Review of the evening Talk, Body Focused Therapy, with Dr John Eaton, June 7, 2016

Before Dr John Eaton introduced the understanding of medically unexplained illnesses, such as Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, etc. he placed the miracle of our bodies into the room. He spoke of the many cells human bodies consist and the continuous unconscious processes that go on within our bodies. John’s understanding is that these processes work on many levels and have the objective to adapt to our environment. Hence, we don’t have to think about regulating our temperature or how and when we digest our food. Our body does that for us. It monitors the internal and external world for us and reacts to the information by adapting as well as it can.

John demonstrated his keen interest in physiological processes. His wide and deep knowledge of the literature grounded his theory and practical work.  He places the body in the centre of counselling and psychotherapy. He critically assessed traditional and popular views, such as the behaviour of fight/flight or the number of emotions humans may have or the idea of positive and negative emotions. He also embedded his understanding of humans not in an individual but fully in a social context. His hypothesis is that unless people listen to the physical messages and feel that they cannot influence life situations and change these, the body will not stop signalling its distress. In fact, the body will upgrade its activity so to make the stress situation the “normal” situation. I wonder whether or not this would fit into the new research on a new scientific field called Epigenetics and how we deal with the nature/nurture debate.

John works with Reverse Therapy in order to address those conditions. Reverse Therapy is influenced by classical thinkers/practitioners such as Erikson, Rossi, Perls, Rogers and Gendlin. The physiological and neurological basis is given by Porges and his research of the polyvagal system. The approach regards itself as educational too because a person needs to develop a new relationship with her/his body and understand what her/his body is communicating. John mentioned also the difficulty of “junk thoughts” i.e., empty thoughts that heavily influence clients and to which clients need to stop listening. Reverse Therapy intervenes in the communication by creative exercises that allow a client to talk about her/his relationship and engage with her/his body’s communication.

The evening’s question and answer session elicited questions about the application of natural remedies for medically unexplained conditions, as well as possible evidence for some of his claims. I wondered about the “junk thoughts” which seemed to me very prominent in John’s talk but were not really addressed regarding the way client are guided to not have them.

John has written many books on the subject and his slides are available from [email protected].John’s understanding and his passion for his subject was tangible. He was able to present complexities in a useful way. His warmth as well as his frank speaking was refreshing and seemed to engage the audience deeply. With the words of one member who successfully applies the approach, the evening concluded.

Thank you John.

Doris Prügel-Bennett