Speaking and touching are two streams of communication which seamlessly interweave in daily relationships. Touch is a "language" in its own right and it can sometimes communicate more than words can say. The foundations for this are laid down prior to birth and afterwards.
Communicating through touch is a way of relating in body psychotherapy. Body psychotherapists are trained to touch, have a touch lexicon, are skilled in its timely therapeutic use, and know how to observe and discuss the impact of touching with clients. Ways of touching are diverse and complex. Varying speed, rhythm, pressure and depth, focussing on different tissues of the body, touching skin to skin, through clothes and blankets, touching with finger tips, the palms of the hands, elbow to elbow are some of the possibilities. Through experience the skills and methods of touching become embedded in the psychotherapist and are pulled out of the practitioner, often intuitively, in a "dance" between client and therapist at appropriate moments.
Unfortunately, other forms of psychotherapy have neglected therapeutic touching, usually have no training in it, and are often ambivalent about it. Discussions between psychotherapists of other modalities have tended to be somewhat limited and general, rather than exploratory and detailed.
Until fairly recently neuroscience has also neglected research on touch, and concentrated on the other senses. However, there is now a burgeoning interest with papers being written on Affective Touch, mirror touch, vicarious tactile experience and so on. The importance of touch in infancy is also generating papers. In society generally the international Touch Test (2020)
https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2020/the-touch-test-results has awakened touch as a topic for discussion and the social distancing of the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted what it is like not to be able to touch others.
We hope in this one-day conference to bring together body psychotherapists, psychotherapists from other modalities and neuroscientists to exchange ideas and dialogue with each other. Much remains unknown about touching therapeutically. What, for example, is happening from a neuroscientific perspective, when we touch in a particular way. Why is one form of touch more effective for some sorts of clients than others, why might touch be the first form of help for a particular client?
Professor Francis McGlone Losing Touch with Touch: It Will Cost Us Dearly
Dr Natalie Bowling, Individual variability in touch attitudes and experiences.
Dr Katarina Fotopoulou, The Neuroscience of Affective Touch: From the Lab to the Couch
Tom Warnecke, Stirring the depths - reflections on touch in psychotherapy
Gill Westland, Sue Frazer, Touch in Body Psychotherapy
Dr Elya Steinberg, Dr David Tune, Courtenay Young Panel Presentation
WHO IS THE DAY FOR?
The day is intended for neuroscientists, psychotherapists, counsellors, and students of these disciplines.
COST AND BOOKING
£120.00 including beverages, and fork buffet in the Great Hall at King's College
Please pay the full fee by Bank Transfer to:
The Co-operative Bank Community Directplus Account
Account title: CAMBRIDGE BODY PSYCHOTHERAPY CENTRE
Sort Code: 089299 Account Number: 65264959
International Bank Account Number: GB89 CPBK 0892 9965 2649 59
Please use your name and CONF as the reference and let us know that you have booked. Please email: email@example.com
We will confirm your place and send further details, when your payment has been received
Kings College is in the centre of Cambridge. There is no onsite parking. There is also limited parking in the centre of Cambridge and it is expensive. Cambridge is easily accessible by train. From London, trains go regularly from Kings Cross and Liverpool Street. The postcode for King's College is CB2 1ST
Written by: Gill Westland
The ABMT is holding its annual Spring meeting on Saturday 14th May 2022 at Wesley Methodist Church, Cambridge CB1 1LG. We very much hope you can join us, either in person, or on-line.
Our morning Meeting will begin at 11.00 am. You are welcome to join this session where we discuss ABMT business and any other ideas that arise.
In the Afternoon (2pm – 4.30 pm) we are planning to run a practical ad hoc workshop revisiting biodynamic practice. Sue Frazer has kindly agreed to lead this and we will have massage tables up for demonstrations and practice. How this session will run may depend on what issues, ideas and impulses arise in those of you attending! Sue is happy to work spontaneously with you in this and I think this will enable an exciting and creative spirit to inform the workshop.
The Session is open to non-members (but only registered biodynamic massage therapists) as well as Members, but tickets are limited so please RSVP me before the event if you are intending to be there in person, either for the morning or the afternoon.
You are also welcome to attend on-line if you cannot be there in person. If you are planning to only attend on-line, please register at the link below;
If you have any other queries about the event, please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Otherwise we very much look forward to seeing as many of you there as can make it.
Written by: Lindsey Nicholas, Chair, ABMT
I have just come off a Tony Robbins ‘Ultimate Breakthrough Challenge’ and there was a lot of attention paid to ENERGY (every time this word was mentioned, it was in a HIGH ENERGY way). We did a lot of quick exercises to ‘prime’ the body to get the body moving and blood circulating to improve focus to ‘change state’ to feel good. We also had talks on nutrition and juicing to provide the body with essential nutrients and to flush out toxins. All of this is really good stuff and I have incorporated some of the quick-fire exercises into my daily routine. So far so good. Looking at it from my Chinese roots of ‘yin yang’, it occurred to me that this type of approach to how we maintain our energy level is a ‘yang’ way – more overt and action-oriented- POW, POW.
Equally important is to be able to access ‘yin’ approaches to energy. If ‘yang’ is the more overt or extroverted way of managing our energy, a ‘yin’ approach is to be aware of what is covert, hidden or not obvious. For instance, residual trauma. We might think we have dealt with an event because my memories, thoughts and feelings have been sufficiently processed and ‘put to bed’ and it no longer holds any ‘charge’ for me. As Biodynamic Massage Therapists, we also know that sometimes possible that within the body, there is still some residual trauma held in the tissue, structure, fluid that we are not necessarily conscious of until we experience dysfunction. With the right listening and attuned touch,it is possible we can contact what is still held in the body and assist in enabling final releases. It is very interesting to me that these traces can be pesky, requiring patience and an alertness to when conditions are right for them to reveal themselves. Yin is also about waiting, resting, withdrawing and being in repose. Gentler exercises with awareness such as Qi Gung, some forms of yoga and meditative practices.
Written by: Amy Barnes
A mental health resource pack which you can download below, entitled The Lone Therapist, has been created by Sue Frazer and Lindsey Nicholas from ABMT and Gina Lilley from Amatsu Therapy. This is part of an initiative by newly-formed Mental Health Working Group within GCMT (the Council for Soft Tissue Therapies). The Lone Therapist is designed to support massage therapists in terms of the mental health implications of their work. In biodynamic therapy, we already understand the intrinsic connection between emotional and physical health and this understanding informs much of the interactive material in the resource pack. In particular, we hope it will support and encourage other massage modalities to recognise the emotional implications of the client/therapist relationship.
It is an interactive, visually orientated document and is still a work in progress, and we are interested in how it works for you in terms of its flow of ideas and the linked sections. It is available for anyone to download and feedback would be helpful, particularly in terms of how it might be of use to you.
This resource document offers:
Written by: Lindsey Nicholas
A Therapist’s Protection Group within GCMT (the Council for Soft Tissue Therapies) recently commissioned a survey into sexual harassment within massage practice. It received about 600 replies from its membership (there are an estimated 10,000 practising massage therapists in the UK), and most of those prompted to complete the survey did so because they had experienced abuse and/or wanted something done about it.
It feels a bit despairing and certainly shocking to read some of their testimony; that sexual harassment is still rife and massage therapy still being conflated with sex work (not helped during the Covid crisis by the Government referring to our industry as ‘massage parlours’).
In terms of unsolicited attention, a significant number of respondents reported potential clients enquiring about ‘extras’, sending inappropriate texts, requests for sexualized or naked photos of the therapist, requests for the therapist to ‘dress up’, sending obscene photos taken by the client, etc. Therapists also reported assault – grabbing of their hand, leg, buttocks, etc; the client ejaculating or masturbating during the session and other abusive behaviour, including even stalking.
Therapists detailed pre-emptive strategies to minimize the eventuality of harassment and assault – including on-line booking systems, pre-screening questions, alarms, number blocking, self-defence training, and even keeping car keys handy as a potential weapon. Therapists still do not feel safe in their practices and go to great lengths to protect themselves.
GCMT is challenging the idea that sexual abuse is simply something therapists – both women and men, should have to live with. More should and can be done to stop sexual harassment in its tracks and minimize the amount of provocations and abuse that therapists receive.
The aim of this new initiative is to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and to support and protect therapists more fully and effectively. Specifically:
According to the police, while soliciting for sexual services is not a crime (unless you are a sex worker in the street) it is highly recommended you report any instances of sexual harassment. The police can at least conduct background checks against the suspect and build up a case against them. The suspect could receive a visit or a warning from a member of the police if there have been a number of complaints. This information can also be revealed if this person applies for a DBS.
If someone touches or grabs an area of the body that the therapist perceives to be sexual, this can be considered sexual assault. If someone is sending inappropriate texts, photos and messages, this can be prosecuted as malicious communications. Indecent exposure is a crime regardless of whether it was committed in public or in private, if the intention is for someone else to see.
This new initiative is at an early stage but a launch is coming soon. In the meantime if therapists want more support on this issue a pioneering and brave website in the US is worth taking a look at in terms of helpful videos and other information.
With organized and officially sponsored support from relevant agencies and the police, we can do more to eradicate the abuse massage therapists receive and help us all feel safer in our important work.
Written by: Lindsey Nicholas, Chair ABMT
A few updates regarding Covid:
The latest Government guidance, updated in January 2022 with regard to close contact work can be found here: Government Guidance >
Please read the guidelines carefully to ensure you comply. As usual if you do not feel safe to return to face-to-face massage work, it is your perfect right not to do so.
Please note also this guidance from the GCMT (the Council for Soft Tissue Therapies):
We were one of the many thousands of people who decided to move house during lockdown. In this article, I am picking up the strands from Louise Chunn’s posting on 1st September 2021 about her house move, Guy Gladstone’s Top 10 tips to help with the emotions of moving house and weaving into those strands the role hands-on therapy played in helping me find my footing when the ground shifted beneath me.
We had lived in our previous home for 18 years. Although we knew we had outgrown our place quite a few years ago, it took the pandemic, the lockdown and the stamp duty holiday to facilitate our move. At first, we were delighted to be moving out and we looked forward to moving from commuter town to the countryside in East Sussex. We grew up abroad and our work also took us to different countries so we treated the move as largely a logistical challenge. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The reality was, beneath the logistical challenges were layers of history melded together by and the highs, the lows and the routines of life. Each round of clearing things out involved repeatedly asking ourselves the questions ‘do I still need this?’, ‘will I ever use this again?’ and the sub-text ‘does this still have meaning for me?’ Layered on top of these reflective and sometimes emotional moments, we were still navigating our way through the day to day business of living within the context of a national lockdown and majority of interactions being conducted virtually.
Out of the blue in February, I had an unexpected and severe anxiety attack. I was lucky to have just about enough psychological support to recover and I was functioning enough to move us in and out of temporary accommodation before finally moving into our new house in April. Just when I thought our struggle had come to an end, the extent to which the house needed renovations was far more than we expected. So instead of moving in and nest building, I had to dig a bit deeper physically, emotionally and financially, to carry out remedial work. The extent to which I felt exhausted and completely disorientated was not something I had ever experienced before. Even though I was able to carry out tasks, I felt totally ungrounded. It was as if I was floating in some nether region between our old place and the new place. I felt as if I had been dropped into a totally alien place where I could not connect with anything around me. I was doing tasks mechanically but I felt disconnected and absent inside. This was a very odd experience because we have always enjoyed being in different places and part of the excitement of being out of my comfort zone was the exposure to new experiences which I used to relished. In short, I felt alien to me, to the self I knew.
Having had the benefit of previous training in Gestalt Psychotherapy and now working as a Biodynamic Massage Therapist, I was able to access a range of resources to help myself but I also knew I needed additional support, particularly hands-on work directly from my body. I was unable to find a Biodynamic Massage Therapist locally. Luckily, I eventually found a local Shiatsu therapist who had availability and we started work together in June. Although Shiatsu was not a modality I knew, the way the therapist was able to tune into what was going on in my world and fine-tuned what she did in order to support me meant that she was able to provide what I, as a whole being, needed. I remember feeling profoundly met and instantly safe in our first session when she simply sat next to my body on the mat. I remember tears rolling down both sides of my face and somewhere in my body, a release, a letting down. The internal churning, like choppy water on a stormy day instantly calmed.
Since June, we have had eight sessions together and I feel the sessions have been incredibly effective in helping me settle within myself and in turn, I feel a gradual easing into the new environment. What made the hands-on work so effective? I think our sensory feelings are important components of what we experience as anxiety, overwhelm, scattered etc. Thoughts and feelings inform each other as a unified whole system. Perhaps in times of extreme stress our internal bearings get disrupted. Maybe extreme stress interferes with our interoception. In other words, our sense of disconnection is likely to be both a somatic phenomenon and a psychological one. Below, I am offering some possibilities as to why being supported primarily from my body helped me settle into myself and into my new environment.
A feeling-sense of place
This is a kind of ‘landing’ of feeling fully here and feeling my body as solid and substantial. I noticed there has been a shift in how my skin and body feels to me. In the first two months after the anxiety attack, my body felt as if it was barely there. When I touched my belly, my hands and my body felt fuzzy as if my skin was not all there. After the first bodywork session, I could feel my body as firmer more ‘here’. Eight sessions later, when I put my hand on my belly I can now fully differentiate between my hand and my belly and my body feels solid. The tissue is firmer and more filled.
A feeling-sense of safety
For me, the feeling of safety in bodywork is, in the first instance, conveyed through safe touch making the phrase ‘a safe pair of hands’ more than a metaphor. Safe touch has many aspects not least of which is the feeling of safety within the therapist and the extent to which they are able to tune into their client’s needs. Since the therapist’s hands are directly in contact with the client’s skin therefore, safe touch means the ability of the therapist to attune their touch such that from a boundary perspective, the client does not feel it is too much or not enough. As a Biodynamic Massage Therapist, we refer to neutral touch as contacting in a ‘matter of fact’ way. This can be described as the therapist simply reinforcing ‘I’m here and you are here’ at the skin boundary. This way of being held where there is no expectation, no exploration, only affirmation of existence. I think this way of making contact may be particularly helpful in restoring an in-body feeling of everything being in-place and safe. This may well be a process within Interoception, an emerging field of research (Interoception: the hidden sense that shapes wellbeing | Science | The Guardian).
A feeling-sense of support
Some generic ways of holding the body or regions of the body or for example, ‘sandwich’ the upper back and chest often elicits an in-body feeling of support. However, a skilled body therapist can locate particular regions or a region of the body where suitable ways of contacting when provided, can be felt as particularly supporting to an individual. A highly attuned therapist will be able to find the most suitable form of holding that will give rise to a strong sense of support. It is this bodily felt sense of support that gave me a tangible feeling of being supported and because that was grounded in the actuality of someone’s presence and their hands holding me, it also helped me find safety and grounding within myself in the present and that in turn helped me regather the scatteredness and countered a strong feeling of isolation I had.
A sense of routine
Within the shadows of the pandemic and being in a totally new environment, weekly sessions formed part of the skeleton for building a weekly routine. This routine in turn helped me establish new connections and helped me familiarise myself with new surroundings. I found routine to be an important handrail to orientate myself in relation to time, place and space. Psychologically, since my new home is still in the making, the therapy space has become the safest space for me each week.
A time for rest and integration
Major life transitions take up a lot of energy so periodic rest to find still points in the chaos is essential. While we rest, we are also allowing our whole being to resettle and integrate into a new whole. Each session allowed my body to get what was needed and after each session, I felt a marked shift in how I felt and a marked change in my capacity to deal with a larger range of challenges without feeling overwhelmed.
What I did for and with my clients in Biodynamic Massage Therapy sessions I was able to experience for myself through a different modality of body-based therapy. What it has done is to increase the trust I have in what hands-on body-based therapies can offer and how it can complement talk-based therapies during major life transitions.
Written by: Amy Barnes, Adapted from an article written for Welldoing.org in September 2021
The AGM last weekend was an opportunity for those who attended to meet Jan Trewartha and hear her speak with a gentle conviction about Sharon Wheeler's ScarWork. Her demonstration of a couple of techniques and opportunity to practise on each other added an experiential element to a really relevant and fascinating session.
For myself, I had the added experience of being able to volunteer a scar and thought I would share a little bit about it. Jan worked on my caesarean section scar, using feather touch and down the rabbit hole techniques. Using the lightest of touch and subtlest of movements I could feel shifts down my left leg, gluts and abdomen, leading to a feeling of more freedom of movement as I walked to the station. That night I was exhausted!
At home both my partner and daughter noticed a change in the shape of my belly, less of a fold tightly pulled in and more of a flop! For myself, my gluts remain more relaxed, and I feel less constricted across my lower abdomen. My scar is shallower than it was and less tightly attached to my abdominal muscles.
It is difficult to feel that I am doing justice in describing Jan's skill and the changes she has instigated in my scar. It feels that these benefits are continuing over time and I sincerely thank her.
Written by: Laura Hawksley, December 2019
Sandra Heider is a practising body psychotherapist, trained at CBPC, and also a yoga teacher. We were lucky enough to have her at our Afternoon Session at this year’s AGM and to discover how biodynamic practice informs her yoga teaching.
Some of us there had done lots of yoga, some still did yoga, and some not very much at all. But we were all biodynamic massage therapists and were intrigued to find out whether there could be a meeting between yoga (which one attendee described as a more ‘top-down, structured approach’ to physical practice) and biodynamic massage. How would it make it different?
Sandra’s approach was one of allowing ‘gentle curiosity’ with ourselves, as our bodies followed her instructions. How does it feel to constrict the breath in ujjayi breathing? How does it feel to wrap our arms and hands around each other and bring our elbows together? What is happening internally when we take on the detailed positioning of each part of the body? Bringing a level of attention to the internal aspects of taking a pose not only meant we worked more interoceptively but also with an added sense of taking care of ourselves. Often Sandra would remind us to relax our necks and heads – often forgotten when we are concentrating on aligning ourselves. Using our hands to hold our own heads as we came out of a pose also gave an added feeling of safety and care. In a way that is more typical in body psychotherapy, we also encouraged to make sounds and movement in the usually silent and still savasana (corpse) pose at the end of the session.
The session generated much discussion on the balance or co-relationship between outer and inner alignment. How much of either do we need? We like instructions but sometimes it can leave us needing more – a deeper investigation into what it is we are actually doing when we practise yoga. Can doing yoga practised in this way bring psycho-somatic changes similar to those experienced in biodynamic massage (Was anyone aware of their peristalsis?)?
One attendee felt that whilst yoga and biodynamic massage can be complementary, there would always be a certain tension between them even thought they both encourage a greater attention to our bodies, and a healthier way of being embodied. While Yoga seems to offer a more top-down, structured approach, biodynamics are always more to do with individual processes and comfort level.
For my own part, I hadn’t done much yoga for a few years – mainly because biodynamic training can do strange things to your internal sense of yourself. The deepening of the sense of embodiment, the creation of new neural pathways and connectivity across the body, interoceptive changes, both horizontally and vertically, had meant that what ‘I felt’ when I was doing yoga changed. Taking poses became much more provocative in terms of energy and sensation, and often over-whelming. So I stopped doing it and concentrated on my process.
This time it felt different, and perhaps reflected how far I have come in my training. Although I felt I have lost quite a lot of internal strength, control and containment, on the other hand I was able to approach it with a new openness and an ability to let go of control which felt quite crucial and important to me. There did seem to me to be a quite powerful connection between the two practices.
Overall, Sandra brought new and creative thinking and practice to our work, which is just what our Afternoon Sessions are all about! We are very appreciative of her teaching and wish her well as she develops her own practice.
Written by: Lindsey Nicholas, November 2016
Branding and Authenticity can work together.
This was the message of the afternoon session of our Spring Meeting 2016, given by marketing consultant, Kirby Amour.
As she opened her talk, with her honed use of marketing terminology, familiar to those in the industry but not, perhaps, to those of us at home in the more advertising-shy world of psychotherapy, I, for one, wondered whether I could keep up. Was this all going to go over my head, overwhelm me or paralyse me into avoidance?
We were asked to address some questions: What can I offer that no-one else can? Why did I get involved? Who is my ideal client? What needs do they have? What is their energy like? What three traits does your ideal client possess? Slowly it dawned on us. In our marketing we need to look at much more than conveying information. As Kirby said, look at your offering, not just at your service. By this she meant, look at what you are actually selling. A shining example was given to us in the form of Colgate, which, in terms of its advertising sells white teeth, not toothpaste.
So in our branding we were asked to incorporate key words, catch phrases and calls for action. Identify a collection of words used across the industry (from other sites) and refine them for our own marketing. Really? The elephant in the room was finally revealed when new ABMT member, Hannah, bravely expressed qualms that had perhaps been implicit in all of us listening. Can this really be an appropriate approach for a profession which prides itself on authentic connection, privacy and confidentiality? This broke the ice for a fascinating discussion. Sue Fraser, a veteran of successfully 'waiting for the universe to bring clients' acknowledged that this was a radically different way of doing things.
For me at least, Kirby succeeded in challenging the notion that there was anything inherently contradictory or unethical for our industry in branding. For her, and ABMT member, Luke, who brought his own marketing material created under Kirby's guidance, branding is a way to ask yourself heart-felt questions about what exactly it is that we are offering to clients. It is a way (to use Luke's own catchphrase) of feeling more at home in yourself and clearly conveying this to clients - who after all need reassurance and clarity if they are going to overcome their fears and make contact.
So I think we all went away with a new respect for branding and what it actually means. A complete overhaul is ahead, I feel, both for my own marketing and the Association's. Watch this space - and thank you, Kirby. You spoke with intelligence and integrity. We are grateful for the time you gave us.
Written by: Lindsey NIcholas, May 2016