Note: This page is under live construction and will be heavily edited over the next few weeks.
A trained Bodynamic therapist has many tools in their toolbox to draw on to adapt to various situations and clients. The following are some of the most important aspects in conducting Bodynamic therapy.
Making a Contract
Tracking (Verbal & Non-verbal) to primarily identify:
- Character Structures
- Ego Functions
- Ego Aspects
- Trans-marginal areas
- Trauma if present and what type: Developmental, Shock (PTSD) or Complex PTSD
- Character Structures
- Ego Functions
- Ego Aspects
Affirmational Relational Messages (ARM’s)
- Physical Touch Contact/Support
- Developmental movement based
Meta Analysis (Integration)
Therapy Session Path
Form a contract
- Agree on an issue and get examples of how it is affecting present life.
- Make the contract clear, precise, inclusive, and doable.
- Identify likely character structure and or ego functions at play by tracking verbal and non-verbal cues
- Explore and work with emotions related to the issue
- Explore and work with defenses related to the issue
- Use the Bodyknot
- Use conflict Resoloution
- Maybe provide physical touch contact/support
- Try exercises (Developmental, Energy or Endarkenment)
- Use ARM’s when challenges are faced, and new abilities are being learned
- Review initial contract
- Review what emotions came up during session
- Review exercises that were tried
- Review and affirm any new resources that were learned
- Recommend possible homework
- (Review helps integrate new experiences into the Adult ego.)
1. Make a Contract
A contract is a type of agreement or plan for what the accomplishment goals for the session are. The contract helps provide direction and focus for the therapy session. Ideally a contract would take 5 mins to form. However if there are sever autonomy issues at play, in the worst case it could take months to establish a contract.
The contract ideally by it’s stated goal will most of the time confine the session to a single character structure. In a smaller set of cases the session may bounce between 2 or 3 character structures. And if it’s a teenage character structure issue the therapist may need to deal with all seven. Complexity increases the more character structures are involved and the corresponding skill level required increases in tandem.
It is typically that a hyper/late character structure is compensating and masking issues in a hypo/early character structure. This can quickly shift the focus of a therapy session from one structure to another as the underlying issue is brought to light and worked on. Also later structures chronologically can compensate for earlier developmental ones as there is more ego involvement in their formation.
Therapist: What would you like to work on?
Already at this step the therapist is tracking the client observing verbal and non-verbal cues helping the client by asking clarifying questions in order to make a clear, concise and precise contract. Most often the character structure theme is the easiest to identify and the therapist should have a pretty good idea of what ego function based exercises may be of beneficial use.
Ideally the contract applies to a current precise situation in life.
- I would like to reduce my anxiety.
- I want to feel more empowered.
- I would like to reduce anxiety when speaking my opinion about politics to my friend Jane.
- I would like to feel more empowered when confronting my boss about his behavior.
2. Conduct therapy
Tracking, Working with Defenses & Emotions, ARM’s, Exercises, Bodyknot & Conflict Resolution are all covered more in depth below.
Structure vs. Process
For therapists under training it is typically best to try and follow a linear approach to structuring a therapy session. The initial contract often helps create a developmental container for the session. The Bodynamic approach is typically much more structured than a pure process oriented approach. Here we aim to contain the process within a structure.
Sometimes the process is not linear and logical, sometimes it’s emergent. Then after it goes to a more linear model.
When a lot of defenses are at play, or when working with the teenage structure it may take some exploration to uncover what the underlying issues are. However once a core issue can be identified a plan can be put in place.
3. Meta Analysis
The purpose of meta analysis is for integration. This is especially important when working with the earlier character structures because much of the work is being done at the non-verbal body ego level. It is important to bring the observing/integrating ego in so that earlier experiences can be properly integrated with the adult ego thereby bringing maturity into the development process.
Child like immaturity and the defenses formed early on can have a powerful pull in that they can be used at subconscious emotional levels to avoid responsibility and accountability. Resourcing the inner child could can at times empower those defenses, so bringing the child-self into the adult-self and integrating the two is of crucial importance here.
Tracking is perhaps the most important skill a Bodynamic Therapist can learn. Most of the Bodynamic theoretical and experiential training revolves around building support and knowledge for this skill. Knowing what you are perceiving and what it means for the client is of critical importance. It is through proper tracking and identification that a therapist will then know what course of action is best to try next. With tracking there are verbal and non-verbal elements that are tracked. Tracking helps identify what character structures, developmental themes and ego functions may be at stake. This then is used as a basis to make a decision on the next course of action.
- Content of statements
- Voice Intonation and energy/intensity
- Muscles that appear to be collapsed
- Muscles that appear to be tensed
- Specific movements with the arms
- Specific movements of the legs and feet
- Spatial energetic emenation
- Facial expressions
- Expressions in the eyes
- Expression of the mouth
A Bodynamic therapist is tracking these various cues to try and ascertain two key elements:
- What character structure or structures are primarily at play here with the presenting problem.
- What ego function or ego functions are primarily at play here with the presenting problem.
- What Ego Aspect? Body, Individual, Role, Observing or Integrating Ego
- Are there trans-marginal elements?
This gives the therapist the right information to identify what the developmental emotional theme is to the issue. This becomes a powerful point of mutual connection where the therapist can emotionally resonate and mirror the client in the context of a defined container. For example are we in will, or autonomy?
Determining the ego function (and sub function) gives the therapist the precise information required to work directly with the client in a precise and practical way by activating a certain part of the body. This is where profound new shifts occur for the client at a psycho-physiological resource level.
With these two pieces of information a muscle or fascia can be deduced and an exercise can be chosen to try with the client.
Sometimes it is easier to identify an ego function issue, and sometimes it is easier to identify a character structure issue. Identifying one and then exploring the emotional meaning behind it, will almost always lead to the other.
Character structures and Ego functions are inexplicably linked, however there is thousands of possibilities in how this can occur.
Character Structure cues examples
Verbal Statement cues
- “I’m too much.” – Probable Existence Issue (Emotional)
- “I always get the wrong thing.” – Probable Need Issue (Distrusting)
- “No matter what I do, it’s wrong.” – Probable Will Issue (Self-sacrificing)
- Asymmetry in the spine – Probable Existence Issue (Mental)
- Collapse in shoulders forward – Probable Will Issue (Self-sacrificing)
- Overextended legs while standing – Probable Need Issue (Despairing)
Ego Function cues
- “I feel overwhelmed.” – Energy Management issue
- “I feel alone.” – Connectedness issue
- “My head is in the clouds.” – Grounding issue
- “I don’t know what I want.” – Centering issue
- Arms hang limp by the sides – Interpersonal skills issue
- Feet are not on the ground – Grounding issue
- Muscles in the quad areas appear slack – Boundaries issue
- “I was left to cry myself to sleep nightly as an infant.” -Developmental Trauma
- “I was punished in severe ways for doing the wrong things” – probable Developmental Trauma
- “I was raped.” -Shock Trauma (PTSD)
- “I almost died in a car accident” – Shock Truma (PTSD)
- “I was a prisoner of war and tortured.” – Complex PTSD
- “I was raised in a residential school.” – probable Complex PTSD
- Very needy eyes – Developmental Trauma
- Twists in the fascia – probable Shock Trauma (PTSD)
- Bulging wide eyes – probable Shock Trauma (PTSD)
- Character muscle pattern splits between front/back or lower/upper part of body
Tracking is something that first needs to be learned consciously. After much practice a competency gets built up and a person can identify character structures and ego functions and what to do next without thinking about it. At some point a skilled practitioner enters flow state and can enter a “space” where she/he just “knows” what to do next and the therapeutic practice becomes emergent as opposed to directed.
This is desired so that the therapists attention can place more focus on emotional resonance and attunement and doesn’t need to sit there and mentally analyze everything they are perceiving. This is how a natural intuition is built through years of practice.
Self-tracking vs. client tracking
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges is in forming a skill of dual awareness where the therapist is tracking themselves and the client simultaneously at somatic and emotional levels. It is important the therapist is centered and grounded in themselves and keeps clear boundaries and does not fall into “negative” transference or counter transference. Transference can be used in a positive way and this is where self-tracking is important. In moving from un-resourced positions to more resourced one, the therapist by finding the resources in themselves can through the resonance provide a powerful positive template that the client can mirror.
The therapist also needs to be secure in themselves with regard to the issue being worked on as to provide a safe anchor point when the client is moving through vulnerable and uncertain territory.
Transference and Counter-Transference
Transference and Counter-transference are important tools for healing old developmental patterns. According to Boadella (and others before him), transference reflects the history of earlier psychological patterns in the muscles, which then get projected onto therapist / trainer / group members.
Many years of experience in teaching and training psychotherapists that work with other modalities (non-Bodynamic) have shown that the Character Structure model may be applied as a powerful tool for describing different patterns of transference and counter-transference. The Character Structure model describes muscle response patterns in tandem with the person’s patterns of contact, social interaction and behaviour.
The Bodynamic therapist-trainer can involve transference patterns specifically in relation to character structure or developmental patterns by utilizing specific exercises, healthy parent messages, contact patterns, psycho-motor work and language. By establishing this new contact pattern in the transference, or resonance as Boadella describes it, a new imprint is created and integrated into daily life.
- The Bodymap can help inform a therapist what things to watch out for in client before a session even starts. During a session it can offer clues as to what muscles may be worth trying. While a Bodymap is not necessary for receiving a Bodynamic therapy session it can take some of the guess work out of what avenues to follow.
- More advanced tracking-training can occur through something called Body Reading. In a Body Reading a person is asked to stand and then is analyzed by a practitioner as to all the various collapses and tensions and how they affect the overall posture and expression of the person. This can give significant clue to a persons character structures and if and what kind of traumas may be present. Body Reading focuses almost exclusively on the non-verbal elements in tracking.
Working with Defenses
Firstly it is important to identify the type and function of a defense. Defenses can be classified a few different ways based on their protective function. Virtually all defenses ultimately are a defense against feeling something. It is by going for the underlying feeling the transformative healing can occur when the right support and somatic resources are brought in. How the defenses manifest may appear slightly different depending on their protective function which is why I have split them up into three general categories.
Ascertaining the type and function of a defense can quickly help determine what character structure issue is at play and what course of action may be best. Many of these defense are acted out unconsciously and become part of a persons’s character. This is why having a therapist can be extremely beneficial in spotting them and helping the client build awareness for them, by connecting them to their purpose and what lies underneath.
Examples of how to identify defenses are:
Defenses against Emotion
- Suppress an Emotion – Early or Late Will
- Distract yourself with something else – Late Autonomy
- Denial – Late Existence or Early Love
- Intellectualize – Early Existence
Defense against sensing self (hypo-response)
- Hang out in the “Void” – Early Autonomy
- Merge with other – Early Need
- Dissociate from own body – Early Existence (or trauma)
Defense against relationship with other (hyper-response)
- Judgmental – Late Will
- Compete with other – Late Performance/Solidarity
- Distrust other – Late Need
Unlike other systems of psychotherapy that try to break down defenses, or try to make them aware so they can “just change” their behavior, the Bodynamic approach is based on compassion.
“You only change, when you learn to love your defenses”~ Lisbeth Marcher
It is important to remember that developmentally defenses served an important protective function to keep a person safe. They worked, it’s how the person got here and survived. They provided a certain level of safety and these aspects need to be acknowledge before a person is likely to give up on their constant use.
We also teach that defenses are not inherently bad. Again they serve a functional purpose and using them, consciously, may be necessary at times especially in difficult situations. It would be a mistake to engage in self-criticism every time one popped up.
Having compassion for the disavowed parts of our self can be the most difficult and when a therapist can do it for us initially it can provide a powerful positive template. Many transformative healings can occur from this aspect alone especially combined with the work increasing embodiment by activating and sensing specific muscles.
Working with Emotions
Here we are often trying to amplify repressed emotions. This often happens without regard to character structure or ego functions.
Therapsists train to match the intensity of the emotion of the client. This is done through mirroring and resonance.
SUPPORTING EMOTIONAL EXPRESSIONS
Look for and support nascent expressions of emotion in the body:
- changing facial expression: quivers or stillness,
- eye expression
- changes in breathing
- tension in jaw or throat
- change in tone, pattern and rhythm of sound (prosody)
- Bring awareness to the emerging expression and give space for emotion
- Be present with simple words and sounds of attuned support
- Encourage taking time for full expression, often waves of it
- creates opportunity to express emotions long held back or given up
- allows a new body experience
- creates a new experience of attuned relationship
- can free energy and vitality, promote greater competency
What do you feel and where? Please describe…..
The location of the feeling can often give important cues as to what character structure or ego function is at stake.
Insert chakra like picture….
Repressive defenses often physically confine an emotion physiologically in order to try and manage it. Expansion of emotions, making more room for an emotion is a tactic often used to help facilitate the processing of repressed emotions. Activating muscles from Containment and Connectedness (support) ego functions can greatly assist this process.
Affirmational Relational Messages
Affirming your relationship with your client (also called good parent messages)
In Bodynamic, one of the ways we build a container inside of which we follow a client’s process is through affirming our relationship with them. One of the most common and effective ways we do this is through relating around the themes of the character structure and position they are expressing. Another is by using Affirmative Relational Messages (ARMs).
And there are a number of other cues – verbal, visual, and intuitive – that signal opportunities for building a relationship by sharing affirmative thoughts and feelings.
- Affirming the client’s resources and abilities.
- Hearing about their courage and risk-taking in the face of adversity and hardship.
- Glimpsing a deep part of them, their truth, their authentic self.
- Sensing their struggle.
- Sensing their need for support in their life.
- Feeling proud for them, moved by their feelings and what they faced.
- When they don’t clearly see their strengths, or how far they have come.
- What do I like/appreciate/respect/love about this person.
- What moves me about this person.
- When they come to a new, transformative awareness.
- When they have faced an ongoing challenge in a new and productive way.
Exercises are designed to help build awareness and psychological resources in muscles and fascia. These are not raw strength exercises and have nothing to do with the physical strength of the muscles. What it has to do with is the psychological and emotional aspects of using the muscle in the context of a relationship with the self and other human beings.
Types of Exercises:
- Activation self
- Activation with motion + subtle resistance from another
- Activation and contact/touch support from self or another
- Stretching the muscle
Case examples of each above exercises:
- insert…..in own sections with pics and videos
How to choose a muscle/exercise
There are a few different ways muscles/exercises can be chosen based on the contract and what emerges in the session.
- An obvious Character structure issue, which through clarifying questions leads to an ego function and then a muscle
- An obvious Ego function issue, which through clarifying questions leads to a Character structure and then a muscle
- If the issue is more complex (ex. Trauma) and needs to work across multiple character structures simultaneously then sticking with an Ego Function exercise without involving character structure is a possibility
Even with excellent tracking by a therapist or use of a bodymap, sometimes the use of a certain muscle or exercise just is not the right fit for the situation or client. Experimentation is key here and trying various things out until something lands is important.
Note: Some exercises use many muscles and are compound exercises. Other exercises try to focus on working just one muscle at a time.
Character Structure -> Ego Function -> Muscle
Ego Function -> Character Structure -> Muscle
Ego Function -> Muscles/Exercise
- Sexual Abuse -> Ego Function – Boundaries
- Client feels overwhelmed in many different situations -> Ego Function – Energy Management
The Body Knot (simplified)
Whenever a person has a conflict with another, the following model can be used to break the conflict down into its components, clarify feelings and create a course of action towards resolution. The following is a formulation of fill in the blank statements that can help guide this process.
I want the contact between us to be changed.
When you say/do…….(behavior words)
then I get……(emotion), after
that I act…..(defense mechanism)
and I want this to change.
I want you to….(behavior words)
I want me to…..(be concrete; how often, etc.)
Can you accept that?
Will you be a part of that?
Response from other:
Yes or No
If No then a possible new suggestion
I can do it like this…..
Two case examples: (insert)
Old notes from Yorgos:
Other therapeutic principles and methods of the Bodynamic System
All major therapeutic modalities of the Bodynamic System – the Character Structures, Ego Functions, Shock Trauma – PTSD work, the Bodymap, etc – fully incorporate the body in the therapeutic process.
Our list of somatic-verbal tools for therapy is long and includes (among others):
- Active Sensing; (evolved from Carl Rogers and Active Listening)
- Body Awareness (which in turn comprises Body Sensing, Body Experiencing, Body Emotions/Expression, and Body Regression); a theory and practice widely implemented in Danish education since the 1950’s;
- Body Reading and Postural Mirroring;
- Psychodynamic exercises and boundaries exercises;
- Guiding the client to sense and understand Reflexive Movement Patterns;
- Unlocking impulses frozen in the body;
- Using resistance in movements and counter-movements to change patterns of body tension, et al.
All those somatic-verbal tools help the client develop new resources for action that are at once psychomotor and cognitive.
Ways of using the body to support the psychological process
The body is a constant source of reliable information that can make enormous difference in the psychological process. The Bodynamic System utilizes both supporting touch and activation of individual muscles or groups of related muscles to facilitate the unfolding of the psychological process.
Informed by decades of precise research into the psychological function of individual muscles, that approach brings to the surface, in a very simple and straightforward manner, the themes that need to be addressed at the time so that the psychological process can continue toward resolution.
Another resource is that as the session progresses the therapist can physically monitor (visually and by touch) the quality of response in a muscle, and be able to confirm the actual improvement of the psychological process. For example, when working with an issue involving boundaries, the therapist may choose to touch the lateral deltoid muscle on one or both sides, activating the psychological issue of boundaries. Any significant progress in the actual boundary issue will inevitably be accompanied by a palpable change in the response of the muscle and by a change of body posture or attitude.
To a trained practitioner, the quality of change in muscle response at any moment during therapy can offer precise information about the current progress of the psychological process, information that is not available by any other means.
A fundamental principle and therapeutic method of Bodynamic Analysis is Active Sensing. Many psychotherapy modalities base their understanding of the therapeutic process on the mental representations of the patient and/or therapist, which may or may not be relevant to the particular stage of the therapy process. Bodynamic Analysis utilizes Active Sensing, a real-time skill for authentic and accurate understanding of actual body-mind events and conditions at every moment in the therapy process. Active sensing offers a solid basis for interaction and builds grounded containment of emotions.
Originally we used Carl Rogers’ Active Listening, as we had learned it. We looked to improve his model by adding precise knowledge of the body and expanding the effectiveness of Active Listening by adding questions and instructions related to the BodyKnot (following paragraph), thereby formulating Active Sensing.