What is Radix?
Radix is a body-oriented therapy and somatic psychotherapy 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.
How does Radix work differ from traditional psychotherapy?
There are at least three important differences to consider. Traditional psychotherapy was founded upon a medical model that sees persons as patients who are ill. Instead, Radix sees clients as persons whose symptoms are viewed as means of managing their energy in ways that may have worked for them growing up, helping them survive, but now these symptoms get in their way of feeling fully alive and connected. In other words, clients and their problems are are not “pathologized.”
Yet another important difference is how Radix views healing and change. 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 healing and change are not just a mental experience, but a whole person experience.
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; he or she can also apply a host of techniques for working with feelings (affective); and can apply numerous techniques for working with the body (somatic).
What are the goals of Radix work?
Radix work awakens people 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 clients 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.
- Reduce or 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?
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 work before beginning. That said, some medical problems have an emotional or psychological component that can respond to somatic therapy like Radix.
Is Radix a massage technique?
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 people, Radix practitioners may 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 awareness and experience 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. The unconscious is mirrored in the body’s patterns of chronic muscular tension and in breathing patterns. Research in neurobiology supports the premise that you cannot bringabout lasting psychological change without also having changed the body and its chronic patterns
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.
Is Radix work physically demanding?
No. In the early days of Reichian work, this may have been the case. However, for several decades, neo-Reichian work and especially Radix have 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 approach draws not only upon traditional Reichian methods, but also since its inception, it has evolved, influenced by humanistic schools of therapy, human development, trauma and attachment theories, and neurobiological research and application.
Why does Radix also focus on feelings?
Radix differs significantly from verbal therapies in that should feelings be experienced rather than just talked about. A client in Radix will often be encouraged to deepen their awareness of emotions, and possibly to express an emotion more fully during the session.
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 and the brain is activated. 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 does not find much pleasure in life, but who also hasn’t cried in 25 years. They are likely to be rigidly tight in all the musculature associated with crying (and breathing): eye area, jaw/mouth, throat/neck, shoulders, chest, back, diaphragm. We might begin with helping to relax at the top of the body (eyes/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, and additionally will be able to feel more pleasure in their day to day life.
As an example of the “overwhelmed” type of person, think of someone who goes into overwhelming rage when their 3-year-old child defies them. A Radix practitioner might 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 trends 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.
In all Radix work, the goal is to encourage a fullness in self-contact and in contact with others, and a flexibility to flow between these two states so that a person is aware of what is happening inside them and is grounded in the reality of their interpersonal impact on others and of others on them.
I’m out of touch with my feelings. What can Radix do for me?
For some people, 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?
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. Could Radix work better?
Radix work has much 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 Radix therapist additional ways to work in therapy 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.
Why would I choose Radix?
The reasons a person chooses Radix work of course are diverse and individual. Some people 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 people 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.
Radix’s comprehensive approach to therapy can help most people. Radix integrates a holistic 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 Charles ‘Chuck’ Kelley?
Charles R. “Chuck” Kelley, Ph.D. founded The Radix Institute, and coined the term “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 1960’s, 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 own near-sightedness inspired 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 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.
Who is Wilhelm Reich? Who are the ‘Neo-Reichians’?
Wilhelm Reich was a physician, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, a protegé 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?
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 was an experimental psychologist and was a student both of Reich and of Bates vision work. Radix has evolved to incorporate theories of object relations, human development, attachment and trauma, as well as the applied research of neurobiology.
In particular, what’s the difference between Radix & Bioenergetics?
Radix and Bioenergetics are both “neo-Reichian” bodywork 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 eyes, 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. In addition, Radix has a primary focus on restoring pulsation of the breath, as well as internal and external contact.
And what’s the difference between Radix and Primal work?
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 people 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 individuals experience themselves changing, some of them become deeply involved with the Radix process, and continue working just for the sake of continuing personal growth. 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.
If a practitioner is also a mental health worker and holds a license, they may accept medical insurance for this form of psychotherapy. 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 cautions 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.
Benefits: 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.
Can I train to be a Radix Practitioner?
The Radix Institute offers Educational Workshops to mental and physical health practitioners, offering Continuing Educational credits as often as possible. Training is also open to non-health practitioners for their professional development, as Radix concepts and approach can be implemented in a variety of settings. Participating in training workshops can enhance your wiork with clients in an already established practice. Or you can enroll in the full training program to become a Certified Radix Practitioner.
Click here for more information on Radix training programs.
Copyright © 2017 Radix Institute. All rights reserved.© Radix is a service mark of the Radix Institute.
Pioneers of Neo-Reichian Bodywork
– Ron Kurtz,
Founder of Hakomi
From the Intrapsychic to the Interpersonal: The Healing Relationship
“I used to think of psychotherapy as intrapsychic, that the client did all the work internally. The therapist suggested things, but was, basically not really involved as a person. That was the way I thought. I thought of myself as a technician. My image was the samurai, in the movie Seven Samurais, who was a master swordsman, but who did what he did without emotions, passion or personality. His goal was perfect precision. I thought of myself in that same way, as trying to master techniques. It was no doubt inspired by a character flaw of mine, but I liked that image: precise, technical, without feelings or personal involvement. I took a secret pride in that.”
“Eventually though I saw that, the difficulties that emerged in therapy were the result of my personal limitations, my incomplete personhood. They weren’t technical problems at all and it wasn’t about mastery. It was my ego, my puffed up attitude and my inability to understand people, because I didn’t understand certain things in myself. It was about my ability to relate. Again, the focus changed and the change was a vertical one. It was deeper than just technique. I came to a place where I focused for a few years on what I called the healing relationship. For a healing relationship to happen, more than just safety was needed; what was needed was the cooperation of the unconscious. It required a relationship at the level of the unconscious, a deep, person-to-person connection – and that’s a two way street. Not only did I learn that I needed the cooperation of the unconscious, I also learned that I had to be worthy of it. I needed to earn it”.
The healing relationship involves two basic things.
First, the therapist has to demonstrate that she’s trustworthy, non-judgmental and compassionate. Second, she has to demonstrate that she is present, attentive and really understands what’s going on for the person. If the therapist can consistently demonstrate those things to the person, she will earn the cooperation of the unconscious.
The unconscious is waiting for somebody who can do that. If the client has painful secrets, shame, confusion and emotional pain, the therapist will need extraordinary sensitivity, understanding and caring to become an ally of the unconscious. The unconscious has been managing this pain for a long time. It won’t allow just anyone to become part of that process. The healing relationship is about gaining the trust and cooperation of the unconscious through compassion and understanding. If you can do that, therapy really happens. Building such a relationship doesn’t have to take three months or three years. It can take as little as fifteen minutes. But creating it requires more than just technical skills.
The creation of a healing relationship in therapy requires that the therapist be a certain kind of person, a person who is naturally compassionate, able to be radically present, able to give full attention to another, able to see deeply into people and to understand what is seen. All of that takes a certain state of mind. We could call that state of mind non-egocentric. The therapist needed to be free of as many ego-centered habits as possible, when working with the client. Realizing that and teaching that was the next big vertical jump for Hakomi. This jump was beyond just the use mindfulness and non-violence. It was about who the therapist was, the therapist’s being. It was about the therapist’s consciousness.