The Embodied Psychotherapist: The Therapist's Body Story

The Embodied Psychotherapist: The Therapist's Body Story

The Embodied Psychotherapist: The Therapist's Body Story

The Embodied Psychotherapist: The Therapist's Body Story


Through accounts of therapists' own experiences The Embodied Psychotherapist addresses, for the first time, the role of bodily feelings in the therapeutic encounter.


It is through my body that I understand other people.

(Merleau-Ponty 1962:186)

In this statement Merleau-Ponty neatly encapsulates the essence of this book, namely that we can only perceive other people through our own bodies. This perspective on embodiment that I am going to discuss relates to how we as psychotherapists come to be aware of, and then use, our bodily reactions to clients during our therapeutic work. Merleau-Ponty's statement appears at first glance simplistic and self-evident. To view it this way is to ignore its importance for our work as therapists. It is my contention throughout this book that psychotherapy has ignored for too long the importance of therapists' bodies in the consulting room. As a profession, we have certainly tried to incorporate the bodily feelings by using notions such as countertransference, but I feel we end up locating the therapist's bodily reactions back into the client. As Merleau-Ponty suggests, I can only ever come to understand another person by how my body responds and reacts to them. The importance of taking our own bodies and our own sense of embodiment seriously is a crucial aspect of this book. I strongly suggest that, as a profession, it behoves us all to become more bodily literate, and this book offers an opportunity to do this.

Every book tells a story and this book is no different. Several of the stories that are told here are those of therapists and how they come to use their own physical sensations while working therapeutically with clients and, in this process, form a 'body story' which relates to the therapy with their particular client. In addition, there is also the story of how this book came to be written. During this introduction I will also provide some background information on the therapists who kindly agreed to take part and share their body stories.

Since this book focuses on the embodied experience of therapists, it seems only right that I state my own interest in the topic:this book is based on the research I undertook to complete my Ph.D., but I am also a practitioner. Prior to any training in counselling or psychotherapy, I trained and then practised for several years as a registered osteopath. I am, therefore, well versed in a body-orientated discipline. I

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