Body/Mind work focuses on the theory that the body and the mind are inextricably linked and that mental and physical factors play a significant role in all health issues. The most common, and the simplest form today, is known as “stress reduction.”
Another form is “body-oriented psychotherapy,” which uses positive visualizations in order to overcome disease, especially cancer. Carl Simonton made this technique popular having the patient imagine elements of his immune system that could seek out and destroy cancer cells. Others have found it helpful when used before an organ transplant in order to help the patient accept the donor organ.
More sophisticated approaches of body/mind work use traditional psychology, which seeks out causes for illnesses that may be buried within the psyche. Some of these therapies include process-oriented psychotherapy, Hakomi, and various Reichian-incluenced techniques.
Biofeedback uses simple electronic monitoring devices connected to electrodes on the skin. The information collected from them and assessed. The patient is then taught how to control his own body responses, enabling him to gain psychological control over his physiological responses.
Neal Miller pioneered the technique in the 1950’s after demonstrating that rats could be taught to control digestion, blood flow, and heart rate. In 1973, Elmer and Alyce Green of the Menninger Foundation, travelled to India to further their research in biofeedback. They are credited with some of the modern techniques now used particularly in the areas of controlling skin temperature.
Methods of biofeedback generally include relaxation, meditation, and visualization techniques. There are five main types of biofeedback used today.
- Electromyograph (EMG): measures minute electrical impulses in the muscles to indicate whether they are being tensed or relaxed.
- Electroencephalpgraph (EEG): measures brain waves.
- Galvanic Skin Response (GSR): measures resistance to electrical flow in the presence of moisture. This is often used for the infamous “lie detector tests.”
- Heart Rate: is measured during anxiety and relaxation periods, helping people gain control over responses in order to bring their blood pressure under control.
- Thermograph or Skin Temperature (ST): measures temperature changes in the fingers, hands, or feet to indicate blood flow and any possible restrictions.
Credentialing involves certification from the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America and is used mainly by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, physical / occupational / respiratory / speech therapists, exercise physiologists, chiropractors, dentists, and physician’s assistants. These may use the initials indicating BCIAC (Biofeedback Certification Institute of America Certified).
Hypnotherapy involves several techniques that include verbal cues and watching a moving object. In a hypnotic state, a person becomes more relaxed and is open to suggestions for change. The practice dates back to ancient China and Egypt, where it was used prior to surgeries.
An Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), modernized the treatment techniques. The term “mesmerized” is a product of that labor. A Scottish surgeon, James Braid (1795-1860), modified Mesmer’s techniques and labeled his own brand of hypnotism that resulted in decreased bleeding, pain relief, a lowered mortality rate, and accelerated healing in his patients.
The American Medical Association accepted hypnotism as a viable technique in 1958. Credentials of a CH (Certified Hypnotherapist) are granted to those who have successfully completed a training program approved by the American Board of Hypnotherapy, or who have passed an examination approved by them, or who have maintained a private or group practice in hypnotherapy for three years. Many psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, pastoral counselors, physicians, and dentists have included this technique into their practices.
Psychotherapy focuses on healing the mind and emotions through attentive listening and the mutual identification of problems resulting in useful coping strategies. Practitioners are trained to assess a client’s functioning ability from a physical, emotional, mental, environmental, social, and spiritual perspective.
Techniques vary with the practitioner, but some include:
- Bioenergetics has its origins with Wilhem Reich, an Austrian psychoanalyst, and Alexander Lowen, who further developed the practise. Bioenergetic therapists are trained to read body language and are then able to determine appropriate techniques that may involve massage or various physical and breathing exercises conducted in a group setting.
- Cognitive restructuring involves helping a client realize that negative thought is trapping him in destructive behavior patterns, resulting in uncomfortable physical symptoms. Cognitive restructuring results in improved self-esteem, leading to the solving of detrimental physical symptoms.
- Core energetics is a branch off bioenergetics developed by John Pierreko, a psychiatrist and body therapist who incorporated an element of spirituality into his techniques.
- Gestalt therapy is a technique developed in the 1960’s by Frederick Perls. Gestalt is the German word for “whole.” The matter concentrates on an awareness of present feelings, perceptions, conflicts, and behavior to achieve a healthy wholeness. His theory is approached through dramatics in a group setting over a concentrated period as a weekend.
- Guided imagery and visualization involves the therapist verbally leading a client through emotional conflicts through the use of imagination.
- Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) was developed by Richard Bendler, a mathematician and Gestalt therapist, and John Grinder, a professor of linguistics at the Santa Cruz University in the 1970’s. The goal of this therapy is to reprogram negative patterns through counseling sessions where the therapist observes body language and then works with the client to change these unconscious patterns that are negatively affecting the emotional and physical balance.
- Stress Management training combines education and the sources of stress and helping the client learn to cope with it more effectively.
Credentials vary, as does the licensing, and is dependent upon education and experience. Possible degrees may be attained by Social Workers (BCD, CSW, DSW, LCSW, LICSW, MSW), Pastoral Counselors (D.Div., D.Min., M.Div., Ph.D), Psychologists (Ed.D, MA, PhD, Psy.D), Mental Health Counselors (MA, MEd), Psychiatric Nurses (MA, RN), and Psychiatrists (MD).