Bioenergetic Therapy

Dr. David L. Kupfer, Ph.D.

Bioenergetic therapy is a way of working with the body and the mind in an effort to reduce psychological symptoms and promote psychological growth. The bioenergetic psychotherapist watches the client’s body move and shift while he listens to the client talk. This therapist urges the client to experiment with new physical gestures and movements in addition to thinking new thoughts and expressing new emotions. The result can be the recovery of long-lost energy and enthusiasm, and the release of anger, depression, and other negative emotions that may have become stuck in the body.

Bioenergetics views the mind and the body as one. The radical bioenergetic position is that we are our bodies; our minds are just a self-flattering fiction. Others believe that our bodies are our unconscious minds. Stress may initially affect our thoughts, but when stress is chronic, it fades from our awareness and moves into our bodies. Our life choices shape our bodies. Each feeling and event, each death and divorce, each birth and laugh shapes our posture and our musculature. The shape of our bodies, in turn, can limit or expand the life choices available to us. If we are physically rigid, or if we breathe in a shallow pattern, we guard ourselves from the full emotional experience of life.

Bioenergetic therapy is often used in conjunction with the more familiar talking therapy. When the therapist notices a certain bodily posture or gesture that accompanies a client talking about a key topic, he or she might ask the client to notice the gesture. Then the therapist could invite the client to exaggerate the posture, note any thought or emotion that goes with this exaggeration, and then slowly move to a different or opposite posture. For example, a client might hang their head low when talking about a friend who had hurt him long ago. The therapist would invite them to hang their head even lower, and then slowly lift their head higher. Anger might be identified and released, and a fresh sense of self-esteem could be enjoyed.