A Short Tour of Somatics
Somatics, derived from the Greek word soma, means the living body in its wholeness. The discourse is rooted in the work of Freud contemporary Wilhelm Reich, MD, who observed that patients with illnesses or psychological disorders improved more readily with sensory integration—working with the mind, body, and emotions together— rather than dividing the Self for treatment.
When patients addressed their emotional problems with talk therapy alone, their improvements didn’t last. By working with what Reich called character armoring — patterns of bodily holding—the tension could release, allowing more energy to flow throughout the system, resulting in fuller self-expression and better health.
The impressive list of somatics pioneers and innovators includes: F. M. Alexander, Ida Rolf, Alexander Lowen, Moshe Feldenkrais, Randolph Stone, MD, Charlotte Selver, Marion Rosen, Elsa Gindler, Ilse Middendorf, John Pierrakos, MD, and Eva Pierrakos, Thomas Hanna, PhD, Ilana Rubenfeld, Anna Halprin, Stanley Keleman, PhD, Judith Aston, Stuart Heller, Emily Conrad Da’Oud, Ron Kurtz, Jack Painter, Jack Rosenberg, Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, PhDs, Stan Grof, MD, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Christine Caldwell, Peter Levine, PhD, Pat Ogden, Staci Haines, MS, and Richard Strozzi-Heckler, PhD.
Living Practice: Somatic Coaching and Bodywork
Much of my learning, training, and professional practice since 1996 has been in the discourse of Somatic Coaching and Somatic Bodywork pioneered by Richard Strozzi-Heckler, PhD. Richard’s contribution to the field brings somatics into the world in which we live—one of action. Combining sensibilities and practices from somatics, martial arts, meditation, healing arts, and linguistics, and rooted in biology, consciousness, and heart, he has forged a coaching model that ignites personal and world change.
Richard’s anthology Being Human at Work (North Atlantic, 2003) shows how somatic coaching is being used to evoke potential in individuals and groups in many fields, including business, organizations, education, coaching, health, counseling, and government. And I recommend his primer on Somatics, The Anatomy of Change: A Way to Move Through Life’s Transitions, to all my clients.