Bodynamic Analysis: A New Somatic Psychology

Founded in Denmark by Lisbeth Marcher and her colleagues, Bodynamic Analysis is a carefully researched and constructed body-oriented psychology. For 25 years Marcher studied a combination of physical therapy and psychotherapy, and in this process discovered not only that emotions were held in the body musculature, but that there was a developmental sequence to the muscle enervation. These observations and insights allowed her to create a developmental map of the body using the muscles' state of tension or collapse for each age level.

Marcher also correlated specific muscles with the psychological functions showing the close parallel between physical development and psychological development.

Click here for an Overview of Psychological Muscle Functions - full size diagrams of general muscle groups, including front and back views of the body.

In documenting the age at which each muscle is activated and the psychological content of each of them, Marcher eventually identified seven developmental stages

A typical course of Bodynamic therapy begins with an initial meeting where a detailed relationship history is taken. This will also include a short trauma history i.e., such as a difficult birth, sexual molestation or early accidents and surgeries, which can also affect developmental resourcing. If these are present, they will be flagged for special trauma oriented work.

Sometime near the beginning of the therapeutic process a Bodymap is done.

Using the Bodymap, Bodynamic Analysts are able to 1) find where the blocks are located in the client’s body and 2) are then able to work on developing the resources

She believes humans' basic drive is more toward being connected to other people in what she calls the "the drive toward mutual connection." Thus Bodynamic Analysis helps individuals achieve fulfillment in the their relationships

It is made in a three-hour session and tests the tonicity of over 200 muscles in the body to see if they are neutral, hypo or hyper-elastic. Analysis of the Bodymap tells the therapist what parts of a person’s history are active in the present. The Bodynamic therapist then interprets the findings in terms of this history and present issues of concern in the client’s life.

The next step is for the therapist and client to make a treatment “contract” that stipulates specifically what the client wishes to work on. If the issues to be worked on are not too complex, the therapist may determine that short-term work is indicated. If the issues are more complex, or involve earlier developmental difficulties, or if traumatic experiences are indicated, longer-term work is likely appropriate.

In a typical Bodynamic session the verbal exchange between client and therapist is augmented and enhanced by: 1) experiential work that combines physical movements (contracting or stretching particular muscles)   2) hands-on work, which is a gentle contact with muscles that energizes them and often supports the emergence of issue-related and age-appropriate psychological material. This non-verbal part of Bodynamic work allows accessing of unconscious psychological material that was blocked, forgotten, or never learned.

"Therapy without body awareness lacks a vital element,

while a body awareness work that is not grounded

in solid psychotherapy will not produce lasting change." 
- Lisbeth Marcher

As one example of this, consider the action of the triceps muscles on the back of the upper arm. It’s physical action is to extend the arm or push away. The corresponding psychological content of the muscle is related to setting limit limits. When an adult has under-elastic or collapsed triceps this is a strong indication that they have a difficult time saying “No” or keeping others at an optimal distance. While this can make all relationships difficult, it is especially problematic in intimate ones. Simply working with this muscle to develop the resource of limit setting can lead to a major shift in a client’s ability to sustain and enjoy relationships.

When working with the muscles psychological material can come up as an image, body sensation, memory, or emotion. The client and therapist work with this information to integrate and reclaim early abilities and resources, and then practice ways to use these in the present.

In working on the issues current in a client’s life, the under-elastic or collapsed muscles are usually worked with first. By increasing the elasticity of these muscles, one supports the psychological resources associated with them. Only after building up strengths and resources, can defensive patterns that at one time kept the child safe (or even alive) be comfortably and safely relaxed. This entails working with over-elastic muscles and related issues. And while Bodynamics is typically a complete primary therapy, it is also suitable as a short-term therapy and as an adjunct to other modalities because it can focus on specific issues..

Ultimately, the goal of Bodynamic Analysis is to be able to strengthen the clients ability to make healthy choices and experience healthy relationships.