Change happens through experience (not just talking)

“Change happens primarily through discovering how a client organizes experience (his or her procedural tendencies), and changing how she or he organizes experience, not through insight and analysis.”

— (Ogden, 2005)

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The field of psychology has gone through many stages, fads and changes in the years since Freud. While many of the newer styles of counseling still refer to older theories such as Freudian or Jungian work, there have also been some dramatic changes to our understanding of what actually works in therapy. 

What we know now that we did not know back in Freudian time is that change happens through experience. The brain is complex and involves different modes of function. Briefly, the brain has three major sections, the reptilian, mammalian, and prefrontal cortex. The reptilian is responsible for responding to danger and basic instincts. The mammalian responds to more emotional needs. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for our more evolved functioning such as talking, analyzation, abstract thought and consciousness. 

This is important for us in terms of psychology and healing in that we need to respond to traumatic memory or wounds from our life through all areas of the brain, not just the prefrontal cortex. Historically, we have only tackled the prefrontal cortex - through talking about our troubles and experiences. While this is a piece of the work that needs to be done, it is absolutely not the whole picture. We also need to access and heal through the reptilian and mammalian brain. 

How do we access these other two areas of the brain? Well because the mammalian brain is responsible for emotional functioning, we access through emotional focus. And with the reptilian brain, we must access the body and senses as an informer and healing agent. The repitiallian brain is linked directly to the nervous system. We check in with our struggles and goals and how they resonate in our nervous system (how our body responds). Once we access our body and nervous system, then we can truly heal through experiencing something different and allowing our nervous system to heal and then our brain to heal as well. 

What does it feel like to heal through experience and the body rather than through talking? If you have ever been to talk therapy and felt you have gone in circles for years trying to work on the same issue, you know there has to be a better way. Think of when you had a powerful experience with someone that gave you permission to try something new or think differently, then all the sudden you saw life differently or began to release a limit you once had. Or think of a time that you cried or felt an emotion so deeply or felt a shift in yoga or meditation and all the sudden you changed in a way you couldn’t have even imagined was possible. That is what body focused therapy healing feels like. There is no touch necessary from the therapist, it is simply your own accessing of a level of depth in yourself much deeper and more healing than just talking. 

Simply put, change happens more quickly and with more ease through experiences with the body. 

If you are interested in learning more or would like to try out a body focused session, contact me at kim@bravecounseling.com or 240-480-0152. I work in person in Denver, CO or over secure virtual video chat for those outside of the DC area. 

Kimberly Ottinger