The Mind-Body Connection –
Integrating Bodywork with Emotional Work
By Claudia Ward, MA, LAc, Dipl Ac
The Mind Body Connection Integrating Bodywork with Psychotherapy
Increasingly counselors are discovering that close collaboration with body workers (massage therapists, acupuncturists, etc.) enhances their clients’ personal growth. This synergistic combination of bodywork and psychotherapy helps clients access long buried unconscious patterns. The value added of focusing on the body just prior to therapy leads to increased balance between body and mind, to the release of somatic tensions, and to an embodied sense of well being and radiance.
Bodywork is therefore an important tool for helping people to acknowledge what they are truly feeling and to become healthy, authentic and grounded individuals.
Nurturing touch offered by a trained body worker can calm the nervous system, which integrates the mind-body pattern. This calming effect leads to enhanced self-awareness, giving freedom for feelings to come forth and be released in a safe environment.
In addition, skilled bodywork practitioners, who understand body psychology and physiology, are trained to notice where emotions are held in the body. Their attention goes to the issues in the tissues. If left unaddressed, these long-term emotional blockages often result in muscular tension, changes in posture, chronic pain. When certain emotional release points on the body are stimulated, or when pressure is applied skillfully to chronically tense areas, long suppressed memories, buried in old structural patterns are released.
As in psychotherapy, emotional releases can take many forms. Sadness, grief, anger, fear may come to the surface during a session. Some emotional releases are associated with specific traumatic events while others reveal more chronic thought patterns. What’s important to know is that freeing the body is creating an opportunity for positive change in both body and mind.
The value of touch as an integral part of the healing process is age old, and valued in every culture. The current proscription against touch within the therapeutic environment, while understandable, also has its downside. The re-integration of these two healing modalities is long overdue. No different than the thorough preparation of soil before planting, bodywork before therapy yields better results. In today’s fast paced life, our ability to slow down, listen to, and care for our bodies, conjoined with our willingness to work on ourselves in therapy, will lead to unexpected healing.