-sexual physical abuse at an early age, may also cause neuroses later in life.