Written by Jim Morningstar, PhD
A new Approach to Healing Therapy
Review by Gunnel Minett
Jim Morningstar is a true pioneer in Breathwork Therapy. Since the very first attempts to use the breath in therapy in the 1970’s, Morningstar has been working to develop Breathwork as a new healing technique. Through his School of Integrative Psychology, that he founded in 1980, he has dedicated his working life to the development of a new form of Psychotherapy that he calls Therapeutic Breathwork.
Part of this new approach has been to re-define the role of the therapist from someone with all the knowledge and ability to ‘treat’ a person’s problems to being one of the participants in a healing process. In his own words: “As a breathworker I have the willingness to step into another’s world while staying grounded in my own, to go beyond my mind and also stay boundaried, to be both a teacher and student and keep balance in the process, seeing the client as both a mirror and a sacred companion in the co-creation of a new model of being whole relational beings.” (p 30)
Working with the breath in a therapeutic context means working with a subtle energy, in a way that is far less structured than conventional therapy. In particular compared to ‘talking therapies’ such as psychoanalysis where the therapist can follow a clear structure for how to conduct the therapy session. In a breathwork session the therapist has far less control. His/her job is focused around guiding the client’s breathing pattern and to be totally open to the direction this will take the client.
When a client is guided to release and relax the breathing, this tends to also ‘release’ thoughts, emotions, memories (both mental and physical) from the unconscious. Just as with dreams, it is a number of factors that influence the content of a dream. And just as with dreams, it is impossible to guide or determine in advance what dream a person will have (even if events in the daily life may indicate the type of dream a person is likely to have at a particular moment.)
In his book Morningstar gives examples of what this new approach means for both therapist and client. How the therapist has to be prepared to ‘learn on the job’ in each session both how best to help the client but also how to be willing learn more about themselves. As a therapist this means being prepared to be vulnerable in front of a client. It may also mean being humble to ones own limitations. But above all it may mean being willing to be on a constant journey into unknown inner territories.
This kind of work requires good preparation and Morningstar presents a thorough theoretical framework that forms the base of Therapeutic Breathwork. He looks as at the basic requirements for the setting of the session, the underlying psychology theories, trauma work, an integrative approach to breathing patterns and how to handle the experiences in the therapy sessions outside the therapy room.
Apart from being the definitive textbook on Therapeutic Breathwork, this book also offers a good insight to the potential of Breathwork therapy in general and should be of great interest for anyone interested in a new, exciting way of exploring the human mind.