Why include the body in counselling?

Tessa Burns MartinTrauma

Written by Sharon Stopforth, Registered Social Worker

Traditionally, counselling has focused on the mind and employs talk therapy to resolve issues.  Other forms of counselling have also been developed to include the spirit such as Jungian and transpersonal therapy.  Recently, it is becoming more accepted to work with the body in counselling as research in trauma has shown excellent results with counselling that includes the body as well as the mind.  Such counselling practices include EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Hakomi, IBP (Integrative Body Psychotherapy), EFT (Emotion Focused Therapy), Bioenergetics, and many others. 

All of these counselling practices hold in common the belief that any event that occurs to us in life, impacts our whole being-physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.  Humans are seen to be unique energy systems and counselling from a body-focused perspective will pay detailed attention to human energy.  Feeling and expression are seen to be prime components of healthy functioning and a body-focused counsellor will use breath and movement as primary techniques to re-establish the healthy flow of energy in the body.    

Many of the dysfunctional patterns that we repeat in our lives cannot be changed by talk alone.  By returning to the site where the injury happened-the body– real change can occur.  If something happens to our energy early in life, then we develop a poor sense of ourselves which becomes buried under defensive blocks.  If we have had to block our feelings, we block the healthy flow of energy in our bodies. 

Blocks appear as muscular tension in the body.  Counsellors who are trained in a body-focused practice will contact the blocks in the body, relax the tensions that produced those blocks, and  release energy to flow freely, allowing the under-developed self to emerge.  With energy flowing unimpeded, a person can have the sense of well-being in their body that should have been their natural condition in infancy.  When aliveness in the body is reawakened, one experiences an intensified sense of authenticity that can be expressed through relationships with others, leading to higher levels of personal fulfillment and intimacy.