Embodiment in Group Therapy: From IQ to WeQ—Together We Are Stronger!

  • Evelyn Beverly Jahn


The brain is a relationship organ. We not only enter into contact with the thinking appliance of another individual, but also into resonance with the body. In principle, people cultivate two types of relationship: one to themselves (self-reference) one to others (interaction reference). Over the course of our life history we develop an inner picture of ourselves and of the world in which we live. We have experienced what we have to do and not do to satisfy our needs, maintain relationships and avoid, as far as possible, unpleasant emotions and tensions. Frustrating relationship experiences have left (emotional) scars which we are anxious to protect. Nobody wants to relive the pain of previous rejections and frustrations. We avoid the “terror zone” with diverse, often creative behaviour strategies. When we come closer to others, however, the two scar tissues make contact. They touch and rub against each other, and this can lead to pain. The embodiment concept understands every organism as being “fully embodied” in its body with all of its thinking, acting and feeling, and “embedded” in its environment, e.g., in a group. Our approach uses the latest research results for a very special intervention architecture. Problematic life issues are made visible with body and soul in a protected (therapy) room. The application of embodiment techniques in group therapy is more than just talking: emotions can be generated and regulated (bottom-up) via the body, and the body also helps with the development of a new attitude towards oneself and one’s life, always in direct contact with others. The body thus becomes a stage for shaping relationships on which the Survival Strategies of all the protagonists are played out. We use it for the modulation of a new attitude to central life issues and the associated problems, as a feedback instrument and a resonance organ. During all of this our roots remain firmly connected with the fertile soil of CBT. We reflect, dispute and structure along with our clients (top-down) their insights, attitudes and thoughts. The promotion of synchrony in social interactions makes an improvement of the emotional regulation possible and, in this way, we bring a lot of movement into the room on all levels. Improving the emotion regulation, gaining greater access to one’s own feelings and needs, and developing a values-oriented approach to problem resolution in everyday life are the aims of this group program. Nobody takes this often stony road alone!


  1. Aldao, A., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Schweizer, S. (2010). Emotion-regulation strategies across psychopathology: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 217–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundation of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  3. Bednar, R. L., & Kaul, T. (1994). Experiental group research. In M. Lambert (Ed.), Bergin & Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (4th ed., pp. 631–663). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Bucci, W. (2002). The referential process, consciousness, and the sense of self. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 22(5), 776–793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burlingame, G. M., Fuhriman, A., & Mosier, J. (2003). A meta-analysis review. In Group dynamics: Theory, research and practice (Vol. 7, pp. 3–12). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burlingame, G. M., Strauß, B., & Joyce, A. S. (2013). Change mechanisms and effectivness of small group treatments. In M. Lambert (Ed.), Bergin & Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (6th ed., pp. 640–689). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Fuhriman, A., & Burlingame, G. M. (1994). Group psychotherapy: Research and practice. In A. Fuhriman & G. M. Burlingame (Eds.), Handbook of group psychotherapy. An empirical and clinical synthesis (pp. 3–40). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  8. Haken, H., & Tschacher, W. (2017). How to modify psychopathological states? Hypotheses based on complex systems theory. Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, 21, 19–34.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review, 108, 814–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Levine, P. A. (2010). In an unspoken voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.Google Scholar
  11. Ramseyer, F., & Tschacher, W. (2016). Movement coordination in psychotherapy: Synchrony of hand movements is associated with session outcome. A single-case study. Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, 20, 145–166.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Schmidt, R. C., & Richardson, M. J. (2008). Dynamics of interpersonal coordination. In S. Kelso (Ed.), Coordination: Neural, behavioral and social dynamics, Understanding complex systems (pp. 281–308). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Smith, E. C., & Grawe, K. (2003). What makes psychotherapy sessions productive? A new approach to bridging the gap between process research and practice. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 10, 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Tschacher, W., & Pfammatter, M. (2016). Embodiment in psychotherapy – A necessary complement to the canon of common factors? European Psychotherapy, 13, 9–25.Google Scholar
  15. Watkins, J. G. (1971). The affect bridge: A hypnoanalytic technique. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 19, 21–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Yalom, I. D. (2007). Theorie und Praxis der Gruppenpsychotherapie. Ein Lehrbuch (9. völlig überarbeitete Auflage). Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.Google Scholar
  17. Zimmermann, J., Vicary, S., Sperling, M., Orgs, G., & Richardson, D. C. (2017). The choreography of group affiliation. Topics in Cognitive Sciences, 10(1), 80–94. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evelyn Beverly Jahn
    • 1
  1. 1.Praxis und Lehrpraxis für VerhaltenstherapieLeipzigGermany

Personalised recommendations