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Bloch Healing: ‘Person-Centered’ Touch Psychotherapy

March 6 2013

What is ‘Person-Centered’ Psychotherapy?

Person-centered therapy is probably the most broadly influential of the various modern approaches. It is based on the evidence that when genuine and deep relating takes place between therapist and client, then the client becomes more able to trust themselves in relationship with another person. This trust is the fundamental basis of psychological well-being.

Although the ability to talk through problems can be helpful, all of the evidence from scientific research shows that it is the quality of the relationship that develops between therapist and client that is the most important factor in successful therapy. The most successful therapists are those that foster trusting and genuine relationships with their clients – and generally these therapists are the most worthy of trust (they tend to be genuine, honest, empathic and kind in the therapeutic relationship) and are the most open to relating deeply with their client.

The problem with talk therapy for people with disabilities

The traditional psychotherapeutic relationship may involve a range of ways of communicating, including touch, gesture, facial expression and so on. However, the most important means of communication is generally considered to be the words that are spoken. This can present a challenge to the nearly 10% of people in developed countries who are thought to have significant communication difficulties including speech, language and hearing disorders.

In addition, for people with certain physical disabilities, talk psychotherapy does little directly to address the relationship between the person and their physicality. Where pain, discomfort or physical limitations are experienced as a major part of a person’s suffering, saying how you feel about these problems is scarcely sufficient to represent them to the therapist in a way that allows the therapist to experience and acknowledge them.

The advantages of touch therapy

Touch therapy has some advantages over talk therapy for any client. The conventions of dialogue with language - thinking, analysing and explaining - are bypassed by the directness of touch. And many people find it easier to allow the open interpersonal contact necessary for healing when they do not feel that they must explain and define themselves until they can feel sufficiently understood and accepted to trust the therapist. There is something fundamental about touch that allows people almost immediately to be touched in a therapy session in a way that permits a level of relating that might take months, or even years, in talk psychotherapy.

For people with communication disabilities, touch therapy has obvious advantages. For people with other disabilities, the sensitivity of the Healer to their physical nature, including muscle tone, posture, balance, etc, can be very important. The skilled touch therapist is able directly to experience much of the physical aspect of the client’s difficulties and this may be of particular assistance to clients suffering from chronic discomfort or pain. Some clients have said that they have been waiting all of their lives to be touched in this way. For people who have experienced physical abuse, the therapeutic contact is often experienced as a direct ‘antidote’ to the earlier injury and abuse of trust.

For the therapist also, touch has many advantages. It is well known that words lack the compass and uniformity of meaning ever fully to convey the near infinite layers of information that may potentially be communicated to another person. With touch, communication is in a form more comparable with music in its potential for both immediacy and complexity.

What is different about Bloch Healing?

With Bloch Healing, communication between therapist and client occur primarily through the medium of a subtle and sensitive touch. There are some other types of psychotherapy that use touch, but these generally include doing something to the client, whereas in Bloch Healing the only goal of touch is to facilitate a sensitive communication between therapist and client.

What is the Bloch Healing session format?

Sessions last for about 40 minutes. Everyday, comfortable clothes are ideal for sessions, and none need to be removed. Most sessions take place sitting in a chair, although it is also possible for clients to make use of a therapy couch if this is more comfortable. The therapist places their hands on the client in a manner that is gentle and non-intrusive and the atmosphere of sessions is informal and relaxed.

What are the goals and benefits of Bloch Healing?

The goals of Bloch Healing include an increased ability to access and trust in one’s own thoughts, feelings and values, free from interference, and to make fuller connections with other people and with the world in general, together with an increasing openness to change. The benefits include a sense of freedom to live life to the best advantage of oneself and others, an openness to intimacy, a general sense of mental and physiological freedom, emotional well-being, the ability to think clearly, greater creativity and originality of thought and better physical health.

The hands-on method of Bloch Healing also encourages better posture, mobility, balance and relief from the commonest forms of musculoskeletal pain. The client’s body tends to re-orientate as the manner in which they move becomes a fuller and more complete expression of who they most deeply and fully are as a person.

Is Bloch Healing suitable for everyone?

Most people who are suitable candidates for psychotherapy are able to benefit from Bloch Healing. In addition, people with physical and cognitive disabilities, even profound disabilities, are usually able to benefit from this approach. However, Bloch Healing may not be helpful to people with certain psychoses or personality disorders, or to people who dislike being touched.

Where can I get more information about Bloch Healing?

You can find a detailed introduction to Bloch Healing on this website Bloch Healing: Principles and Practice and a brief introduction with information about individual sessions here Bloch Healing.