Physical Contact In Session

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Full Integrative Support position
Practitioner’s back is supported, client rests against her torso and also receives contact on her belly and heart.

“Wisdom of the Body can meet our primal need for physical contact, to spark our innate capacity for healing. It’s a process our bodies already know, and always have known.”

By Jill Nagle

Somatic therapy, physical contact

Somatic means “of or pertaining to the body.” Many modalities that call themselves somatic involve paying deep attention to the body (which we love), but stop short of providing actual physical contact. Wisdom of The Body began with an insight that supportive, nonsexual physical contact, for the purpose of healing, was both extremely powerful, and hard to find in a professional context. Now, Wisdom of The Body has evolved to include mental, emotional and spiritual as well as physical components.

Not every session includes every component. Some sessions involve little or no physical contact, depending on what the client needs and is comfortable with.

In Wisdom of The Body, any physical contact:

  • Is entered into by mutual consent of client and practitioner
  • Is always in service of the client’s growth
  • May take time to work up to, for the client to feel comfortable enough with the practitioner
  • Is always up to the client to choose whether and in what form to continue or stop the contact
  • Is non-sexual in form and intent.

Varieties of contact

In Wisdom of The Body, physical contact takes many forms, and those forms are always evolving. Some of the positions in the illustrations on this page have proved useful in some sessions. They are by no means an exhaustive representation of what’s possible.

Some people may feel most comfortable with no physical contact, but want the practitioner to stay close by. Others may want only to have their hand held. Still others may want full-on spooning or cradling. Any variation on these themes that works for both client and practitioner is fair game.

We also use the combination of movement and touch, such as the client pushing against the practitioner, the practitioner holding and supporting the client while she moves toward something, or client and practitioner moving together in a way that expresses or physicalizes an emotion. All these variations can help the client move through stuck places, or stagnant energy.

The possibility of contact

Sometimes, just knowing that physical contact is available brings up rich material to work with. Clients have had powerful sessions working on the “possibility of touch,” where client and practitioner approach each other, and play within the transformative field that contains both fear and longing, both aversion and desire. As with any human activity, when we slow the process way down and pay attention to what comes up, we stand to learn, experience, and heal a great deal.

Non-sexual

All contact in Wisdom of The Body sessions is non-sexual. This means that we agree that neither the client nor the practitioner engages in contact intended to raise sexual energy, move toward sexual activity, or sexual arousal for its own sake, as this disrupts the client-practitioner relationship. Sexual energy flows through our bodies as other human energies and emotions, and we treat it as any other energy: a source of learning, information and healing.

The healing power of sustained, intentional physical contact

Physical contact is nothing novel or outlandish. Many mammals create it all the time.

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Humans do, too. We provide this to babies and small children instinctively. However, social norms tell us it’s appropriate for adults to get sustained physical contact only from an intimate partner. Some of us are lucky enough to have partners who can hold space for us to reset our nervous systems and release our trauma.

Most of us who are not trained in this practice, however, have limits when it comes to how far we can take another person in their healing journey. There are also good reasons to choose a dedicated therapeutic context to do therapeutic work, rather than rely on chance, or relationships that include other dimensions.

See a related piece on Working in community for some thoughts on how we work with people we know.

A trained practitioner in Wisdom of The Body provides attention and presence that is:

  • Of exquisite quality, cultivated over time and with much practice
  • Dedicated solely to the healing and well-being of the client
  • Sustained—the session continues long enough to get a deep level of benefit. The benefits increase over multiple sessions (we recommend a minimum of three).
  • Attuned to the recipient and what she needs in the moment
  • Spacious enough to hold what comes u

Your session

If you so desire, the practitioner may touch, hold or massage your body to help you physically experience empathy, safety and attunement. The practitioner may also suggest physical contact to complement, intensify, or provide another angle on cognitive, emotional or spiritual work you may be doing.

You may want to pick a position for your body and the practitioner’s body to be in as much or as little contact as you feel drawn to.  It might be as limited as having a hand held, or as full-on as “spooning,” or anywhere in between.

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For example, in the Full Integrative Support position above, the client gets a physical experience of leaning back against someone who is not only fully supporting part of their physical weight, but also holding space for them to feel whatever feelings come up. For some clients, the feeling of getting to release their body weight and be held with safety and awareness is nothing short of awesome. We’ve spent many hours with clients in this position.

Touching the heart and belly areas while in this position can help the client to integrate, or balance strong feelings that arise. Getting into this position, synchronizing breath, or even just paying attention to one’s own breath can have a profoundly calming effect. We find this is the position people gravitate toward the most when they are ready for physical contact. In a multi-practitioner session, the client can also have eye contact, or additional physical contact (for example, having their feet held) by other practitioners.

Here are some other positions we’ve used:

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Spooning. When client and practitioner feel comfortable with each other, this can be a great way to physically experience support, relaxation, acceptance, and a feeling of protection.
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Client and practitioner sit back-to-back.
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Client rests against practitioner, feeling fully supported. You might need to work up to this. It can be extremely healing.
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Practitioner touches or holds your feet while you rest on table.
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Practitioner and client sit face-to-face, holding hands.
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You rest on table while practitioner contacts your back.

Physical contact in a Wisdom of The Body session can enable you to:

  • Reset neural pathways of stress to calm and relax
  • Release trauma in the form of shaking, tears, talking, perspiring or other physical processes
  • Physically experience the support and healing you need, as part of overall healing

You come away with a greater sense of calm and groundedness, and an increased ability to tune into your body’s feelings and needs, ask for what you want, and set boundaries that protect and maintain your sense of self and well-being.

We welcome your questions and thoughts about this and any other aspect of the practice. Contact us at info@wisdomofthebody.com