A Bodymind Approach to Healing Depression
Oct 29, 2015 11:23AM
By Alison Shaw
In July, Barbara Gosselin, PT, and Alison Shaw, NP, LMT, CEH, teamed up to open the Center for Body Mind Integration, in Lexington. Gosselin’s work includes craniosacral therapy, fascial mobilization and energy healing to help people with pain, while Shaw’s Bodymind Repatterning combines body centered counseling, integrative bodywork and energy medicine. Their aim is to practice and share their passion for these healing therapies and promote awareness in the community and medical system about the power of bodymind therapies in healing physical and emotional issues. Natural Awakenings Boston wanted to know how these methods can be used to treat depression, in particular.
Can you describe your approach to healing depression?
AS: We believe that health is a function of the free flow of energy on all levels of one’s being—physiological, emotional and on a soul level. I often find that, in people with depression, that flow has been hampered and energy has gotten stuck. Unresolved and unexpressed emotions are held by the body for years, creating patterns of stillness and contraction that affect someone for their whole lives. So I can help them through counseling, imagery, movement and hands on bodywork to find those places where that movement is stopped. We then work to help the natural flow of physical, emotional and mental energy find its own way back to balance and freedom.
So it doesn’t involve taking any herbs, supplements or medication?
AS: Not in my work, but I do believe strongly that there often is a chemical component to depression, such as a neurochemical imbalance that can be helped by anti-depressants or herbal support, Chinese medicine and nutrition. These supports are very useful in that process, unless they’re being used to solve an issue that really might be mind-body generated. The complement of the two can be very powerful, and sometimes people need the foundational chemical support to bring their chemistry back into balance before they can really get traction from the work I do with them. I also want to mention that food is one of the most powerful medications we put into our body each day. There’s a direct connection between nutrition and our endocrine and hormonal systems, which affect our emotional experiences, and food sensitivities can contribute to anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.
BG: I think we get into trouble as a society when doctors recommend only medication for depression without looking at other levels that may be involved. The risk is that this can cover up issues that need to be dealt with to really address the root of the depression.
What approach do you use in your work?
BG: Similar to Alison I look at the movement of energy through the movement of fascia, the connective tissue that runs throughout the body. I once heard a quote that said, “The opposite of depression isn’t happiness, it’s vitality,” and I thought that was powerful. It says that depression is not only an emotional experience, but also a physiological one, experienced as decreased vitality. When there is a lot of restriction in the fascia, it takes someone a lot of energy to move through that. I think the word depressed is accurate in that case, because they are literally being held down by these restrictions. Bodywork can restore vitality on the physical level by freeing up restrictions and allowing movement of energy in the tissues, which can help lift the depression.
you seen this happen in your clients?
BG: Yes. Even though most people come to me primarily for pain, they share that, as a result of the work, they feel more energy, or vitality, meaning less depression.
What about the role of traditional therapy in depression?
AS: We often work closely with psychotherapists to add the body-centered component to the work they’re doing with clients. Many of my clients are doing great work with a psychotherapist, and the way I work with them is not to replicate that but to ask how the depression feels in the body, both physically and symbolically, and have a conversation with it—a dialogue— to hear from the unconscious and deeper levels of the self and soul. Exploring the unconscious and the body are the pieces that can allow deeper issues to change and release in ways that talking alone cannot. Shifts in the body can lead to emotional shifts, as well as the other way around.
The Center for Body Mind Integration is located at 109 Mass. Ave., Lexington. For more information, call 781- 646-0686 or 781-507-4226, or visit CenterForBodyMindIntegration.com.