I've literally just come away from our ABMT autumn meeting with Sue Frazer which explored trauma and how to work with trauma.
The session started with a sharing of what we thought trauma was and I thought it was helpful for Sue to use the definitions in Babette Rothchild’s book, The Body Remembers, to distinguish between different types of trauma:
It was affirming to know for both sets of therapists that we have a range of different options within our repertoire that we could draw from:
Beyond the specific techniques, we were encouraged to work spontaneously and intuitively by listening to our hands and trusting where our hands take us; also by asking and staying in touch through verbal check-ins and by our presence.
We were reminded of the Biodynamic approach as being a ‘bottom-up’ one; it is about staying close to what’s emerging and moving within the client. I thought the discussion on ‘calm and relaxation’ brought up by one of our members was particularly interesting: for clients with anxiety, they can be invited to be in touch with their muscles and the stabilising effect of their muscles. In this context, our intention is to enable the client to sense the difference between ‘tense’ and ‘calm’ and not necessarily to bring them to relaxation in the first instance.
Sue also brought in the Startle Reflex and the possibility of working with Lifting as well as using Deep Draining in a gentle way on all the specific muscles engaged in the startle reflex. Where appropriate, Hypotonus Massage techniques to stretch tissues as well as gently inviting energy back in could also be used.
The last segment of the afternoon was spent exploring complex and/ or developmental trauma. We were reminded that one of the first things to think about is that when clients come to us, they are longing for touch. It is a fundamental attachment, one of the ways we get to know about this world, about people. Touch, together with what we see with our eyes and what we hear from the voice, these are the fundamental things. I was again reminded of how these three things are so core to our effectiveness as biodynamic therapists.
The talk and subsequent discussion was primarily aimed at body psychotherapists in our community who are able to work with complex and developmental trauma. Therapists have to be careful when working with complex trauma. Generally, if the primary issue is that of touch deprivation e.g. premature birth, hospitalisation of mum or baby leading to separation, mum not being available then it may be possible to work with touch early on in the therapeutic process.
For clients who experienced physical or sexual abuse then the therapist needs to work more carefully by taking a longer time before it is safe to get close. The question that arose for me was, ‘are we saying that only body psychotherapists can work with complex/ developmental trauma?’. The response was 'yes'. However, it depends on the prior training of the biodynamic massage therapist as to whether they have had any psychotherapy training and/ or trauma training. It also depends on where the client is on their therapeutic journey. If they’ve already had several years of psychotherapy or counselling, they may be able to regulate themselves and have a stronger sense of self. In this case, biodynamic massage therapy could work. It is also possible for biodynamic massage therapists to work alongside talk-based psychotherapists provided the boundaries and contracting is clear with the client. In our work with complex/ developmental trauma, clinical supervision is not only helpful but essential in this territory for both sets of therapists.
It was a full and informative afternoon and I had the feeling that two hours was only scratching the surface in relation to the 'what' in working with trauma let alone the scope of 'how' in relation to our individual practices. What I enjoyed most about the time we spent together was being able to listen to the responses and questions from colleagues working in the field and to learn together. As a practitioner, it is something I greatly value because I spend so much of my time working in my own practice. When we have these types of conversations together, it has the effect of opening ourselves up to our collective 'field of practice' and in the process, nourishing ourselves and enriching our practice. To me, this type of sharing is itself a 'bottom-up' experience.
As Yvonne said, we are a unique organisation in that we encompass both psychotherapy and complementary therapies. I am hoping that through our ABMT events it will help us grow and develop our uniqueness more.
Written by: Amy Barnes
Our Afternoon Session for members will be held on 4th November between 2pm and 4 pm at the Clayton Hotel, Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2FB.
This workshop will be facilitated by psychotherapist and trainer, Sue Frazer, and aims to inform and explore further learning around trauma and massage. Many therapies both at complementary and psychotherapeutic level offer support for trauma recovery. Trauma is so often both explicitly and inexplicitly present in clients seeking help through therapy; the desire for deeper understanding of what shape trauma recovery takes, seems to be rising powerfully in the zeitgeist.
Sue aims to update us in terms of content now taught on the biodynamic massage foundation course at Cambridge, and also to facilitate discussion among practitioners around what this work means for us: When and how touch can support recovery from post-traumatic stress, for example, and conversely when it may not be helpful for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder and complex trauma. This is a really big area and I would encourage you to come along if you can; there is much to be gained in terms of contacting and deepening awareness of the wider therapeutic picture.
Could you let me know whether you can come, either in person or on-line: firstname.lastname@example.org
The ABMT will be holding a workshop on Saturday 15th April at the Gestalt Centre, 15-23 St Pancras Way, London NW1 0PT. The session runs from 2pm – 4pm and will be facilitated by Gemma Ireland, who will encourage us to explore how we can deepen our understanding of working in the aura in biodynamic massage. Gemma is a biodynamic psychotherapist and trainer with many years’ experience, having trained initially with Gerda Boyesen. This workshop will be rich and informative in terms of learning; we aim to explore working with the aura being both in contact and outside the body; how it is possible to be in both places together working with the energy field.
For logistical reasons, we probably won’t be working on massage tables, so attendees are being asked to bring yoga mats, blankets etc; Gemma also says this work can also be explored sitting in chairs.
This event is free to members of ABMT, and we are asking for a contribution of £20 for non-members. Please could you RSVP to Lindsey Nicholas: email@example.com, if you would like to attend.
Led by Richard Parker for the ABMT 22nd October 2022
Richard hosted and led us in a two hour workshop which was attended in person in Cambridge, and online. This workshop took place in the afternoon of our ABMT Autumn meeting, 22nd October 2022. It was free to attend and open to non-members.
Most striking for us as biodynamic bodywork and massage therapists, were the commonalities between contact improvisation and the methods we use for connecting in therapeutic work. Richard guided us in techniques which used “reaching” to make contact, and we were guided to a place of being present with ourselves and the other, while we were working with a partner. We were told to be observant of the breath, and the whole being, of ourselves and our partner. Richard told us to “see what was there” and that we were “seeing” though the touch. This is very much how we feel as biodynamic massage therapists, seeing or listening with our hands, as well as the rest of our senses.
We started with some movement work to music, and going into group interaction, and then touch in partner work.
Some of the partner work followed a leader/follower pattern, and it evolved into movement and touch where there was no leader or follower, just an awareness and working together of the two.
Richard told us "leaders must also follow" — that is, to be a good leader, we must take the other with us, and follow them in our awareness. We led and followed with our index fingers connected, or with our hands holding contact on specific parts of our partner’s body — on safe contact areas such as shoulder, back, side, upper chest. This was followed by contact improvisation which was more free, using our whole body, head, shoulder, back to connect with and follow each other in relationship.
Workshop feedback included the following responses:
- “placing the hand with intention allowed for an easing and softening of the area, and also a greater awareness,”
- “I feel grounded and in touch with the biodynamic massage training,”
- “I feel more breath and flow in my body,”
- “it’s really apparent how much of a dialogue it is at different levels,”
- “I felt we were acting out a drama, or sharing a story in movement,”
- “we were back to back and we just fitted like a glove,”
- “I was very struck by the immediacy of intimacy and how that's rather absent in our culture… particularly as a man that is very moving.”
It was a powerful, grounding and meditative space which we found ourselves in by the end of the workshop.
Richard talked about different ways forward with contact improvisation, for those who would like to take it further. In the London area, teachers and events are to be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/20320344886. There is a Facebook group for Cornwall: https://www.facebook.com/groups/300773789972081 and for Plymouth: https://www.facebook.com/groups/398110216923078. Richard is putting on a residential weekend in February in Totnes, and will be running a summer camp for 5 days in Wiltshire. Richard also teaches locally in Southampton. More information about Richard’s work can be found here: https://www.contactimprovcamp.co.uk .
Richard discussed the difference between facilitated workshops and the unfacilitated type of workshop called “Contact jams.” The unfacilitated workshops may feel less “safe” because they are not held by anyone. A dance partner may stay for a while and then move on, and this can leave some of us feeling “why did they leave me?” or we might find ourselves alone, not sure what to do, or feeling “why is no-one dancing with me, am I not good enough?" These, Richard says, are feelings which can get in the way of the pleasure and depth of connection of the contact work. At a facilitated event, the participants are all held and this will suit many people better.
Finally, here is a message from our outgoing Membership Secretary, Debbie Rothwell, who has dedicated 12 years to the role:
"Contact Improv Dancing! What a perfect ending to my days as Membership Secretary. The session at the AGM on Saturday was beautifully held by Richard. He gently led us through the process of connecting to our own bodies before encouraging us in contacting another starting with the gentle placing of hands to gradually moving into partner work dancing with mutual awareness at some points just touching fingers and then because it felt safe connecting with more body contact. Wonderful dancing and moving changing partners feeling different energies with people both very familiar and others just met that day. As biodynamic massage therapists it was familiar territory to us and yet fresh and new and heartwarming to know that an afternoon of contact improv can deeply connect us to other humans in the space of 2 short hours."
At the AGM, Debbie was presented with a card, a gift, and all our thanks on behalf of ABMT members and ABMT committee members. We are sorry to lose Debbie from the committee, and are so grateful for everything she has given for these past 12 years.
Written by: Ruth Baigent, Vice Chair and Treasurer, ABMT
This CPD Session with dance practitioner, Richard Parker, will be held on Saturday, 22nd October 2022 from 2pm to 4 pm at the Gestalt Centre, London NW1 0PT.
"An opportunity to explore the relational qualities of touch within a creative and dance-based practice called Contact Improvisation.
Contact Improvisation is an embodied, meditative and profoundly connecting dance practice. It works with the principle of how we listen and communicate our intentions of co-creative movement through touch by awakening our whole body into tactile listening and presence.
Within this workshop, we'll create a safe and playful container, using easy-to-follow exercises and movements to creatively explore some of the fundamental principles of how two or more bodies can move together as one within a spontaneously unfolding improvised contact dance.
Richard Parker is passionate about the relational and profoundly human experience that can be revealed through Contact Improvisation (CI). He has been developing his skills and knowledge as a Contact Improvisation (CI) dancer since 2006. Over the years he has extensively trained with many internationally renowned teachers within CI including Karen Nelson, Lisa Nelson, KJ Holmes, Nita Little, Andrew Harwood, Ray Chung & Martin Keogh. Since 2011 he has shared his teaching of CI within Professional, Educational, Festival & Community Organisations as well as organised his own festivals, Retreats and Camps."
This event is open to members and non-members of ABMT. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend.
If you attended the conference, here's a book of words and images collected on and from the day to bring back memories. If you were unable to attend, some words and images to give you a flavour of an amazing event at King's College Cambridge in July where neuroscience, psychotherapy and biodynamic massage therapies came together to dialogue on touch.
In Biodynamic work I have often been fascinated by the effects of grief and how
it affects the body and the mind, and how it can guide us, often not very comfortably, to grow in a different direction.
Actually one of the reasons I trained in Biodynamic work was through a client who could not jump. My client was unable to jump at all or leave the floor as her feet seemed almost magnetised to the ground. Over several sessions and exploring different ways to leave the floor we spoke more and though she was perplexed as to why this was occurring (remembering being rather good at jumping in ballet) she said her body had begun to feel completely differently over recent years.
She then shared with me that two years ago her father had passed away. He had
been her best friend and the glue and the anchor to the family. It got me very curious and I questioned that perhaps her inability to jump and physical capability was not just based around her physically fitness, but also reflected how her emotional body could affect her physiology. Was this grief restricting her from jumping and disconnecting her feet from the ground both literally and emotionally? Perhaps this was the time she needed stability and grounding after losing a person who was such a big part of her foundations.
Those who have felt grief at some point in their lives can hold a place for it in their memories and in their bodies. It is experienced in different ways for different people and it has often paved the way for what comes next. Grief is a response to a loss of something we hold in a connective bond and though people often marry it with death of something or someone, grief can show its face in many different realms. Grieving for the home we have been torn from, grieving for the community we once had, grieving via touch, grieving for a part of our body that has been removed, environmental grief and grieving for a relationship that has broken down.
Grief can show its face in many different realms
Grief has many aspects and can manifest itself in many ways. Grief is a form of stress and indeed can affect our bodies at a physiological level. It can trigger adrenal fatigue by overwhelming our cortisol levels, making our bodies tired,
making us feel lifeless, and can often result in in numbness and depression. Sleep patterns can be compromised, resulting in slow cognitive function. Some people need time away from others and will physically remove themselves from social gatherings. Others may respond physically, curling forward in the body so as to
feel hidden and safe and protected. Grief can also manifest itself in anger, frustration, guilt and sorrow. In Dr Lam's article "The Effects of Grief on Your Body: Grief as Stress" (https://www.drlamcoaching.com/blog/effects-of-grief/), he says, "Chronic inflammation can be one of the effects of stress in the form of grief, and it can have many consequences on one’s health. Inflammation causes the gut lining to become more permeable. Because of this, harmful toxins can more easily enter the body and negatively affect the gut’s microbiome. As a result, immune function can also become compromised as well."
Dr Lam states that grief can have such an intense effect on the body it can compromise the immune functioning, starting in the gut lining. The gut becomes more vulnerable to harmful toxins entering the body, and we, as a body and person in the world become more vulnerable. It is important for us to protect and nurture rather than punish ourselves.
Mourning can seriously test your natural defence system
Interestingly many Biodynamic clients I work with are often in a freeze state somewhere within their bodies and have become emotionally overwhelmed to the point that their bodies are searching for a resting place. This often manifests in a freeze state or a feeling of numbness. When our body holds onto such an intense and all-consuming felt sense it can then become imbalanced both emotionally and physically. Very often, by holding onto grief we may experience symptoms such as stomach pain, loss of appetite, intestinal upsets, sleep disturbances and loss of energy.
Of all life's stresses, mourning can seriously test your natural defence systems. Existing illnesses may worsen or new conditions may develop. When we listen to the gut rumblings in Biodynamic work we are connecting with our inner body and life inside ourselves as well as a reminding ourselves that we have a body and it's ok as it is functioning. The rumblings also help identify where there is muscular tension and emotional holding and we work together on a nurturing journey to bring this inner space the attention where it needs it.
Over time and through exploration in this practice it is also interesting to note that grief often shows itself hidden within the strong structural systems of the body such as the bones, muscles and connective tissues that help us keep upright and stable. One example of this is the serratus posterior superior, which is found deep between the borders of the scapula. This muscle also helps keep our shoulders back and has the psychological function of giving and receiving from the heart as our chest and heart are more open and forward facing to the world.
In other cases grief has revealed itself between the ribs in the intercostal muscles that when used, inflate our chest, making us appear bigger than we are and perhaps bigger than we feel. These muscles help regulate breathing and have the psychological function of regulating space as well as containing emotions. Space is very important for growth. Without space, our roots can't grow and nourish themselves. When we open up the space within the intercostals we are are also creating a sense of vulnerability between ourselves and the world in terms of being seen; we are breathing into the world. When they experience grief some people want their space to be smaller and physically to make themselves smaller in the process. When attention is given to these areas it can also create different responses in the rest of the body as well.
One very important factor in health, and even survival, is the ability of the body to maintain homeostasis – the equilibrium between different organs and systems. Stress is a threat to the maintenance of this homeostasis. Grief, though painful, has an important part in our growth in the world and also shows and teaches us a lot about our body. Grief in the body can become a very confusing, lonely and painful place to process but by connecting with ourselves and acknowledging and nurturing our felt senses, whether alone or with others, we are growing internally and returning to homeostasis.
It is difficult to ignore what the world throws at all of us daily, and often
confusing as to where to direct our feelings and emotions. Grief can be long and sometimes chronic but it is also important to remember that growth is always happening throughout this process. It can be slow and windy or fast and straight.
For more information on help with grief there is a great website below:
If you want to speak to me further in regard to exploring Biodynamic massage then
email me: email@example.com
Written by: Miranda Jankowska
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com.
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