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History and Development

Grounded in psychoanalysis, body psychotherapy was developed by psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, a long-time student of Sigmund Freud. He channelled his interest in the interplay between body and mind into the establishment of a set of body-oriented psychotherapeutic concepts and techniques. Reich noticed that certain life experiences manifested themselves in characteristic ways and, adopting the term "character armour" to refer to these physical and emotional manifestations. Reich developed a range of techniques that addressed both the body and the mind for the purpose of treatment. This work, which Reich termed character analysis, laid the foundation for the practice of “vegetotherapy,"which is now typically referred to as body psychotherapy. 

Wilhelm Reich’s vegetotherapy approach was rejected by the field of psychoanalysis, and his concept of therapeutic touch was considered controversial. Reich published Mass Psychology of Fascism in 1933 and in 1936 was excluded from the International Society of Psychoanalysis. Nevertheless, Reich’s ideas inspired the development of several branches of body psychotherapy, including bioenergetic analysis, biosynthesis, and Hakomi, to name a few. 

Today, body psychotherapy is practiced in many forms by therapists around the world. Associations such as the European Association of Body Psychotherapy (EABP) and the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP) oversee the field of body psychotherapy. 

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