Radix and Body Psychotherapy

Written by Rudolf Müeller-Schwefe

Debate has long been under way among Radix teachers about the differences between educational and medical models of practice. Charles Kelley has written extensively and compellingly about why he founded Radix programs in Feeling and Purpose as educational systems of personal growth. In short, he found people being victimized and addressed as children, if the medical model of treating physical illness is used in psychotherapy. Meantime, in the last thirty years the discipline of psychotherapy has changed. Certainly, psychotherapy founded in humanistic psychology works with a growth model: the conscious, adult decision to do therapy is as much a part of it as an ongoing “real relationship” with a therapist (besides any transferences) and a functional, non-judgmental description of pathology – all of which Kelley had missed in the mode of the medical model. To differentiate psychotherapy from personal development, then, becomes a matter of emphasis: working with the same approach, we concentrate on helping to relieve and heal symptoms or disturbances someone suffers from (psychotherapy) – or we help to develop and realize one’s potential (personal development). Radix work can do both. (Of course, doing body-psychotherapy you need adequate knowledge and training for dealing with disturbances.)

Radix, a neo-Reichian approach developed by Charles Kelley, gains access to deep-rooted problems and opens up avenues for healing when verbal dialogue and reflection don’t suffice. This is not exclusively but especially true for psychosomatic afflictions, symptoms and disorders.

Generally, Radix lends itself to being a means for personal development and change since insight and cognitive understanding can affect our behavior, emotions and thoughts only to a limited extent. A neck inflected and truncated from the fear of humiliation or violence will not lengthen and straighten up by understanding, reflecting and talking alone (neither by physical therapy).

  • Only when you actually experience your old “fear in the neck” and complete its emotional expression without overwhelm can you let go of it,
  • Only when, at the same time, you are fully present in the here & now and appreciate that the present is different (the danger is gone and your resources have grown) can you disengage the early emotional generalization,
  • Only when body, mind and emotions are activated and involved in this process together can your neck lengthen, your fear-affect return to its adequate function and your mind become liberated from besetting thoughts.

In Radix, the therapist/practitioner assists the client in tracing the blocked, i.e. interrupted, held and often painful feelings and impulses and helps to experience their completion and release. At the same time, the client discovers the expansive feelings that were trapped alongside.

Soon, the driving force in this process is not so much the suffering from symptoms any more but the self-healing impulse that pushes towards healing, growth and development. It becomes evident how symptoms result from self-healing attempts much like protective overreactions (e.g. dangerous inflammations) or relieving postures.

Yet, strong emotions can flood the body and the ego (which is why they often are interrupted in the first place) to such an extent that the inner coherence and footing of the personality is endangered. This is avoided in Radix sessions – with the help of the therapist/practitioner -- by learning to organize, ground and regulate the emotions, strengthening autonomy and self-regulation. For this process to succeed clients need some basic competences that can be learned if they could not develop in childhood:

  • the ability to feel the body’s periphery and scheme and regulate (protect and open) the boundaries;
  • the capacity to be aware of, to use and to focus energy and strength as well as relax and surrender to life processes;
  • the competency to be in touch with reality and make good contact;
  • the capability to calm your arousal, regulate your emotions and  comfort yourself.

The loosening of stuck feelings and the strengthening of self-regulation and self-direction will be emphasized individually in session; their interplay is leading to the liberation of past burdens, to intense experiencing and clear action and behavior and to the deepening of the pulsation of the life force underlying all physical, emotional and mental processes.