Integrating Psychotherapy and Qigong

Integrating Psychotherapy and Behavioral Healthcare with Tai Chi and Qigong to Create an Integral, Comprehensive Energy Psychotherapy (Mayer. 2009 a and b):

1). Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy (Mayer, 2007), broadens the definition of Qigong to include non-movement, energetic, psychological states that cultivate the universal life force, i.e. the most profound Qigong is following your true life’s path. {Chapter 4 and 5}

2). In Secrets to Living Younger Longer (Mayer 2004b) it was shown that each Tai Chi posture has four different purposes: healing, spiritual unfoldment, self-defense, and to change the practitioner’s life stance.

3). Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy (BMHP) shows how each Tai Chi/Qigong posture is part of a “healing alphabet” that can form and induce different state-specific states of consciousness (Tart, 1968; Rossi, 1986)) that can be useful to Qigong practitioners and to the psychotherapeutic or behavioral health setting. {Mayer, 2007, Chapter 5 and 16}

4). BMHP reveals how Qigong/Tai Chi are “soulful traditions.” (Hillman, 1975; Moore 1992), whereas Qigong and Tai Chi have usually been seen as spiritual traditions. For example, while one is practicing Tai Chi and Qigong, instead of placing most emphasis on the transcendent, spiritual aspects induced by these practices, one can also focus on the memories, emotions, and images that arise in the practice — making it into a “soulful practice.” {Mayer, 2007, Chapter 5}.

5). BMHP shows how the meaning-making orientation of psychotherapy can add to Qigong by bringing psychological awareness to the postures and movements. This psychological awareness can help Tai Chi and Qigong practitioners to better use their practice to change their life stance. {Mayer, 2007, Chapter 5 and 15}

6). Much research shows that Qigong is a useful behavioral health tool due to its relaxing, healing movements (Sancier, 1996 a and b; Cohen, 1997, Pelletier, 2000). Dr Mayer has added to the literature in the field, the following : Qigong does not only activate a relaxed, altered state, it activates a “state-specific state” (Tart, 1968; Rossi, 1986) that is both relaxing and empowering. This state is called fongsung, a Chinese term for relaxed awakeness. It can be helpful for alleviating symptoms of stress (Sancier, 1996b), lowering blood pressure (Wang, et al 1995; Mayer, 1999, 2003) activating the immune system (Irwin, 2007), and empowering those who have deficits in the areas of self assertiveness, those who are victims of trauma, and so forth (Mayer, 2004b, 2007, 2009a).

7). Qigong not only produces a relaxed state of awareness; but also in its unique way, it provides a pathway to develop qualities seen as useful by therapists who integrate meditation into psychotherapy (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006). Qigong and Tai Chi can reciprocally inhibit unwanted behaviors adding to Wolpe’s (1958) behavioral approach; they can aid in developing an “observing self,” adding to Deikman’s (1982) transpersonal perspective; and they help to cultivate a “cohesiveness of self ” adding to Horner’s (1990) psychoanalytic methods. Qigong can help to “anchor” that state of awareness that helps to facilitate ego cohesion in maintaining one’s center when meeting the emotional tides of life, adding to Bandler and Grinder’s (1979) hypnotherapeutic approach to anchoring. Qigong, like many forms of meditation, can help us to develop a compassionate relationship to our life issues.

8). Qigong and Tai Chi are multifaceted traditions that are not only meditative but they can also be seen as forms of hypnosis, and therefore may result in similar health benefits known to be related to hypnosis (Rossi, 1986; Rossi & Cheek, 1988). Both have an empirically time-tested record for enhancing health for a multiplicity of health-related conditions (Sancier, 1996 a and b; Pelletier, 2000).

9). Qigong traditions, particularly Tai Chi, can help traumatized patients regain a safety zone in their bodies (Mayer, 2007, 2009a).

10). Qigong adds an energy-cultivation practice beneficial to those who are depressed or suffer from sympathetic nervous system overload, such as in cases of fibromyalgia (Astin et al, 2003), chronic fatigue, and trauma.

11). The well-known relaxation and energizing attributes of Qigong can be effectively applied to many issues that psychologists see in their everyday practices—such as insomnia (Irwin, 2008), anxiety, joint problems, energy deficiency, and chronic pain (Wu, 1999; Mayer, 2007). As an everyday practice, anyone can tap on these healing benefits as has been reported in China for thousands of years before Western psychology emerged (Cohen, 1997; Mayer, 2009a).

12). Whereas some meditative traditions are oriented to transcendence, Qigong and Tai Chi are, for the most part, body-oriented traditions, which cultivate a cohesiveness of self (Horner, 1990). From an integrative perspective, the way Tai Chi and Qigong are usually practiced, they do not specifically focus on psychological issues, such as early emotional wounding and negative beliefs. However, Dr Mayer puts forth the case that oftentimes transformations in a person’s psychological stance in life can be a result of this practice. (Mayer, 2007, 2009a)

13). Tai Chi and Qigong help those with reactive attachment styles to develop a cohesive center when the everyday issues of life assault or impinge upon one’s sensibilities; and together with psychotherapy, these two Eastern disciplines( Kabat-Zinn, 1990) may provide a bodily base for developing centered emotional expression (Mayer, 2007, 2009a).

14). Just as movement and creative arts have been integrated into psychotherapy with beneficial results so can Tai Chi and Qigong be a beneficial adjunct to treament (Levy, 1995; Serlin, 2007).

15). Qigong can help contribute to making an integral psychotherapy (Wilbur, 2000;Walsh, 2006), by bringing the essence of Qigong into psychotherapy without doing a Qigong movement or without mentioning a word about Qigong (Mayer, 2007, 2009a). 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: (Gendlin, 1978; Mayer, 2007, 2009a) which then serve as post-hypnotic anchors (these movements and postures are oftentimes the same as practiced by Tai Chi/Qigong practitioners).

16). The field of energy psychology is most often associated with methods of tapping (Craig, 2004) and muscle testing (Diamond, 1979) etc (Feinstein, 2004a). Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy as a form of energy psychology (Mayer, 2009a) expands and deepens the field of energy psychology to include Qigong and other tradtions of postural initiation (Goodman, 1990; Tomio, 1994), Gendlin’s (1978) Focusing, symbolic process traditions (Jung, 1960), and psychomythological storytelling methods (Mayer, 1982) as well as with other tradtional forms of psychotherapy to make an integral, comprehensive energy psycholgy (Mayer, 2009 a and b).

Dr Mayer’s Tai Chi and Qigong Training and Professional Contributions to Tai Chi/Qigong:

Dr Mayer’s Tai Chi/ Qigong background includes training for over three decades in the internal martial arts at the Integral Chuan Institute with Grandmaster Fong Ha where he learned Tai Chi Chuan, Xingyi Chuan, and Yi Chuan (also spelled Quan). Some of this training includes Tai Chi sword, saber and staff, the 108 long form of Tai chi Chuan right and left sides, the long form of San Shau, and Yi Chuan with Grandmasters Han XingYuan, and Sam Tam. Two persons “joining hands” (pushing hands) practice has been part of the curriculum. He has also trained with many other masters of medical Qigong such as Dr. Alex Feng in the Five Animal Forms of Hua Tau. He received a certification in Chinese Health Arts from the Acupressure Institute of Berkeley, CA.

Dr Mayer keynoted the National Qigong Association with his presentation on Qigong Ancient Path for Modern Health (2004a); and he was chosen to do a master level workshop at the Eleventh World Qigong Congress in San Francisco in 2008. He has presented Qigong workshops at many hospitals (Mt Diablo Hospital; Alta Bates Hospital; University of California, Davis; and UC Medical Center, San Francisco), colleges (John F. Kennedy University, the California Institute of Integral Studies, Bryn Mawr College, American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, San Francisco) He has offered many Qigong workshops for world-renowned Esalen Institute. His Bodymind Healing Qigong DVD is being used in trauma trainings by Dr Bessel van der Kolk, medical director of Boston University Medical School’s Trauma Center. His Bodymind Healing Qigong DVD is being used in trauma trainings by Dr Bessel van der Kolk, medical director of Boston University Medical School’s Trauma Center. He has certification programs which include Bodymind Healing Qigong for Qigong practitioners/teachers, and a Bodymind Health Practitioner’s Certification Program for health professionals.

Dr Mayer’s (1991, 2003) peer reviewed critiques of research methodology for examining Qigong’s ability to lower hypertension has led to a more careful analysis (Guo, 2008) of potential confounding variables, and research protocols. Dr Mayer’s clinical approach to alleviate hypertension integrates Qigong, Western behavioral health tools, and psychotherapy (1997b, 2007, 2009) thereby adding Qigong as a complementary, integrative healthcare method to those Eastern relaxation tools for heart care introduced by Ornish (1993, 1995) and others.

Dr Mayer’s Written and Media Publications related to Qigong:

  • Mayer, M. H. (1982). The mythic journey process. The Focusing Folio, 2(2).
  • Mayer, M. H. (1996). Qigong and behavioral medicine: An integrated approach to chronic pain. Qi: The Journal of Eastern Health and Fitness, 6(4), 20-31.
  • Mayer, M. H. (1997a). Psychotherapy and Qigong: Partners in healing anxiety. Berkeley, CA: The Psychotherapy & Healing Center.
  • Mayer, M. H. (1997b). Combining behavioral healthcare and Qigong with one chronic hypertensive adult. Mt. Diablo Hospital-Health Medicine Forum. Unpublished study.(Video available from Health Medicine Forum, Walnut Creek, CA,
  • Mayer, M. H. (1999). Qigong and hypertension: A critique of research. Journal ofAlternative and Complementary Medicine, 5(4), 371-382. (Peer-reviewed).
  • Mayer, M. H. (2000). Bodymind healing Qigong(DVD). Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Center.
  • Mayer, M. H. (2001a). Find your hidden reservoir of healing energy: A guided meditation forcancer (Audio cassette). Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
  • Mayer, M. H. (2001b). Find your hidden reservoir of healing energy: A guided meditation for chronic disease (Audio cassette). Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
  • Mayer, M. H. (2003). Qigong clinical studies. In W. B. Jonas (Ed.), Healing, intention, and energy medicine (pp. 121-137). England: Churchill Livingston. (Peer-reviewed).
  • Mayer, M. H. (2004a). Qigong: Ancient path to modern health (DVD of keynote address to National Qigong Association). Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
  • Mayer, M. H. (2004b). Secrets to living younger longer: The self-healing path of Qigong, standing meditation and Tai Chi. Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
  • Mayer, M. H. (2004c). What do you stand for? The Journal of Qigong in America, Vol. 1, Summer.
  • Mayer, M. H. (2004d). Walking meditation: Yi Chuan Qigong. The Empty Vessel: A Journal of Comtemporary Taoism, Summer.
  • Mayer, M. H. (2005). Qigong: An age-old foundation of energy psychology. The Energy Field, Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, Vol. 6, (4), Winter.
  • Mayer, M. H. (2007). Bodymind healing psychotherapy: Ancient pathways to modern health.Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
  • Mayer, M.H. (2009a). Energy psychology: Self-healing practices for bodymind health, North Atlantic/Random House, 2009.)
  • Mayer, M.H. 2009b (Winter) Bodymind Healing in Psychotherapy: Towards an integral, comprehensive energy psychology, The Energy Field: The International; Energy Psychology News and Articles, p13. Available free online:

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