Difference between western psychology and somatic psychology?

By | February 8, 2011

The foundations of western psychological thought are rooted in Freudian psychoanalytic theory. Freud was interested in the phases of human development that occurred after language acquisition, that is to say after 2 years of age. This early phase of language development is described as the fraternal attachment phase or classically referred to as the “terrible two’s”, when the child is separating from mother and moving toward father. Interestingly, this is also when the neural development of the brain is taking place within the left hemisphere, the locus of language acquisition, executive function, and explicit memory. The Freudian approach to psychological health has been coined the “talking cure” because Freud believed that through free association, communicating in an unedited fashion, the patient could talk their suffering through.

Somatic psychology has its roots in the biology of the body. Wilhelm Reich, an early student of Freud’s, is considered to be the Father of Somatic Psychology. During his psychoanalytic training with Freud he became most interested in what the “body” of the analysand was doing rather than what the analysand was talking about. He followed is curiosity and began physically manipulating his patients’ bodies as a way of breaking down their armoring and defensive systems. His very direct approach to the human form activated much psycho-emotional suffering that the patient had been holding. It was only after this tremendous discharge of one’s held life force could the real therapy begin, according to Reich. Although many Somatic Psychologists don’t directly manipulate their clients’ bodies, the orientation as to what the body is saying is paramount in the therapeutic relationship.

More on this later…