Bodymind Healing in Psychotherapy: Towards an Integral, Comprehensive Energy Psychotherapy

The Energy Field: International Energy Psychology News and Articles, (Mayer, Winter, 2009, p.13)

In order to bring the healing abilities of a comprehensive energy psychology to the public, I believe that in addition to the well-known energy psychology methods such as EFT, the field of energy psychology (EP) would be well served by expanding its terrain to include Qigong and methods of energy cultivation from other traditions of meditation and postural initiation (Goodman, 1990), depth psychology, symbolic process traditions, Kabalistic methods, etc. My newest book, Energy Psychology: Self-Healing Practices for Bodymind Health is written to help accomplish these aims (Mayer, 2009).

Qigong (of which Tai Chi is the best known system) is a many thousand-year-old method of cultivating the energy of life through breath, posture, movement, touch, sound, and imagery. There is now much scientific evidence about the efficacy of Qigong in the treatment of insomnia (Irwin, 2008), lowering blood pressure (Kuang, 1991) preventing falls amongst the elderly (Province,1995), etc. The Wall Street Journal (Weil, 2004) said that Qigong is “the hottest trend in stress relief.” Being one of the most ancient forms of energy psychology, it is a natural for integrating with EP methods, yet it is under-represented in EP approaches. Tapping is just one of the many forms of medical Qigong techniques which has an extensive history from which EP can benefit.

As a psychologist trained in keeping alternative medical approaches separate from my psychotherapy practice eventually, due to becoming aware that Qigong could be beneficial to my patients for stress reduction and other behavioral health concerns, I began to integrate Qigong into my practice with cases involving anxiety, carpal tunnel syndrome, insomnia, depression, trauma etc. (Mayer, 2007, 2009).

The most recent phase of my work began, which I call the integral (Walsh, 2006; Wilber, 2000) phase, when I strove to bring Qigong into my work with patients without ever doing a Qigong movement and without ever mentioning a word about Qigong. The greatest Qigong involves cultivating the energy of life by practicing living a life cleared of psychological encumbrances which block the rivers of our chi. On this pathway one can extract out the essence of what creates transformation from Qigong as a Self-cultivation practice. For example, with no reference to Qigong, in a psychotherapy session a practitioner can introduce breathing methods (such as Qigong’s microcosmic orbit breathing), teach acu-point self touch, and increase somatic awareness of the movements/postures that a person expresses at the moment of felt shift which then serve as post-hypnotic anchors (these movements and postures are oftentimes the same as practiced by Tai Chi/Qigong practitioners). The internal process of psychological change, as Gendlin (1978) rightly pointed out, has energy activation (Qigong) as an inextricable part of it, as a patient’s energetic “felt shift” emerges along with a patient’s discovering new meaning. Also symbolic process methods, such as my Mythic Journey Process (Mayer, 1994) and River of Life Process (Mayer 2007, 2009), create an internal energy (Jung, Vol. VIII, p. 211-215) that helps a person find a meaningful life path, and helps patients to find a new life stance (Goodman, 1990, Mayer, 2004). Thus one can cultivate “the spirit and soul” (Hillman, 1975) of Qigong (Mayer, 2004, 2007).

As related to EP, this expands the field to include both internal and external methods of energetic change. For example, some of the methods of internal energetic change of psychological complexes come from using the image/somatic dialectic (Mayer, 2007, 2009), symbolic process inner work, “focusing” (Gendlin, 1978), and internal Qigong (nei gung). External energetic techniques involve such techniques as tapping, eye movements (Shapiro), acu-point self touch, and externally oriented Qigong movements.

I have incorporated these traditions into my Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy approach which is one approach to creating an integral, comprehensive energy psychology tradition (Mayer 2007, 2009). To take another step forward on the path to actualizing the contribution that EP has to make to the field of psychology in general, I believe it will be important to increase the recognition that all psychotherapy is energy psychotherapy. By therapists better understanding that, psychotherapy can be enhanced and people in need will be able to use a broad range of energy psychology methods to add vitality, healing, and psycho-spiritual depth to their lives. For example, psychodynamic psychotherapies have “libido” at the center of their approach; cognitive therapy emphasizes changes in beliefs, but could benefit from the understanding that these beliefs create somatic changes (Shapiro, 1995) and energetic shifts (Mayer, 2007); and Dr Eugene Gendlin (1978) revealed that the process of change in all therapies involves a felt energetic shift. BMHP adds that at the core of the process of psychotherapeutic change is a felt energetic shift that creates a new life stance. BMHP includes the following holographic elements:

1. Breath, microcosmic orbit, guided imagery and hypnosis to activate the “River of Life.”
2. Self-soothing with a somatic, psycho-energetic emphasis
3. “Focusing” on felt meaning
4. Psychodynamics and object relations
5. Cognitive restructuring
6. Chi Nei Tsang
7. Energy psychology approaches including EMDR
8. Acupressure: Phenomenological approach and Acu-Yoga
9. Exercises from Bodymind Healing Qigong
10. Symbolic process approaches to healing

The field of energy psychology is in a pre-paradigmatic phase where the most viable course seems to be to incorporate a wide range of energy psychology methods from diverse traditions as research grows and we see which methods are most efficacious for which people at what times. I hope that Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy’s energy psychology approach will contribute to EP becoming increasingly acceptable to the wider field of psychology, and add vital elements to our healing tradition.


Gendlin, E. Focusing, Bantam Books, 1978.

Goodman, F., (1990). Where Spirit Rides the Wind: Trance Journeys and other Ecstatic Experiences. Indianapolis,Id: University Press.

Hillman, J. (1975). Revisioning Psychology. New York: Harper & Row.

Irwin, (2008). Improving sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep complaints: A randomized controlled trial of Tai Chi Chih, Sleep, Vol. 31 (7).

Jung, C.G. (1960). Collected Works. (Volume VIII). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Kuang, A., Wang C, et al, (1991), Research on the anti aging effect of Qigong, Journal of traditional Chinese medicine, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine,11 (2), 153-158.

Mayer, M. (2009). Energy Psychology: Self-Healing Practices for Bodymind Health, Berkeley/New York: North Atlantic/Random House.

Mayer, M. (2007) Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy: Ancient Pathways to Modern Health, Bodymind Healing Publications.

Mayer, M. (2004). Secrets to Living younger Longer: The Self Healing Path of Qigong, Standing Meditation and Tai Chi. Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.

Mayer, M. (2003), ED; Jonas, W. Healing, Intention, and Energy Medicine, Qigong Clinical Studies, England: Churchill Livingstone. (Peer Reviewed)

Mayer, M. (2000). Bodymind Healing Qigong DVD, Bodymind Healing Publications.

Mayer, M. (1994). Trials of the Heart: Healing the Wounds of Intimacy, Berkeley: Celestial Arts 1994.

Province, M., et al. (1995) The effects of falls on elderly patients: A pre-planned meta-analysi of the FICSIT trails, Jour. of the Am. Med. Assoc (JAMA), 272 (17), 1341-1347, May 3.

Shapiro, F., ( 1995 ). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. New York: Guilford Press.

Walsh, R. & Shapiro, S. (2006, April). The meeting of meditative disciplines and Western psychology, American Psychologist, 61 (3), 227-239.

Weil, A. (2004). Self-Healing Newsletter, September.

Wilbur, K. (2000). The eye of the spirit: An integral vision of a world going slightly mad. The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, (Vol. 7) Boston: Shambala.

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