Psychology is a field of study that attempts to understand human behavior and mental processes, and while gaining understanding, it also seeks to improve the human condition. Psychology is probably one of the most popular field to major in, in college, as it offers a curious mix of personal and scientific growth that many find interesting. Moreover, psychology speaks to the human spirit, there is that desire to know, to gain understanding and to better ourselves. Even those who pursue psychology as a profession would admit that they went into psychology because they wanted to know more about themselves, and a number of psychologists in the humanistic tradition have written about the inherent drive to grow and to develop our full potential.
In the present times, we have seen that psychology is becoming more relevant in terms of how it is able to help individuals with their personal issues and difficulties, as well as in the treatment of psychological disorders. Just as there are a multitude of aspects to the human person, there are also numerous subfields in psychology. As one focuses on one facet of personality or mental illness, so does a new subfield emerges, we have seem this in terms of health psychology, integral psychology and positive psychology. However, there are theories in psychology that have already been espoused and developed before but has only gained popularity in the present time. One of which is somatic psychology. Somatic psychology was said to have begun in the writings of Wilhelm Reich a student of Freud and was trained as a psychoanalyst. Reich put forth the idea of psychosomatic illnesses, wherein he was more concerned with seeking treatment for illnesses that affected the body and yet was caused by the mind. Reich emphasized that most illnesses such as cancer and pneumonia were indeed manifestation of psychic illness. Put simply, the body becomes sick because the mind is experiencing neurosis that threatens its health. The point of view is opposite that of the medical model in which bodily illnesses are caused by organisms such as viruses, bacteria and cancer cells or by a biological and physical origin such as hormonal imbalance, too much or too little neurotransmitters and the like.
However, as it is becoming more obvious at present, is that not all disease has organic causes, and not all can be treated with medicines alone. Somatic psychology bridges the divide between physical illness and the condition of the mind, and offers a different way of understanding the origin an treatment of diseases. The perspective of somatic psychology follows that of the psychoanalytic tradition as posited by Freud, and Reich believed that the treatment of physical illness can also be done with psychoanalytic therapy. After Reich, a number of his students continued to write and study somatic psychology and the interdependence of the mind and body and finding its way into the study of attachment, pre and perinatal period, fetal programming, habitual movements, autonomic nervous system and chronic illness. More than that, somatic psychology is now a recognized subfield in psychology with its own theory, method, and treatment.
Somatic psychology have been used as a means of helping patients suffering from chronic illnesses deal with their illness and cure themselves of it from within. As such, somatic psychology is now offered as a graduate program, wherein students will be trained into the different approaches and treatment modalities such as art and dance therapy. The program also provide students with the opportunity to gain an appreciations for the influence of the mind to the body and to view the human being as composed of different aspects and yet unified as a whole. What ails the mind will also ail the body and vice versa. In this respect, treatment according to somatic psychology should be directed at improving both the mind and body.
Pursuing a master’s degree in somatic psychology can benefit the student in terms of becoming one of the first group of students to be trained in its theoretical and methodological approaches, as of the present, there are only a handful of universities that offers a degree program in the said concentration. Also, more and more members of the scientific community and even in the practice of medicine has recognized that chronic illness can no longer be explained by the medical model, and that not all people will be able to benefit from just taking medicines. Thus, with this changing paradigm, there is now more opportunities for somatic psychology and the study of psychosomatic illness.
Somatic psychology also believes that the body forms part of the circuit of language in the human being, that whatever the mind and the brain experiences, it will ultimately find expression in our body. This is especially true when the mind suffers from negativity and stress brought about by frustrations and traumatic experiences, the body will reveal the pain and negativity it is experiencing through illnesses and sickness. Although illness of the body manifests itself as something biological, treatment limited to addressing the biological aspect will not be enough to cure the illness. Such that Reich advocated to use somatic psychotherapy such that the mind and body interface becomes more congruent rather than divided.
The study of somatic psychology can open our eyes to the reality that mental health and physical health are not separate, but rather interdependent, in that in order for the person to be healthy, he or she should be of sound mind and body. Now is the time to become a somatic psychology practitioner, it is an exciting time for these subfields in psychology that were ignored in the past since it appeared to be less scientific and objective. But, somatic psychology is a thriving field and there is still more to know about its different object of study as well as the integration of body therapy, movement, dance and touch to the practice of psychosomatic medicine. Aside from the professional opportunities it may provide the student, taking up somatic psychology may also contribute to the personal development of the student.Updated Date: 28 March 2019, 18:35