body mind psychotherapy venn diagramBody-Mind Psychotherapy (BMP) is a somatic-cognitive approach to therapy that incorporates elements of physiology, early motor development, and Body-Mind Centering® — a trademarked therapeutic approach. Through the use of things like mindfulness, embodiment, and experiential anatomy, BMP helps people get in touch with their bodily experiences in order to enrich overall health. Body-Mind Psychotherapy can be applied for therapy with individuals, couples, families, and groups.

History of Body-Mind Psychotherapy

Body-Mind Psychotherapy was developed by Susan Aposhyan during the 1980s and 1990s. During the 1970s, Aposhyan studied yoga, meditation, and dance. She also completed graduate work in psychology, biomechanics, and dance therapy at the University of Virginia, Boston University, and New York University. But it was her training in Body-Mind Centering®  that allowed her to consolidate her learning into the cohesive clinical practice of Body-Mind Psychotherapy.

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According to its official website, Body-Mind Centering®  is an experiential study based on the embodiment and application of anatomical, physiological, psychophysical, and developmental principles. It utilizes movement, touch, voice, and the mind. Upon completing her training in Body-Mind Centering®  with founder Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen in 1982, Aposhyan began to apply what she learned while working with people with myriad mental health issues. The tenets of Body-Mind Centering®  served as the foundation for the development of Body-Mind Psychotherapy.

How Does Body-Mind Psychotherapy Work?

Body-Mind Psychotherapy is based on the idea that humans tend to dissociate from their bodily experiences. Because human beings have the power to think, create, and exert control over their environments, they sometimes get stuck in their heads and ignore their bodies. Finding a therapist who provides BMP can help a person to open up the body and mind to allow both to be experienced and integrated.

In order to help people achieve this integration, BMP employs several key components, principles, and techniques. They include the following:

  • Developmental Edge: This term represents the concept of the boundary between where a person's ability ends and where his or her potential begins. People are developing beings that are always learning, growing, and evolving. The “edge” represents the place where people move from who they once were to who they are becoming.
  • Embodiment: A central concept to BMP, embodiment describes the push to help people open up and connect to the experiences, sensations, and expressions of their bodies. By allowing their bodies to communicate, people can release old trauma, negative patterns, or other psychological issues that may hinder them.
  • Development: BMP therapists utilize developmental milestones in unique ways to nurture emotional growth.
  • Experiential Anatomy: Drawn from Body-Mind Centering® , BMP therapists use this tool to support people in experiencing emotional processing on a physiological level.
  • Energetic Mapping: This technique is used to track the flow of energy in the body, including where energy gets congested and/or depleted.
  • Interaction Cycle: This cycle involves a four-step process that helps people progress in therapy. It starts with embodiment, moves through to identification of a desire, then shifts to awareness of the response to the desire, and finally allows the response to “sequence” to completion.

What Happens in a Body-Mind Psychotherapy Session?

According to founder Susan Aposhyan, “Every BMP session is different. A BMP session begins by finding out what the person in therapy is wanting in their life that led them to pursue therapy. Based on that, we discover together how that desire is moving through the body in its unique developmental path. Based on that, we explore how the person wants to support that development. This phase varies tremendously, with some people able to think and talk their way to the next developmental stage, though most breathe and use body awareness to go further, and finally some people utilize movement and voice.”

What Conditions Are Commonly Treated Using Body-Mind Psychotherapy?

According to the official Body-Mind Psychotherapy website, professionals have found BMP to be helpful for those experiencing the following issues:

Training and Certification for Body-Mind Psychotherapy

Certified BMP professionals may have completed varying degrees of training, ranging from workshops to full certification. BMP training is offered to professionals of all kinds, including therapists, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, and more. Training involves three general levels:

  • Fundamental Level: In this initial level of training, professionals are taught to focus on their own embodiment. They learn how to be present and experience more of themselves on a physiological level.
  • Second Level: Professionals learn the observation skills required to address the needs of those they work with in therapy. They learn to bear witness, provide empathy, and observe the embodiment process of others.
  • Final Level: This stage of the training is all about facilitation. Professionals learn to apply what they have learned and assist people in their development through the use of deep psychological and psychophysical processes.

Criticisms and Limitations of Body-Mind Psychotherapy

The two most prominent limitations of BMP include the limited information about the practice and the lack of empirical research about its effectiveness in treating mental health issues. Although Body-Mind Psychotherapy is similar to body psychotherapy, research findings on body psychotherapy cannot necessarily be applied to BMP. More research is needed to further establish BMP as an effective treatment modality.

“Though there is no good research that directly supports BMP, all the recent neuroscience related to brain development, trauma recovery, and relational healing supports the principles of BMP,” Aposhyan said.

Aposhyan also points out that people who are uninterested in truly feeling their bodies may not benefit from Body-Mind Psychotherapy.


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