Calatonia can be integrated to any psychotherapeutic approach as a technique that facilitates self-regulation and well-being. However, in order to be included in the psychotherapeutic process, it requires comprehensive training that includes not only the hands-on aspect, but also the acquisition of a solid theoretical base in psychodynamics.
Along with those requirements, it is essential that therapists using Calatonia and Subtle Touch work under the supervision of an experienced professional for a period of time – it would be professionally unethical otherwise.
Psychophysical Integration as proposed by Pethö Sándor
When including the body in psychotherapy we need to establish a dialogue with it, using the touch, movement and sensory perception. Sándor’s techniques when applied to psychotherapy facilitate self-knowledge by noticing and sensing the body, recognizing signs of stress, identifying the consequences of stress in psychological terms, and lastly by creating resources to alleviate stresses, trauma, discomfort, and imbalance.
Subtle somatic work method include unconventional ways of dealing with the body: light and stationary touches on hands or feet (Calatonia), near-touch contact (through the warmth of the hands), sounds and a variety of options including passive movements (therapist moves the patient’s body), rhythmic vibration of bone processes, etc.
This unconventional ways of dealing with the body enable the establishment of new connections in the central nervous system. From a neurological point of view, these new connections are important because they make new neural pathways available for recuperating movements lost by sickness, trauma or accidents. From the psychological point of view, these new neural pathways often represent finding a way out of conflicts, solving problems, a burst of creativity, opening the mind to new horizons, etc.
Because of its non-invasiveness, subtle somatic work presents no adverse effects. The only advice is to choose the appropriate technique with good clinical judgement. For restless patients, we start from where they are, offering techniques that will engage their active participation, moving to less active techniques over time. For hypochondriac patients, Autogenic training (Schultz) may alarm them and result in worries instead of relaxation. For psychotics, techniques that will help them ground is recommended, such as working with awareness of their feet, hands and spine (these body parts are the symbolic representations of the basis, communication and axis, respectively – elements necessary to recover from a psychotic break). Depressed or anxious patients will benefit from mindfulness and breathing exercises, and so on.
Touching the patient’s body demands great seriousness. ‘Superfluous’ touching is not recommended – one should never go beyond what is proposed by the technique to avoid creating conditions that may lead to unnecessary projections and fantasies. The body and its sensations are very easily interpreted erotically – knowing how to maintain proper boundaries will help to deal with situations in which these projections occur.
We can only learn how to treat the body by actually interacting with it. This means that the therapist also learns how to treat the patient’s body by receiving somatic treatments. Similarly, therapists can only practice psychotherapy after undergoing psychotherapy themselves.
Experiencing different techniques, learning relaxation and mindfulness, Focusing method, body and mind releasing exercises within a dyadic space, all are very useful steps for the development of somatic therapists, both professionally and personally. It will improve the therapists’ empathy towards others, bring awareness of therapist’s own issues from a somatic perspective, improve physical coordination to apply techniques, and finally, will help to develop skills to identify the most appropriate techniques to be used with each patient.