Body-Oriented Therapy
Christine M. Bouckaert, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist #18851
SE, Bodynamic, EFT couples and Sandplay Therapist

Therapeutic Tools and Techniques

Somatic Experiencing Technique

Trauma is the perception that one's survival is in question.

What one person perceives as normal another can perceive as trauma.

"Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood and untreated cause of human suffering. Although it is the source of tremendous distress and dysfunction, it is not an ailment or a disease - it is more a state of dis - ease, the by-product of an instinctively instigated, altered state of consciousness. Children, can be overwhelmed by what we regard as common, everyday events. So in a certain way, most of us have experienced trauma, either directly or indirectly." -Peter Levine

Wild animals in the bushes have an inborn immunity to trauma.

Otherwise they could not survive. After the fight (aggression) or flight (fear) and a possible freeze (numbness and dissociation), and when the danger is gone, animals will simply discharge all the accumulated energy by shaking it off.

Since our brains have the same instinctive response to threats we have the same options. Sadly, culturally we are taught to disregard our instincts and we allow our more developed rational brain or our neo-cortex to prevent us from taking on this important job of releasing energy.

When we do not discharge the activation and the threatening events in our lives, traumatic symptoms will arise. As a consequence our nervous system has been de-regulated.

We have lost our capacity to cope, to self regulate, and our ability to handle the difference between activation and relaxation. In order to heal we have to fully discharge the energy that we have accumulated in our bodies during the event.

Talk therapy is only a secondary intervention for trauma as well as any other disorder involving the nervous system be it anxiety, panic, PTSD, OCD or other disorders.

Using Somatic Experiencing, Hakomi, EMDR and hypnosis and by gently "titrating" the experience and avoiding catharsis or overwhelm, I will help you to slowly discharge high levels of energy trapped in the nervous system. I will also help you regain the capacity to live a balanced life in the present while not being stuck in the past.

Through our work you will regain your capacity to self regulate and handle the differences between feeling overwhelmed and feeling relaxed or just being able to enjoy the present.

My training was mainly with Peter Levine, the founder of SE, Steve Hoskinson, Maggie Kline, Raja Selvan, Nancy Napier, Gina Ross, Maggie Phillips and Donald Kalsched.

Books written by them:

Peter Levine: "Waking the tiger" and "In an Unspoken Voice"

Peter Levine and Maggie Kline: "Trauma proofing your kids" and "Trauma through the child's eyes"

Nancy Napier: "Recreating your self" - Getting through the day" - "Strategies for adults hurt as children"

Gina Ross: "Beyond the Trauma vortex into the healing vortex"

Maggie Phillips: "Freedom from pain"

Donald Kalsched: "The inner world of trauma"


The Hakomi method combines Western psychology, systems theory, and body-centered techniques with the mindfulness and non-violence principles of Eastern philosophy.[3] Hakomi is grounded in five principles:

  • mindfulness
  • nonviolence
  • organicity
  • unity
  • body-mind holism [3]

These five principles are set forth in Kurtz's book, Body Centered Psychotherapy. Some Hakomi leaders add two more principles, truth and mutability.[3]

The Hakomi Method regards people as self-organizing systems, organized psychologically around core memories, beliefs and images; this core material expresses itself through habits and attitudes that tend to guide people unconsciously. Hakomi is a method for helping people discover and recognize these patterns. The goal is to transform their way of being in the world through working with core material and changing core beliefs.[4]

Hakomi relies on mindfulness of body sensations, emotions and memories. Although many therapists now recommend mindfulness meditation to support psychotherapy, Hakomi is unique in that it conducts the majority of the therapy session in mindfulness.

The Hakomi Method follows this general outline: [4][5]

  1. 1. Create healing relationship: Client and therapist work to build a relationship that maximizes safety and the cooperation of the unconscious. This includes practicing "loving presence", a state of acceptance and empathic resonance.
  2. Establish mindfulness: Therapist helps clients study and focus on the ways they organize experience. Hakomi's viewpoint is that most behaviors are habits automatically organized by core material; therefore studying the organization of experience is studying the influence of this core material.
  3. Evoke experience: Client and therapist make direct contact with core feelings, beliefs and memories using "experiments in mindfulness" - gentle somatic and verbal techniques to safely "access" the present experience behind the client's verbal presentation, or to explore "indicators": chronic physical patterns, habitual gestures, bodily tension, etc.
  4. Processing: This process usually evokes deeper emotions and/or memories, and if the client feels ready, the therapist helps them deepen into these, often using state-specific processing such as "working with the child" and/or strong emotions. The client is helped to recognize the core beliefs as they emerge, and the therapist often provides what Kurtz called "the missing experience", a form of "memory re-consolidation" where the child, as they revisit the negative experience(s) that generated their core beliefs, now receives the nourishment and support that was needed at the time. This supports the process of transformation of core beliefs. The same process may be used working with the adult rather than the "child state."
  5. Transformation: The client has an experience in therapy different from the one they had as a child (or are having as an adult) and experientially realizes that new healing experiences are possible and begins to be open to these experiences.
  6. Integration: Client and therapist work to make connections between the new healing experiences and the rest of the client's life and relationships.


EMDR uses "Alternating Bilateral Stimulations" to reprocess emotional charged memories.

After a serious assessment to see if this method is appropriate for my client and if my client is sufficiently stabilized, resources will be developed and installed to create a strong therapeutic container so that he or she feels safe and can tolerate high levels of affect prior of the trauma work which will be done. In the middle phase trauma work will be processed though the use of EMDR and integration will take place.

EMDR work ends mostly by talking more and doing less EMDR as we then focus more on integrating what my client has learned. Many clients find back their creativity, spirituality and a deeper meaning for their life.

Francine Shapiro: "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing"


Robin Shapiro: EMDR Solutions

Manfield: EMDR Casebook

Joan Lovett: Small Wonders


Mindfulness is an "innate capacity" that when cultivated, can awaken us to true health and happiness.

Ronald Siegel helps us to do it by leading us through these steps:

  • Become more focused and efficient in daily life
  • Cope with difficult issues, such as anger and sadness
  • Spend less time worrying about the future or brooding over past mistakes
  • Deepen your connection to your spouse or partner
  • Curb unhealthy habits
  • Find relief from anxiety and depression
  • Resolve stress- related pain, insomnia and other physical problems

Recommended Reading on Mindfulness Book:

"The mindfulness solution" — Ronald D. Siegel


Bodynamics is a body centered developmental psychotherapy that deals with developmental disruptions. They are encoded in the elasticity of the muscles, and not in the autonomic nervous system. Basically we deal with the more "normal" disruptions of the self and to relationship, as detailed in the seven Developmental Stages.

It is based on twenty years of empirical research on the developmental origins of a client’s current problems.

The model of “seven developmental stages” that we develop from in-utero until age 12 is a detailed description of how developmental experience is encoded in both mind and body. During these seven important periods in our life we develop very specific muscles which will lead us in developing an under-developed, over-developed or healthy character structure.

These seven developmental stages are:

  1. Existence character structure: 2nd trimester of the pregnancy to 3 months of our life
    Was I welcomed in the world or was I not?
  2. Needs character structure: 1 month – 1.5 years
    Were my needs met or am I despairing or distrustful?
  3. Autonomy character structure: 8 months – 2.5 Years
    Can I be myself in connectedness or do I change activities non -verbally or verbally?
  4. Will character structure: 2 – 4 Years
    Can I express my emotions to the utmost and regulate my own power or am I self- sacrificing or judging?
  5. Love/sexuality character structure: 3 – 6 Years
    Do I have the ability to sense love and sensual/sexual feelings and can I integrate them by connecting heart and sensual feelings with others or do I believe that a prince or princess will come along and save me or am I seductive?
  6. Opinion character structure: 5 – 8 Years
    Do I have my own opinions or am I sullen or opinionated?
  7. Solidarity character structure: 7 – 12 Years

Can I engage in the contact with groups by expressing myself and taking in others opinions or am I leveling or competitive in groups?

In therapy work we will include the characteristics, themes, muscles, and therapy issues for each stage. Using this kind of Therapy gives access to great specificity in therapeutic interventions and results in deep changes.

Non-Violent Communication

As Marshall Rosenberg says so well: "Most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand, and diagnose - to think and communicate in terms of what it "right" and "wrong" with people. At best, communicating and thinking this way can create misunderstanding and frustration. And still worse, can lead to anger, depression, and even emotional and physical violence."

In non violent communication I will teach you to let go of communicate by using "judments, critisisms, I want you to do this or be this and you have to" and I will teach you how you can express the same things by reframing what you want to express in more appropriate ways.

Using Rosenberg's approach you will learn to:

  • Put your primary focus on connection through empathic listening rather that being "right" or "getting what you want"
  • Transform conflict into mutually satisfying outcomes
  • Defuse anger and frustration peacefully
  • Create personal and professional relationships grounded in mutual respect, compassion, and emotional safety
  • Break patterns of thinking that lead to arguments or depression
  • Move beyond struggles to cooperation and trust

Emotional Focused Couples Therapy

Sandplay Therapy

Sandplay Therapy is meant for healing; no artistic skills are needed. You work with a number of small figures that represent a cross-section of all animate and inanimate beings encountered in the external world as well as in the inner world of our imagination and dreams. You are invited to create whatever you want in the sand. Your play becomes the language through which you express unconscious material.

While witnessing you immersed in play, I hold this 'protected' space safe for you. Being able to see and touch internally-evoked images results in a greater understanding for both of us of the sources of conflict. With this new knowledge, you can use your inner resources to resolve conflicts in your daily life and change behaviors and beliefs.

Children are naturally drawn to the objects, sand, and water, which allows them to express what they cannot articulate with words about what is happening in their lives. This unconscious work in the sand, in my presence and with my support, helps them to resolve conflicts in their daily life.

Sandplay with adults is especially powerful for clients who:

  • Find it difficult to talk about inner thoughts and feelings
  • Avoid feelings by intellectualizing
  • Want to work through a trauma
  • Want to move through a stuck place
  • Want to understand poignant or frightening dreams
  • Are struggling with an important decision or problem
  • Feel emotionally blocked or confused

I was trained by Tessamarie Capitolo, Maria Chiaia and Kate Amatrudo.

Books by Maria Chiaia: "Sandplay in Three Voices"

Expressive Arts Therapy

Using art in therapy is a non- verbal way to allow our clients to express their emotions and what they are struggling with.

The creative and symbolic power of the "Art Process" is based on the interrelatedness between self- expression, genuine dialogue and role empowerment.

It facilitates self - expressing, encourages genuine communication between the therapist and the client or family members and many times helps empower individuals or family members to modify their roles in themselves or the family system.

Family Systems

The family systems theory is a theory introduced by Dr. Murray Bowen that suggests that individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another, but rather as a part of their family, as the family is an emotional unit. Families are systems of interconnected and interdependent individuals, none of whom can be understood in isolation from the system.

A family is a system in which each member had a role to play and rules to respect. Members of the system are expected to respond to each other in a certain way according to their role, which is determined by relationship agreements. Within the boundaries of the system, patterns develop as certain family member's behavior is caused by and causes other family member's behaviors in predictable ways. Maintaining the same pattern of behaviors within a system may lead to balance in the family system, but also to dysfunction. For example, if a husband is depressive and cannot pull himself together, the wife may need to take up more responsibilities to pick up the slack. The change in roles may maintain the stability in the relationship, but it may also push the family towards a different equilibrium. This new equilibrium may lead to dysfunction as the wife may not be able to maintain this overachieving role over a long period of time.

Depth Therapy

Depth therapy integrates several different models including Jungian, Gestalt, humanistic, psychoanalytic, existential and transpersonal therapy in order to effect permanent creation and growth, consciousness, life purpose, and meaningful interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.

It was developed by Carl Jung, Otto Rank, James Hillman, and others. This method of therapy is based on the theory that we all possess traits and elements that unconsciously influence our natural processes. Many of these elements negatively affect and suffocate our ability to feel, choose, work, love, and think freely. Depth psychotherapy is a process in which a conscious realization of these forces is recognized and studied. By doing so, a person is able to understand what has led them to their present situation. Ultimately, this knowledge serves as a tool for transformation and human development.

Dream Tending

Dreams are not just phantoms that pass in the night but a present living reality that you engage with and learn from in your daily life.

Through working with dreams you will be able to:

  • Transform nightmare figures into profound and helpful mentors
  • Bring fresh warmth and intimacy in your relationships
  • Overcome obsessions, compulsion and addictions
  • Discover potential and untapped creativity
  • See the world around you with new and dynamic perspective
  • Re-imaging your career and cope with difficulties in your workplace


  • "Dream Tending" Stephen Aizenstat
  • "Dreams" Marie Louise von Franz
  • "Understanding Dreams" Mary Ann Mattoons
  • "The wisdom of the dream" Carl Jung
  • and many more...

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT (often known as Tapping or EFT Tapping), is a universal healing tool that can provide impressive results for physical, emotional, and performance issues. EFT operates on the premise that no matter what part of your life needs improvement, there are unresolved emotional issues in the way. Even for physical issues, chronic pain, or diagnosed conditions, it is common knowledge that any kind of emotional stress can impede the natural healing potential of the human body.

In many cases, EFT can be applied directly to physical symptoms for relief without exploring any emotional contributors. However, for the most powerful, longest lasting results with EFT, we do expect to identify and target related emotional issues.

The EFT premise also includes the understanding that the more unresolved emotional issues you can clear, the more peace and emotional freedom you will have in your life.