Heather Perry, LMBT
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Healing the Mind-Body Connection

Heather Perry, LMBT

Friday, March 14, 2014

You may hear this phrase a lot, but what does it really mean and how is it affecting your life?
It can be very challenging to make that connection, but when you are stressed, upset or have past traumas in your life that you are working through, it can take a toll on the physical body as well as the mind, making it even harder to heal. This is a powerful example of a client working with Jim Gabriel out of The Gabriel Center for Massage in Florida. 


By working closely with Mental Health Professionals and within my own scope of practice, I hope that I can facilitate the healing process between mind and body and help people create happier, healthier lives.                  
                                                                                                                                                                            ~Heather Perry, LMBT (Asheville, NC)
THE BODY/MIND CONNECTION
While some psychotherapists have moved toward the body, a number of massage therapists have moved their work into areas centering around the mind. Innovative insights and techniques pertaining to body-mind healing developed by Reich, Lowen, Janov, Orr and others are being incrementally absorbed into the massage therapy field.
A client, let’s call him Michael, came to see me when he was suffering with chronic low back pain. Michael was a self-conscious young man in his early twenties who was going to college and working nights in a pizza restaurant. He was unusually tense and rigid in his general movements.


As a Neuromuscular Therapist, I conducted a clinical intake interview, structural evaluation and assessed his pain patterns to determine how to proceed with his treatment. During the first session the tightness in his back was addressed directly with Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT).
In the second treatment, it became clear that his low back stress and strain were due mainly to tightness in the muscles of the hip. These muscles were so tense that his lower spine was locked in a fixed spasm. In other words, his hip and gluteal muscles would have to relax in order for his low back to release and stop hurting. Unfortunately, Michael would tighten his muscles more when I applied steady pressure to calm the spastic reflex.


He was able to relax and stay focused with specific breathing exercises. I observed that his muscles would relax momentarily, and then fear seemed to grip him and the spasm returned. We took a short break. I suspected even more strongly that the problem was due to deep-seated pain, fear and anxiety as the “gripping” reflex was involuntary.
Michael’s resistance to the work was the “body armor” or the armor against the world, which was a manifestation of the internal “character armor." This inner armor was the shell over his emotional vulnerability.
“Michael,” I said, “This is really difficult for you, isn’t it?” He answered, “I guess so”, his voice now quivering. He was silently weeping. Suddenly, he spoke up about a past trauma as a child that was still affecting him as an adult. “I would hear my father as he whipped my two older brothers with his belt. He never hit me, but each time he punished them he would yell and I could feel myself tense up!” He finished crying and seemed to let go. He told me that he was ready for me to work. His muscles released without resistance, his spine repositioned and the pain was gone. Later he mentioned that he worked with a critical boss who screamed at all the employees. Each time the employer exploded, Michael would tense up. Now he understood why. After two more visits, his sense of vulnerability eased and the pain was completely gone.


Massage therapists are not junior psychotherapists. Most massage treatment sessions bring remarkable relief from stress and pain with few spoken words. Yet over time, massage therapists, like nurses, teachers, hairdressers and doctors garner wisdom through working closely with people.


Scientific studies confirm that hands-on contact establishes a powerful facility to motivate. With this ability comes the duty to know ones self. Massage therapists must remain integrated within themselves: body, mind and spirit. A balanced frame of reference is necessary to help clients who are seeking wholeness. Training for touch practitioners continues to increase in scope as the public demands a greater breadth of services.


It is a clients responsibility to choose a massage therapist as carefully as one would select an accountant, attorney, hair-dresser or doctor. Massage therapists who work with those suffering great distress are often in professional relationship with mental healthcare providers. We work together for the benefit of the person who seeks our services and so it should be.


~Jim Gabriel, LMT, SET, NMT, BA