Person-centered and experiential psychotherapy - body-oriented
The psychotherapeutic approach of the “person-centered and experiential psychotherapy – body-oriented” was formerly known as “client-centered and body psychotherapy”.
This method of psychotherapy primary consists of the findings of the person-centered psychotherapy by Carl Ransom Rogers, focusing by Eugene Gendlin and body psychotherapy and are applied to the specific individual situation.
Below the three methods are explained.
The foundation of the person-centered psychotherapy by Carl Ransom Rogers is the therapeutic attitude which consists of empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence.
The psychotherapist shows empathetic understanding of the patients’ experiences by trying to put herself in the patients’ situation. In doing so she is proceeding gently and is listening to the patient without any judgement. The psychotherapist is giving unconditional positive regard to the patient, his experiences, the current situation and his story. “Congruence” (or authenticity) means that the psychotherapist is aware of her own experience and what the patient activates within herself at any time. She can offer this experience sincerely to the patient if it seems appropriate.
The expert of his life is the patient himself. Problems, insecurities or self-doubt can weaken or shatter that feeling completely. The person-centered therapist is therefore cautious with giving advice. She rather helps the patient to explore and get to know himself better, so that he can pursue his path and his goals in life independently.
Focusing was developed by Eugene Gendlin. It is a process of inner body attention in which body sensations are felt that can show a vague or hidden meaning of a life situation or topic. This can be very helpful for example in a decision-making process. Difficult emotions can also be explored closely to get an answer from the body.
With focusing the body is asked about a topic. In the focusing process the patient concentrates on his inner experiencing. The inner experiencing might be vague and unclear in the beginning. The psychotherapist helps the patient to concretize the experiencing with different questions. The experiencing can show itself through different modalities like inner images, colors, emotions, words, movements or sounds. The closely explored sensations and their meanings are then linked to present life problems and the life story which helps to determine the next steps.
Body psychotherapy and mindfulness
In body psychotherapy in addition to the language the body and its sensations are integrated. This can happen with mindfulness or breathing exercises with or without touch.
Mindfulness (or awareness) means the conscious awareness of the body, thoughts or emotions without judgement. In this way it is possible to come back to the present moment and be fully present. This can help for example if we are constantly worrying about the future or if we are in the past with our thoughts. When we are overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions it can help to feel the body in the present moment. To learn to be mindful takes a little practice in the beginning. Mindfulness exercises can easily be integrated in everyday life and help us deal with stressful situations and difficult emotions. Mindfulness can be practiced in everyday life in different situations for example mindful eating, waiting in line etc. As needed relaxation techniques can be learned and mindful awareness of the body can be practiced in the therapy session.
If the body psychotherapy includes touch this can happen e.g. with passive movements of the limbs, twisting, pulling, shaking, strokes over the body, massages on different parts of the body, e.g. neck, head or feet. The touch always happens with awareness and the therapist stays verbally in contact to help the client be aware of what happens in the body and what changes with the touch. Benefits of body psychotherapy can be that the patient can get more connected with his own body, get to know his body and relax deeply. This helps to calm the nervous system and to reduce stress.
The three methods that were explained above are overlapping a lot of the times, especially focusing and body psychotherapy. But also in the talk therapy we swing back and forth with „talking about something“, focusing elements and body psychotherapy. The methods flow into each other and can be used flexibly depending on the situation, topic and preferences of the patient.