What is Radix?
A.Radix is a body-oriented therapy and personal growth practice derived from the work of Wilhelm Reich and Charles R. Kelley. Like other somatic or “body-centered” psychotherapy practices such as Bioenergetics, Hakomi, and Core Energetics, Radix applies the principle of mind-body unity using an integrated approach that includes working with the body (somatic), feelings (affective), and thought (cognitive) to effect psychological change and profound personal growth.
Who is Charles 'Chuck' Kelley?
Charles R. “Chuck” Kelley, Ph.D. founded Radix. He was born on September 25, 1922 with an insatiable curiosity. He was an experimental psychologist, human factors engineer and university lecturer with “mainstream” credentials when he became fascinated with Wilhelm Reich’s work with the life force, which he came to call the radix. Dr. Kelley carried out Reich’s weather experiments, experienced orgone therapy, and published The Creative Process
which, in the early sixties, was the only American journal devoted to Reich’s work following his death. The development of Radix Education in Feeling, Purpose and Vision Improvement paralleled his need to understand the origins of muscular armor, often using personal experience as his guide. His near-sightedness resulted in his doctoral dissertation on the psychological factors affecting myopia and in practice as a Bates Instructor. Research on sexual functioning led to election as Diplomate by the American Board of Sexology, and his “purpose” program evolved from studying Ayn Rand and experiencing Synanon, Nathaniel Branden’s pioneering work with self esteem, and Reuven Bar-Levav’s Crisis Mobilization Therapy, among others. Chuck lived to see the distillation of his life’s work published as Life Force: The Creative Process in Man and in Nature
before dying suddenly but not unexpectedly in April 2005. He wrote and taught to his dying day. He is remembered, too, for his lighthearted moments, his jokes and poetry.
Charles Kelley received the USABP’s Pioneer Award for 2012 for his contributions to the field of body psychotherapy. The announcement read: “Charles R. (Chuck) Kelley, PH.D., was a philosopher of science, an explorer and engineer of the life force, and an applied experimental psychologist. He was a student of Wilhelm Reich, and after Reich’s death in 1957 he published The Creative Process, America’s only scientific periodical devoted to furthering Reich’s work at that time. By the late sixties he developed his own system of Radix® Education in Feeling and Purpose, and he and his wife Erica ran a retreat center in California until 1987, offering residential programs and training professionals from around the world.
How does Radix work differ from traditional psychotherapy?
There are at least three important differences to consider. First, traditional psychotherapy was founded by doctors. Therefore psychotherapy was founded upon a medical model that sees persons as patients who are ill. Instead, Radix is founded upon the humanistic psychology model that sees persons as persons whose different issues place them differently on a continuing spectrum of personal growth. Radix persons are not patients; they are not “pathologized.”
Yet another important difference is how Radix considers personal growth. The mind/body principle implies that profound change must not only be insightful (cognitive), but also they must be experienced emotionally (affective), and be reflected in the body (somatic). Deep psychological growth is not just a mental experience, it is a whole person experience.
Therefore whereas traditional psychotherapies rely primarily upon verbal dialogue as their technique for generating insight and change, the scope of Radix techniques is considerably more vast. Given the modern theoretical base of mind/body unity, the Radix practitioner can apply verbal (cognitive) techniques when needed; she can also apply a host of techniques for working with feelings (affective); and she can apply numerous techniques for working with the body (somatic).
What are the goals of Radix work?
Radix work awakens persons to a vital and authentic experience of life. As the work progresses, not only do persons resolve their presenting issues, but also they begin to experience themselves becoming more fully alive, more fully themselves. Although Radix work is applied differently to persons with different needs and different problems, certain themes tend to underlie the work. They include:
Develop mind/body integration, reducing dissociation, enhancing the experience of being fully alive.
Ground you in your body and your experience of life, enabling greater competence in your dealing with life’s daily issues.
Center you in your experience of your own body, feelings, and thoughts, enabling your experience of your own authentic self.
Create boundaries that define you to yourself, your relationships, and the world.
Contain feelings that might overwhelm you, until they can be expressed at an appropriate time in an appropriate manner.
Strengthen your ego, your sense of and your experience of self.
Restore the flow of your life force, enhancing its pulsation, your aliveness, and expressiveness
Enhance your capacity to increase and contain your biophysical energy — to charge with energy and to tolerate increased amounts of energy, thereby enhancing your capacity for pleasure.
Discharge long-held feelings anger, fear, pain, and longing allowing thereby for the enhanced capacity for feelings of love, trust, pleasure, and fulfillment.
Increase your capacity for interpersonal contact, allowing therefore for greater emotional and sexual intimacy.
Discover and express your authentic self, resulting in enhanced autonomy & self-direction.
Is Radix a medical treatment?
A. Radix work is not a medical treatment and is not a substitute for medical care. When you have a medical problem you should talk to your doctor about doing body-centered personal growth work before beginning. That said, some medical problems have an emotional or psychological component that can respond to personal growth work like Radix.
Is Radix a massage technique?
A. No, Radix is not massage, and massage is not a Radix technique. However some Radix practitioners are also massage therapists, and might use both. Also, with some persons, many Radix practitioners use touch to bring awareness, encourage letting go, etc., on specific muscles.
What exactly happens when you 'do Radix work'?
Radix work is done one-on-one with a Radix Practitioner, in ongoing groups, and/or in workshops lasting from just a few hours to a week or so. Radix work, especially in individual sessions, is tailored to the client, so exactly what occurs will vary quite a lot from one client to another. Also, many Radix Practitioners combine their use of Radix theory and techniques with other kinds of work, like psychotherapy.
However, a ‘typical’ individual Radix session might start with body movements and postures to explore what’s going on in the body at the moment, while perhaps talking about that or about issues the client is experiencing in her life. This might be followed by talk and/or physical work to explore, and perhaps deepen the client’s emotional experience and expression of feeling. Then there might follow verbal and/or physical work geared towards integrating the experience. However, it cannot be stressed enough that each client is different, and so each session is different.
Why does Radix include a focus on the body?
The mind and body are a unity. Each is mirrored in the other. For example, the unconscious is mirrored in the body’s patterns of chronic muscular tension. The principle of mind/body unity confirms Wilhelm Reich’s discovery that you cannot effect lasting psychological change without also having changed the body, especially its chronic tensions.
More obviously, we experience emotion when the body’s subtle biophysical energy (orgone, qi, prana) flows through the body. “Stuck” feelings of fear, pain, anger, longing, complexes, character defenses, repressions, and other issues are held in the chronic tensions of your body. These tensions distort the flow of our life force, and we experience these distortions as psychological discomfort.
If the principle of mind/body unity is real, then it follows that working with the body’s tensions can provide us yet another avenue for affecting psychological change.
Is Radix work physically demanding?
A. No. The old styles of Reichian work can indeed be intrusive and demanding, given the practitioner’s possibly forceful manipulations of the body’s muscles. But later generations of neo-Reichian work, especially Radix, have tended to become much softer in their approach to working with the body. Keep in mind that neo-Reichian schools such as Radix, Bioenergetics, and Core Energetics have been around for almost 40 years. During that time, their theories have evolved significantly from Reich’s old-school of orgonomy therapy. Furthermore, the Radix experience draws not only upon traditional Reichian methods, but also since its inception, it has borrowed techniques from a variety of humanistic schools of therapy. Additionally, the evolution of Radix theory over the past 40 years has lead to especially “soft” and yet effective methods of working with persons.
Why does Radix also focus on feelings?
Radix differs significantly from verbal therapies in that should feelings be “up” to be worked, the client often will be encouraged to experience those feelings, not just talk about them. So, often sessions will work with feelings such as fear, pain, anger, and longing, and this may involve crying, yelling, etc.
Why focus on feeling feelings rather than just talk about them? Because in the feeling of feelings, the biophysical energy locked in the body’s chronic tensions is released. Though difficult to describe, it is important to understand that the experience of our feelings for what they really are leads to their transformation. Usually, the result of feeling your difficult feelings is that, by the end of a session, you experience a genuine relief and sense of well-being.
How do you access emotions?
In Radix work, we work with blocks to energy flow in the body that are associated with blocking feelings. Some people have a deadness, or lack of feeling, or difficulty knowing or expressing their feelings, and work with them is geared to help them center, and know what they are feeling, and work through blocks against physical expression of feeling. Other people are overwhelmed with uncontrollable feeling that can be frightening or come out inappropriately; work with them is geared towards learning how to focus feeling with less chaos, and how to come out of feeling when that’s what’s needed.
We combine verbal and cognitive work with physical exercises, positions, and exploration, to identify what’s going on at the moment and then how to move it more deeply and naturally. The work is experiential: the client does it in session, as well as talking about it.
As an example, think of a person who hasn’t cried in 25 years. They will typically be rigidly tight in all the musculature associated with crying (and breathing): eye area, jaw/mouth, throat/neck, shoulders, chest, back, diaphragm. We would begin with helping to relax at the top (eye/scalp) and when feeling/energy can move there, continuing on to the mouth, etc., always integrating as we work downwards. Over time the person will be able to have a more full-body expression of sadness.
As an example of the “overwhelmed” type of person, think of someone who goes into overwhelming rage when their 3-year-old defies them. We would work with reality grounding, physically and cognitively, and breathing awareness to avoid escalation, and ways to keep centered and in contact while not raging; and also helping with fuller and more focused expression of anger in safer or more appropriate ways.
Are specific feelings held in specific muscles?
There are general truths about which feelings tend to be held in which parts of the body. However each person is unique, and it’s not possible to say how a given person holds feelings, without working with them for awhile. Radix work is highly individualized to the client.
One of the general truths, though, is that while some people are overly rigid and have trouble accessing their feelings and expressing them, others have the opposite problem: they get easily overwhelmed by chaotic and uncontrollable feeling, that can sometimes get expressed inappropriately or unsafely. These 2 types of people need very different work: some need help increasing their feeling experience and others need help learning to focus or contain their feelings. So without getting an idea first about which general type of person you’re working with, it probably should not be a goal to encourage emotional expression.
I'm out of touch with my feelings. What can Radix do for me?
A. For some persons, the direction of their work is to rediscover their capacity to feel their feelings and to integrate those feelings. Typically these persons feel deadened, unalive, as if they are missing out on life’s richness. For these persons, the direction of Radix work is towards centering the persons in their inner experience, loosening chronic muscular tensions so as to allow for the experience and discharge of long-held feelings, and developing more flexible interpersonal boundaries. As these persons release stuck feelings of anger, fear, pain, and longing, they awaken to their capacity for love, trust, pleasure, and fulfillment.
I'm overwhelmed by my feelings. How can Radix help me?
A. While some persons need to develop their capacity to feel their feelings, other persons are all to familiar with their feelings; they are swamped and flooded by chaotic feelings that sometimes are overwhelming and seemingly unmanageable. For these persons, the direction of Radix work is towards strengthening the sense of self, defining and strengthening boundaries, learning to contain feelings, enhancing body/mind integration, and developing a greater sense of being grounded. Sensitivity to this very common problem is one of the features of Radix work that distinguishes it from other neo-Reichian practices.
Conventional therapy hasn't worked well for me.
People often ask: Conventional therapy hasn’t worked well for me. Could Radix work better? Radix work has a lot in common with conventional therapy so it could be that Radix wouldn’t work any better for you. However Radix work has some major differences from conventional therapy that could mean it would work better for you. Some of these differences are:
Radix work pays a lot more attention to integration of what’s going on in your body with what’s going on in your mind.
Radix works directly with physical blocks to thinking and feeling.
Radix work teaches how to feel and express feeling more directly than purely verbal work does.
Radix work typically includes verbal work, but adds the dimension of doing physical work too. It gives the therapist/Radix practitioner additional ways to work with you and so there is more likelihood that whatever is preventing you from getting what you want out of therapy will be addressed.
Sometimes people work with both a verbal therapist and a Radix practitioner at the same time. This is something you should discuss with your therapist before starting Radix work, since it can happen that working with 2 separate therapists is not a good idea, even if the 2nd therapy might be a good approach for you.
Why might I choose Radix as my method for personal growth?
The reasons why persons choose Radix work of course are diverse and individual. For example, some persons are drawn to the holistic mind/body/feelings approach of the Radix work; they are convinced that “just talking” about their issues will not lead to profound change. They feel out of touch or dissociated from the deeper experience of their feelings, their body, their aliveness that they sense is possible. They understand that a purely verbal approach to personal growth work cannot induce the depth of change that they seek.
Other persons are all too immersed in their feelings. They are swamped by feelings that seem ever changing, never allowing them an enduring sense of self. They seek clearer personal boundaries, and a grounded, solid sense of self. While verbal work can help somewhat, ultimately the experience of self is rooted in the experience of the body.
Whichever the individual reason that a person seeks to change, each person is served by Radix’s comprehensive approach to personal growth. Radix integrates a whole-person approach to personal development that works with body, feeling, and mind. This allows a depth of change that extends beyond word and thought to include changed feelings and changed body awareness and structure, resulting in greater aliveness and personal fulfillment.
Who is Wilhelm Reich? Who are the 'Neo-Reichians'?
A. Wilhelm Reich was a psychoanalyst, a protege of Freud’s, practicing in Vienna in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In the 1930’s he began developing a theory about the physical process of emotions: that what we experience as “feeling” is a flow of physical energy in the body. And that blocking feelings is done by physically blocking the energy flow. Reich also studied the effects of the fascist society he lived in on individuals’ emotional processing, and worked to promote more freedom. He got in trouble with the Viennese psychoanalysts for diverging from Freud’s theories, and with his government for dissidence. He came to the United States in the 1940’s, where he established a research facility in Rangely, Maine. There he studied the physical properties of energy, both in human bodies and in the environment. Reich had many students, and some of them went on to develop his theories along various paths: these are the Neo-Reichians. They include Elsworth Baker (Orgonomy), Alexander Lowen (Bioenergetics), John Pierrakos (Core Energetics), and Charles Kelley (Radix).
What's the difference between Radix & other Reichian approaches?
A. While all Neo-Reichian approaches evolved from Wilhelm Reich’s work, some theoretical differences have occurred over time that result in the techniques being different. Also, most approaches have at some point incorporated theory and techniques from people other than Reich. Radix, for instance, was developed by Charles Kelley, who is a vision psychologist and was a student both of Reich and of Bates vision work. So Radix incorporates Bates work as well as Reichian ideas; also, it has evolved along with developments in the verbal psychotherapy field.
In particular, what's the difference between Radix & Bioenergetics?
A. Radix and Bioenergetics are both “neo-Reichian” body work modalities, meaning they are both rooted in the work and theories of Wilhelm Reich, and both were developed by students of Reich. While they have a lot in common, over time they have diverged in some basic theory and technique. Perhaps largest difference is that Radix work usually begins by working with muscular tension in the head and face, and gradually works downwards through the body, while Bioenergetics generally works in the opposite direction: starting with the feet and legs and working upwards.
And what's the difference between Radix and Primal work?
A. Common understanding of Primal Work suggests that it teaches regression and fantasy as a way of processing repressed feelings from early childhood. In the Radix training we are taught that in general, and for most people, this is not helpful and can actually be re-traumatizing. While old feelings usually do need to be experienced and expressed, that needs to be done with grounding in present reality and in a safe context.
For how long does one typically do Radix work?
How long a person does Radix work of course depends upon what her goals are. Some persons enter Radix work with very specific issues that can be resolved in a matter of months. Though the answer to this question is of course so very dependent upon the individual, when pressed we might say that typically many Radix clients will work with their practitioners from six months to a year. The personal issues that we work together to resolve often have been life long; their resolution is not immediate. Nevertheless the discovery and experience of significant personal growth and change can occur is as little as just a few sessions.
As persons experience themselves changing, some of them become enamored with the Radix process, and continue working just for the sake of continuing personal growth. Indeed some even wish to become Radix practitioners. Other persons may work for a period of months, then discontinue, and then resume working again when other issues arise.
How much does it cost to do Radix work?
Each Radix Practitioner sets their own rates for doing this work, and there is quite a wide variety in what they charge. If cost is a concern, you should contact several possible Radix Practitioners and ask what they charge. Also, there currently are a few Trainees who are offering probably the most economical Radix work at this time, and they do individual, group, and workshop Radix sessions under the supervision of a Radix Trainer. See the Practitioners
page for a current listing of Radix practitioners and Trainees.
What are the dangers and benefits of doing Radix work?
There are two primary dangers involved in undertaking Radix (or any other personal growth) work. The first is usually experienced in the short term by many people: fears about what will happen if they let go of blocks that have served them well for so long. Radix Practitioners pay a great deal of attention to tailoring the work to the individual and not pushing anyone into anything. The second is a longer term consequence and is really more realistic: having begun to deepen in their feeling life, persons often find they are not satisfied with important aspects of their life situation, like work, relationships, etc. At the same time they may not have yet developed new directions to go in. This can be very unsettling.
Because Radix bodywork leads to a more open level of consciousness, aliveness, choice, and hence a deeper sense of body-mind integration, our ability to solve issues in our life, to feel more present and contained, rather than act out on our feelings allows for a fuller, richer and less chaotic or alienated sense of life. Read further on the Therapeutic Goals and Concepts of Radix Work here.
How can I get started?
There are several ways you can get started. If you wish, you can go to the Practitioners
listings to find a Radix practitioner near you. Also you can go to the Events listings to find Radix workshops and activities in which you might be interested.
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