In the previous posts about body psychotherapy, I’ve provided an overview of why the body is important in psychotherapy, and I’ve also discussed three of the benefits:
However, these may not provide a very clear picture of what to expect in a session or over the course of therapy with me. Despite the fact that there is no ‘typical’ session, in this post, I will offer a case study that will at least give an idea of what a potential client might be able to expect.
For this case study, I will draw on my many experiences; “Paul” is not any particular individual.
Work with Paul began with a phone consultation. He told me that he was having issues in his relationship and had a hard time communicating with his wife, Laura. While he loved his wife dearly, she complained that he lacked passion for her. Indeed, he described feeling distant from her, particularly recently. He was afraid that Laura was going to leave him, and he had begun to feel depressed and anxious. After discussing other stressors in his life, Paul asked a few questions about me and what I thought about his situation. I assured him that what he was experiencing was completely understandable and that I was optimistic that therapy could help. We decided on a fee and set our first appointment.
Beginning: life context and building resources
In the beginning, I invite Paul to share more about his life, both past and present, so that we have the full context with which to work. I listen attentively, reflect what I hear, and ask clarifying questions. I know that we are beginning to build trust when Paul confides to me that, as a very young child, he repeatedly witnessed his father beat his mother. I notice that Paul’s breath became short as he fights off the desire to cry.
“It’s safe to cry here,” I say. Paul gasps on an inhalation but continues to fight the tears.
I take a deep breath, which cues Paul’s body to also take a deeper breath. “That’s right,” I say. “Take a few more with me.” I count to five as we inhale, and then I count to five as we exhale. We repeat this four more times. Paul looks noticeably calmer.