About Bioenergetics (Bioenergetic Analysis)
What is Bioenergetic Analysis?
An interview with Robert Glazer, Ph.D., founder of the Florida Society for Bioenergetic Analysis, from Bricklin, Mark et al., POSITIVE LIVING AND HEALTH: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BRAIN / BODY HEALING AND MENTAL EMPOWERMENT, Rodale Press, 1990.Bioenergetic Analysis is a body-oriented form of psychotherapy. A direct descendant of Reichian therapy, it is sometimes grouped with radix and orgonomy under the heading of neo-Reichian therapies. It was founded by Alexander Lowen, a student of Reich's.
As it's practiced today, bioenergetics comes in two forms: private sessions, which combine bodywork with classical Freudian character analysis, and supplemental group sessions.
The group sessions are part of what makes bioenergetics different from Reichian therapy, which the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich developed in the 1930s. Reich, a one-time protege of Freud's, came to discover that there was a relationship between tension and rigidity in the body, and rigidity--or psychological limitations--in the mind. In other words, when emotions are held in, rather than expressed, they begin to affect the musculature of the body. And when the body is tense, the mind itself is locked into the same set ways of perceiving things.
Emotions are a form of energy, Reich believed. If they overwhelm us, we may tense a muscle, or set of muscles, to stem the flow of feeling. The problem is that a one-time muscular defense can lead to chronic tensions when we suppress the emotion again and again.
Reich found that groups of muscles in the body tend to form protective "armor." Segments of the body prone to armoring are the oracular, or eye area, and the oral, cervical, thoraxic, diaphragmatic, abdominal, and pelvic areas. In therapy, he would gradually soften and remove armor, through physical manipulation and psychoanalysis. He preferred to work from the oracular segment on down.
Bioenergetics, conversely, works from the pelvis up. Ultimately, it seeks to help individuals learn how their emotions affect their bodies, and how their physical tension keeps them locked in the same self-defeating emotional responses to situations in their lives. Once rigidity is released from the mind and body, the individual is free to respond spontaneously and appropriately moment by moment.
Bioenergetic group sessions typically begin with strenuous yoga-like poses and may end, sometime later, with the clients throwing temper tantrums on the floor. That's to bring about emotional release.
In private sessions, practitioners work to dissolve body armor through a combination of methods. In the more aggressive of these techniques, clients are encouraged to hit, cry, and scream. Other times, regulation of breath, pressure point massage, or stretching over a "breathing stool" are used. Clients roll backward over the 24-inch stool to help "open" the spine.
"When they stretch like that, it opens up breathing constrictions," says Dr. Robert Glazer, director of the Florida Society for Bioenergetic Analysis. "If someone is tight around the throat, the chest, or the diaphragm, this slowly but methodically stretches the body."
A typical session might begin with the client relating something of importance that's going on in his life--be it anxiety or depression, or happiness and well-being. If the feelings are negative, the therapist tries to discern how that emotion is being manifested in the body.
"You have to get to the fear or emotional pain that's keeping the body in its frozen pattern," says Dr. Glazer. "Then as you release the emotional energy, you can release the psychological component that put the body in that pattern to begin with."
Bioenergetics and Reichian therapy differ most in their end goals. Orthodox Reichians aim to help a client achieve "orgiastic potency," that state in which the individual is able to freely experience and express the full range of his sexuality and emotions. Reich saw sexual release as a key. Individuals who were capable of adequate sexual release, through orgasm, were not able to maintain neurosis, he believed.
Bioenergetics is more interested in helping clients attain a surer sense of self, an ease within which they can express their emotions honestly, and an awareness of an inner life. By integrating feelings with body awareness, it seeks to bring the body into a more vibrant state.
How well-trained are bioenergetic practitioners? Therapists undergo a four-year training course that consists of 100 hours of training therapy,a series of training workshops and another 50 hours of personal supervision under a qualified bioenergetic trainer. Would-be practitioners need to possess or be working toward a graduate degree, preferably in the healing arts, in order to be accepted for training.
How much therapy you need to achieve results depends upon just what kinds of results you're seeking. Dr. Glazer says that it "generally takes three to four months to deal with the 'presenting issue.' That's the depression, nightmares, or other problems that brought the person in. Once they get through that, I give my clients the option of going for broke--of going for character analysis." That can last two to three years.