Thursday, March 29, 2007

Say What???? Part II

So I'm walking with Max and we pass a little office with a little sign, a woman's name, some initials, and below that "Body-Centered Psychotherapy." Huh? What does that mean? It's about the psyche, not the body, unless, I guess it's a treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or maybe something body-related in the delusional realm? Somehow, I don't think so. Seems it googles to it's own flavor of mental healthdom, but no psychiatrists. Max was game.


Alison Cummins said...

I think my beloved did some of that in Europe — I’ll have to ask him about it. As he recalls it did him much more good than any of the classic psychology that had him discussing the sibling dynamics in his family and how he felt about being a favoured youngest son. (He slogged through a lot of that, which I suppose is a reasonable line of attack when faced with a 22 year old immediately after his parents’ divorce, but why inisist on this line of questioning with a 35 year old with a diagnosis of bipolar and lots of other interesting experiences that took place completely independently of his much-older siblings with whom he had little contact?)

Anyway. [end snark]. The body-psychotherapist touched him in different places and different ways. He told me about one time she pressed on a joint and kept increasing the pressure until he couldn’t stand the pain any more and told her to stop.

“It hurt? Then why didn’t you tell me before?” And so began a very interesting discussion about paying attention to one’s feelings, and assertiveness, and self-protection, and the desire to please.

It sounds so much more sane to me than the games some psychotherapists play where they:
1) pursue a line of questioning that isn’t relevant or productive;
2) state that your lack of interest in their questions is your own resistance to self-knowledge; then
3) tell you that you’re in charge of the session and that if you aren’t happy with not being listened to then you aren’t managing your session well.

Maybe it amounts to the same thing, but I understand a sore knee and what it symbolises. Paying for ten sessions of being asked why I won’t complain about my mother and being told that if I’m not complaining about my mother it can’t be because my mother and I are friends, it’s because I’m in denial, might be the equivalent of giving me a sore knee. Sure. But if all we want to do is look at what I do when mistreated or subjected to pain, why drag my mother into it? Why not just press on my kneecap?

The advantage of pressing on the kneecap is that the body-psychotherapist will not deny having pressed on your kneecap in such a way as to cause pain. But the pure psychotherapist will deny up-and-down having played painful mind games with you. (“You’re upset at my bringing up your mother yet again despite your insistence that there’s nothing there? See, your mother is a painful topic! Tell me all about it!”)

Argh. Obviously I know nothing about the person whose office you and Max walked by, or what or how she practices, or if she’s ever helped anyone. The kind of body-psychotherapy my beloved did might not be suitable for everyone; maybe using the kind of interrogation techniques that police use to get people to confess to crimes they did not commit (asking the same questions over and over and over again, promising release if you will only confess to this one little thing, you might as well confess because nobody believes you anyway, you are the only person with the power to rescue yourself and the only way to rescue yourself is to confess) is beneficial to most people and I’m an anomaly in objecting to it; but still, I wouldn’t dismiss this out of hand.

I mean, I don’t put body-psychotherapy in the same category as calling methadone an antidepressant. Methadone is not an antidepressant. The body can have a place in psychotherapy.

*** *** ***
Sorry, I guess I wasn’t successful in ending the snark.

And yes I know perfectly well that saying that “there’s nothing there” is always utterly ridiculous when in reference to one’s mother. But if whatever is there is relevant to the presenting complaint, then the relationship with the mother will come up on its own. And it’s entirely possible for an adult to have worked through issues relating to their mother before encountering a given psychologist. This particular relationship may not present the lowest-hanging fruit at a given moment in someone’s life.

Midwife with a Knife said...

All I know is that I wouldn't sign up for anything that involves a stranger touching me, and body psychotherapy sounds like it involves having a stranger touch you.

Anonymous said...

It's not an either-or. Hopefully one can be in a psychotherapy that feels warm, supportive, and enlightening without this sense of being put on the spot and challenged in uncomfortable ways that don't resonate. At least I hope so.
I can't really comment on Body Centered psychotherapy, per se, just struck me as sounding funny, and since I was a psychology major as an undergrad, I've at least Heard of the more mainstream (or not, remember Primal Scream therapy?) treatments, so this one took me by surprise.-- Dinah

ClinkShrink said...

We need a new Max pic. He's so much cuter in real life.

NeoNurseChic said...

What's primal scream therapy? Where you beat your chest and scream primally? That sounds somewhat therapeutic....

And why does everyone always have a problem with their mother?

I just got home from a 2nd date - and we saw the movie "Reign Over Me" - I think this is a must-see for you guys. I think they portrayed the therapist very well - didn't say whether or not she was a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I thought she was very genuine. They did actually use the phrase "shrink rap" somewhere in the movie - and in the context of talking about a psychiatrist, so then I had to turn to my date and whisper, "Hey! That's the name of my friends' blog!" lol.... At any rate - the movie did leave me a little teary in spots, but it was really good - the acting was phenomenal, and I truly felt it portrayed such a good picture of what issues someone who lost their family or loved one in 9/11 might still be facing. So often, I think we only see the bright side in the news - they want to show that people are moving on, that they are doing well - and I doubt they show the people who have completely fallen apart. I know they're out there.

As far as body-centered psychotherapy, all I can say is that I'm with MWWAK - I don't like to be touched by strangers. And therapy is intimate, as has been duly noted - so any sort of hands-on body work would probably send me over the edge. It's hard enough just to talk. But I did write a post recently about trigger point injections and how they have the ability to release a whole truckload of emotions, so I do believe that our bodies hold the key to a lot of the things we probably don't even think about anymore..... I just wouldn't want someone routinely pushing on me! lol

Take care,
Carrie :)

Alison Cummins said...


You're absolutely right: of course it doesn't have to be either/or. I do have a psychotherapist today who meets my needs and accepts that I only see her when I want help working through a particular situation. She's perfectly happy to accept that my immediate problem might be needing to move on with my job but fearing the loss of security and having problems with executive functioning, and she treats this immediate problem as a legitimate subject of discussion. She doesn't feel the need to immediately change the subject to "tell me about how your mother told you that you were incompetent" and make me pay for many sessions of explaining and enlarging on the particular themes of my childhood so that she can understand that my mother did not tell me I was incompetent and that I do in fact already possess some insight into how my childhood has echoes in my adulthood. I feel like I understand what we are doing in psychotherapy and why; I don't feel as though I am helpless subject of games I don't know how to play; I don't feel patronised for not knowing how to play the games (for which the rules include that I must guess the rules without clues and I must never suggest that there are actually any rules); I do not feel angry at being mistreated by a helping-professional precisely at the moment when I am most vulnerable.

I feel the need to make all these "nots" explicit because I have experienced them over and over.* I am perfectly prepared to believe that the "nots" do not represent what psychotherapy is supposed to be. In practice, however, it often is. At least when the client/patient/victim is me, and I can't be the only one.

Classic psychotherapy and helpfulness are not mutually exclusive (proof: I have a classic psychotherapist who helps!) and that is not what I meant though it is perhaps what I said.

What I meant was that the body can provide a useful starting point for psychotherapy. It can be used to simplify and focus a discussion and let the client feel like they understand what is being done to them: they can literally see it. Given that classic psychotherapy is so often (not always but it does happen with distressing regularity) abused or misapplied or whatever, perhaps simplifying and focussing therapy by building it around the theme of the body can be helpful to both therapist and client.

Not all clients, clearly. MWAK and Carrie for two. (Haven't you ever had a massage? Heaven! At least for me.) And not all therapists either: I imagine that most are more comfortable with the physical distance that classic psychotherapy provides. But... not to be dismissed out of hand. The distance of classic psychotherapy appears to make it difficult for some people to use effectively. That's all.

*Yes I do complain to the psychotherapists when they do this to me, and typically they have been pleased. "Therapy is supposed to be painful! The fact that you feel frustrated and not-listened-to and manipulated and helpless and angry is a wonderful sign that we are doing lots of useful work! The fact that you are so miserable that you have lost your jobs and withdrawn from all your friends and stopped having sex with your beloved during the course of psychotherapy is wonderful proof that we are on the right track! Wheee! Oh, and by the way, if you're depressed and don't want to be, then just don't be. That's not my problem and neither I nor anyone else can help you with that." You will be sad to hear that I am not simply imagining that this is what they are thinking. Psychotherapists have said all of these things to me directly and explicitly when I have stated my unhappiness with the psychotherapy we are doing. And who am I to say they're wrong?

Midwife with a Knife said...

alison: I've never had a massage, well, never a professional one, because that would involve a stranger touching me. I've been sort of tempted by the hot rock massages (stone massage?), but haven't done it (the whole stranger touching me.. I think that would stress me out).

NeoNurseChic said...

I've never had a professional massage just for the sake of having a massage. I have gone to a massage therapist to try to relieve pain from my headaches when I was trying anything and everything to get rid of them - but I got to know her pretty well before she started, and I only went a few times. But what's more than just a massage is that I mention the intimacy of therapy. Therapy can be a very vulnerable place, and touching someone with the intent of helping them therapeutically is very anxiety provoking for me. If someone is giving me a massage, they aren't trying to unlock the inner secrets of my soul - just trying to loosen up some tension. But I don't think I'd ever really go for one. I have rock hard muscle tone in my neck and back from tension, and it literally causes pain to get a massage. Plus all those trigger points are there! Ugh.....