What is Body Psychotherapy?

Body Psychotherapy is a holistic form of psychotherapy which incorporates the body within the psychotherapeutic process. Based on the idea that the body is directly linked to thought and emotions, Body Psychotherapy uses various techniques which enhance the awareness of our body and its direct connection with our thoughts and emotions,for the restoration of pathological symptoms.

As in other forms of psychotherapy, the client works with the psychotherapist to understand the issues s/he confronts. Together, they examine the way in which the client’s current problems might relate to their past, their experiences within their family environment and any major losses or traumas they had. They work together to discover what the client needs in order to deal with their current situation in the most satisfying, authentic and responsible way. They explore the client’s skills and talents that s/he can utilize and most importantly: they explore the client’s ability to heal themselves.

What happens in a Body Psychotherapy session?

In order to facilitate the analysis process, the body psychotherapist utilizes techniques which focus on the body and in particular on the level of bodily sensations which are often out of our awareness. For example, if the client refers to an emotion s/he is feeling, the body psychotherapist might ask: in which area of your body do you feel this emotion? The body psychotherapist can help the client enhance their awareness of their body posture or a spontaneous movement. S/he may propose body techniques related to breathing or standing and use touch in order to enhance the therapeutic outcome. S/he may also help the client pay attention to their dreams and spontaneous images that provide a deeper meaning for the interrelation between body and psyche.

These techniques help the person come into direct contact with their emotions, reactions and typical ways of relating to other people as well as to discover and activate new potential.

What is the advantage of working with the body?

There are many idiomatic phrases which indicate the somatic aspect of experience. For example, we refer to our ability to “take a stand”, to “be grounded”, to have a sense in our guts about something, to have an “open heart”, to “raise a wall”.

In Body Psychotherapy these are not just metaphors. They are the reality of our experience which manifests in our body. They are often keys to crucial decisions we made for ourselves or ideas unconsciously passed to us through family or culture. For example, many people learned to withhold the expression of emotions which were forbidden in their family. Some have the tendency to collapse or withdraw or avoid challenges because they have been discouraged in the past. In Body Psychotherapy, we examine these body postures, patterns of tension or weakness, because they are linked to central issues of our existence and experiences. Working through all this helps us develop self-awareness and open the way for new modes of being. 

For example, a woman who was discouraged to speak within her family environment, might explore how she learned to clench her throat, shoulders and jaw in order to remain silent. As she works through her emotions towards her family, she might learn how to bring more energy to the upper part of her body so as to have the strength to speak up for herself. In a similar way, a man who finds it hard to relax and allow himself to rest might explore how he forces his body to keep alert. He might then realize that he learned how to get into this alert state as a child, in order to avoid suffering from the lack of proper response to his needs (emotional/physical). This will enable him to consider new ways of being with himself and others.

How does Body Psychotherapy help?

Body Psychotherapy emphasizes vey basic life processes: how we connect to other people, how we claim for and get what we need, how we build boundaries to define ourselves, how we see ourselves and how others see us, how we organize our potential to get out into the world and how we return to ourselves to rest and replenish our psychic power. These are basic processes –bodily, emotional, interpersonal and mental– that may have been supported or injured in our lives. They are also processes that any of us can develop further, in the present.

When we incorporate our body in the psychotherapeutic process, we may observe and listen to it and thus reveal parts of the unconscious – since the body holds records of all early experiences. When we enliven, relax, nurture our body, we can awaken parts of our psyche that may have been dormant or unseen. Bodywork can thus bring us in contact with deeper inner resources and larger primitive and archetypical forces that life offers.

What more does the Body approach provide compared to other psychotherapeutic approaches?

An approach that examines all the aspects of the Self, is obviously a more complete way of working, whether the issues that we deal with affect us bodily or emotionally. Most people have a complex relationship with their body and many of them consider it as disconnected from the Self. They pay little or no attention to their body, seeing it as a vehicle for living. They often acquire a more conscious relationship with their body only when they get sick.

A psychotherapeutic approach which helps us to deepen our awareness of our body experience and to observe the ways in which we express ourselves through movement and gestures – which may sometimes be in contrast to how we think we feel – can offer a great opportunity for reconnection.

Working with the body allows for greater variety of expression through movement, touch or greater awareness of the way in which the body reveals a truth that is beyond the constrictions of language. The body has an innate wisdom which provides the opportunity for a more harmonious coexistence with ourselves and others, if we can use it as a guide for well-being.

How can I be sure about the professional competence of a Body Psychotherapist?

Being a full member of a professional association of Body Psychotherapists, such as PESOPS and EABP, ensures the professional competence of a Body Psychotherapist. This is because in order to become a full member of the professional association, one must fulfill specific criteria concerning their training in Body Psychotherapy and the prerequisite humanistic studies, their personal therapy, supervision and professional practice. The members of PESOPS must also abide by the code of ethics which applies to the practice of Body Psychotherapy worldwide.

So it’s advisable to choose a Body Psychotherapist who is a full member of a professional association of Body Psychotherapists.

What is a professional association?

A professional association sets the criteria of practicing psychotherapy and the Code of Ethics for the protection of clients. In particular, being a full member of PESOPS signifies the fact of accreditation by the European Association of Psychotherapy (EABP) as a Body Psychotherapist. This means that the particular psychotherapist meets all the requirements of professional competence set by EABP and also abides by the Code of Ethics for the clients’ protection.

What is registration/accreditation with a professional association?

Being registered/accredited with a professional association means that the person has the required training and expertise prescribed by the association (according to international standards), as a prerequisite for their accreditation as a certified professional of mental health.

How do I choose the right psychotherapist?

The key to successful psychotherapy is to find the right psychotherapist for you.

Irrespective of how good a psychotherapist is, the relationship you build with them may determine the effectiveness of psychotherapy. You need to feel that the psychotherapist you have chosen empathizes with you and that you can trust them in order to help you explore and deal with the issues that concern you.

How long does the therapy last?

The duration of psychotherapy depends on many factors, such as, the goals that you have set for yourself, the complexity of the situation you are faced with, the kind of support you have from the people around you and your expectations from psychotherapy. In addition, each person follows a personal pace in processing therapy, so it’s impossible to specify in advance how long the psychotherapeutic process will last.

How frequent are the sessions?

The typical rate is one session per week at a specified day and time, unless the person has intense discomfort in which case there may be 2 or 3 sessions per week.

Are personal data protected?

The protection of your personal data is very important. Psychotherapists are obliged by law to keep any information shared with them during psychotherapy confidential, unless there is some kind of threatening situation for your or another person’s safety (for instance, self-destructive behavior, abuse of an underage or helpless person).

How is counseling different from psychotherapy?

Although there is no clear distinction, we could say that counseling is more about dealing with a specific issue for a limited period of time whereas psychotherapy is typically oriented towards a deeper analytic process regarding various basic issues of the person’s life and for a longer period of time.

How does a psychotherapist differ from a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

A Psychiatrist is a physician who is specializing in psychiatry and therefore can prescribe medications. In Greece, the psychiatric profession is legally regulated and requires the relevant license from the Ministry of Health. The primary competence of a psychiatrist is to produce psychiatric diagnosis on the basis of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – V). Then the psychiatrist sees regularly the patient who requires medication and modifies his dosage accordingly.

Essentially, the psychiatrist treats patients whose condition is especially grave and who are non-functional in their daily lives. Of course, there are some patients deemed to suffer from lighter conditions and might need to medicate for a shorter period of time, after having undergone an extremely stressful situation.

In Greece, an education in psychotherapy is not a prerequisite for a degree in psychiatry and acquiring the license to practice psychiatry. As a result, it might be possible that a psychiatrist has no training in the practice of psychotherapy.


A Psychologist by definition examines the psychological and mental processes, the human psyche, with an aim to explore a person’s inner world and to understand human behavior and its causes within the framework of the social process.

Psychology is sometimes defined as follows: “Psychology is the field of science dealing with the study of the phenomena and functions of the human psyche, i.e. the research in human behavior. The term itself is a synthesis of two words, ‘psyche’ and ‘logos’. Psychology as the study of the psyche is a system of thought, scholarship and research on the substance and the characteristics of the psyche and whatever takes place inside”. Psychologists can also specialize in fields such as: diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders (clinical psychology), issues relating to education (school psychology), the social development of children (social psychology) and work life e.g. professional education, personnel selection processes, vocational guidance (work psychology).

In Greece the profession is legally regulated and its practice requires the relevant license from the Ministry of Health. According to Greek law: “A practicing psychologist explores and assesses the personality and the behavior of a person, and works according to the established principles and methodology of the Science of Psychology in order to cultivate and improve them” (Article 1, Law 991/79). A psychologist also engages in research in psychology and teaching in universities. In Greece, training in psychotherapy is not a prerequisite for a degree in psychology and the license to practice psychology. As a result, a psychologist might not be trained in practicing psychotherapy. In any case, a psychologist is neither a physician nor a psychiatrist, and does not prescribe medication.

A Psychotherapist is a specialist in psychological health that has trained in at least one psychotherapeutic approach and puts that training to use in order to practice psychotherapy for individuals or groups, couples and families. A psychotherapist’s education is integral, with a duration of at least four years, and according to the criteria of full-time education. Essentially, the psychotherapist will interact with the person regularly and provide guidance in safety leading to the solution of the problem. The psychotherapist aims to help the patient understand the difficulties or discomforts and realize their source; to facilitate the search for the best ways to treat these problems and perhaps to bring about changes in the patient’s way of thinking and behavior in that direction. The psychotherapeutic process involves the exploration of feelings, beliefs, thoughts and events related to them, often originating from the person’s childhood and personal history. This takes place in a structured way that is safe, given the training and experience of the psychotherapist.

The British National Health Service (NHS) clarifies that a psychotherapist may have started out in the field of psychiatry or psychology, though that is not required. Many psychotherapists have come from other professions. A psychotherapist’s professional competence is defined by specialized in-depth training in at least one psychotherapeutic approach.

A psychotherapist is neither a physician nor a psychiatrist, and has no right to prescribe medication. If you need medicine, your psychotherapist will refer you to a psychiatrist and will cooperate in the so-called Combined Treatment (medication and psychotherapy).

In Greece the profession of the psychotherapist is not yet legally regulated and recognized by the state. The National Organization for Psychotherapy of Greece (NOPG) certifies the Greek educational organizations in various psychotherapeutic approaches according to the European standards that are set by the European Association of Psychotherapy (EAP). A degree from a certified educational organization provides an assurance that a psychotherapist has received the necessary knowledge and training. Moreover, membership in a professional association of psychotherapists also ensures the professional competence of a psychotherapist since it signifies that he or she has fulfilled all the criteria of training, skills and experience as defined by the association (according to international standards) and also adheres to the Ethical Guidlines for the protection of the analysands.

In light of the above, we come to the conclusion that for someone to become a psychotherapist the following are essential:

  • Completing a full-time psychotherapeutic education at a certified education centre
  • Completing his or her own psychoanalysis or other form of psychotherapy by a certified psychotherapist
  • Acquiring the necessary experience through supervision along with a certified supervisor

Finally, some psychotherapists point out that a balanced personality marked by kindness and ethical principles is as important as education and professional training.