Somatherapy is a kind of group therapy that was introduced by the writer Roberto Freire in the 1970s. The idea is based on research conducted by a psychotherapist who was also a writer, Wilhelm Reich. The goal of somatherapy is to allow individuals to explore and embrace their creativity. This therapy is also sometimes used as a holistic method to treat mental illness, disease, and other bodily and mental illnesses.
The tenets of gestalt therapy, a kind of talk therapy, have played a big part in the development of somatherapy. The gestalt philosophy is based on the importance of individualized self discovery. Individuals in gestalt therapy are often encouraged to live in the moment by analyzing their relationships with their environments, other people, and even with the therapists overseeing the therapy.
Proponents believe that gestalt therapy allows individuals to put themselves in a wider social context. This act is essential to a true recognition of the self. This therapy is often considered by proponents of conventional psychology and psychiatry to be an experimental treatment.
In practice, somatherapy is similar to gestalt therapy in that it encourages individuals to analyze their behaviors as defined by their relationships with people, environments, and institutions. Many who practice this therapy believe it to be politically or ethically motivated. That is, they believe that if the therapy is effective, it can reduce threats and instances of authoritarianism. Authoritarianism is a social structure in which the individual is forced to submit to an authority, such as a government.
Many proponents of somatherapy believe that authoritarianism is reproduced in various situations and relationships. Acts of lying, betrayal, aggression, and submission are considered to be effects of an authoritarian influence. Practitioners of somatherapy, therefore, often believe that by helping individuals to come to terms with these behaviors, they are helping them to become less prone to the impact of authoritarian ideas. Some know this therapy also as an anarchist therapy, meaning that it allows individuals to grasp the potential for life, or perhaps even society, without any authority at all.
Practitioners of holistic somatherapy believe that illnesses cannot be treated without taking a broader context into account. For example, an individual suffering from back pain may be urged to analyze relationships and feelings. Whereas a medical doctor might prescribe pain medication or perform physical treatments, the practitioner of somatherapy will help the individual to see this pain as a symptom of repressed emotions and memories.