Do you have a chronic of lifelong physical, emotional, spiritual, social or sexual problem? Have you tried to self-medicate through alcohol, prescription drugs, or recreational drugs? Are you educated about your problem, having read many articles & books? Have you tried traditional counseling, group counseling, seminars, and 12 Step groups?
The following simplified categorization of touch and holistic therapies indicates the enormous, largely untapped resources available to help you heal whatever ails you in your body, your mind, your spirit, your relationships, and any aspect of your life.
Traditional Massage, Swedish Massage, and Massage Therapy
Massage Therapy (sometimes referred to as Traditional Massage, Swedish Massage, or just Massage) is the best known, most thoroughly researched, and one of the only licensed methods of touch therapy in almost every state in this country. I spent an entire year at the Swedish Massage Institute in NYC to become licensed, although the specific types of touch therapy that I use in my practice are listed in some of the categories below this one.
Carefully draping the client’s body with a sheet and towels, a traditional massage therapist typically utilizes oils and creams, as well as herbal and aromatic essences, music, soft lighting, and basic massage strokes directly on the client’s skin. The goal is usually to alleviate muscular tension, improve circulation, eliminate painful nerve constrictions, treat acute and chronic soft-tissue injuries and problems, and relieve stress by relaxing the mind and body.
Contemporary Western Massage and Bodywork
Expanding upon the practice of traditional massage therapy, Contemporary Western Massage and Bodywork methods may include the use of water, ice, heat, chair massage, onsite massage, medical massage, sports massage, pregnancy massage, infant massage, and more recently, animal massage.
Structural, Functional, Movement, and Alignment Therapies
Structural, Functional, Movement and Alignment Therapy methods of touch therapy (e.g., Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Chiropractic, and Myofascial Release) utilize techniques to improve the structure of the spine and body alignment, organ functioning, flexibility of movement, hormonal balance, and integration of the body as a holographic system. These methods may involve actual re-sculpting of the connective tissue, improved flow of cerebral spinal fluid, lymph drainage, realignment of subluxated vertebrae, trigger-point release, or simply guiding the body to move in an easier, more fluid, and graceful manner.
Asian Bodywork methods of touch therapy (e.g., Acupuncture, Acupressure, Chi Gong, Tuina, and Thai Massage) originated in different parts of Asia and are mostly derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory. This ancient theory describes the health of the body in terms of the five basic elements (fire, water, earth, metal, and wood) and the functioning of the 12 pairs of primary meridians and the eight extraordinary meridians, lines of energy flowing in specific patterns throughout the body. The practitioner stimulates points along the meridians using finger, hand, foot, knee, or elbow pressure, and in some cases, fine needles. The goal is to release restrictions in the flow of energy. Acupuncture is the most recognized form of Asian bodywork, in terms of certification and licensure, within the medical and alternative medicine communities.
These methods of touch therapy (e.g., Polarity Therapy, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and Chakra Healing) focus on the energetic fields within and surrounding the body. These methods range from direct contact on the skin, to indirect contact an inch to a foot or more above the body, to distant indirect contact from another room, another city, or anywhere on the planet. Training may be simple to complex, requiring anywhere from one weekend of basic training, to several years of on-going instruction, to a secretive initiation process open to only a select number of students.
Somatic and Expressive Arts Therapies
Somatic (referring to the Soma or body) and Expressive Arts (referring to non-traditional methods for accessing deep emotions) Therapy methods include body-centered therapies that may or may not involve actual touch. With movement, dance, sports, yoga postures, martial arts, dramatic performances, artistic expression, and visualization, as well as through hands-on touch, the body may allow us to feel sensations and express emotions that have previously been unavailable to our conscious minds. Research has indicated that memories may be stored within the body tissues. Deep traumas can be overcome and the emotional overtones subdued or released. Some somatic practitioners may be trained artists; many have received training and certifications in one or more body therapy modalities, while others are graduates of accredited academic programs.
Somatic Body Psychotherapy
The common element of all body psychotherapy methods (e.g., Rubenfeld Synergy, Bioenergetic Analysis, Core Energetics, Bodynamics, Hakomi, Rosen Method, and Reichian Therapy) is the focus on body awareness and the judicious use of touch during some psychotherapeutic sessions. The touch may vary from very gentle and respectful of the clients needs to more-forceful touch focused on breaking through defenses and body armoring. A body psychotherapy session may include guided imagery, focused breathing, role playing, movement, expressive arts, as well as emotional release work. Body psychotherapists are trained and certified in both psychotherapy and body therapy methods or in specific body psychotherapy modalities. The term “Somatic Body Psychotherapy” helps to further clarify the full scope of this powerful type of therapy.