Tag: body psychotherapy

New Podcast:  Understanding The Psychological Causes & Conditions Of Terrorism

New Podcast: Understanding The Psychological Causes & Conditions Of Terrorism


In this new podcast, “Understanding The Psychological Causes & Conditions Of Terrorism,” from Levevei James Alexander Arnfinsen interviews Al Pesso.

“In this episode I’m once again joined by American psychologist Albert Pesso, who together with his wife created Pesso-Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP). Albert is, together with notable figures such as Peter Levine and Alexander Lowen, the recipient of  a Lifetime Achievement Award issued by the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP). I’ve had the great privilege of attending a PBSP-group for two years, a group that was led by one of his students, in Norway. In our first conversation we explored some of the most important aspects of PBSP, and how it can effect change on a personal level. In this episode we shift our focus to terrorism, and Al lays out a mental model for how we can understand the psychological underpinnings and dynamics that drive the terrorist impulse.”

To hear the podcast and read more of the summary click here.

Jan 2015 Video Of Introductory Lecture On Making New Memories To A PBSP Experiential Group

Jan 2015 Video Of Introductory Lecture On Making New Memories To A PBSP Experiential Group

Parts 1 & 2 of a video of a January 2015 introductory lecture by Al Pesso on making new memories to a PBSP experiential group in Birmingham, Alabama.

Created in 1961 by Albert Pesso and Diane Boyden-Pesso, Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP) is the most advanced therapeutic system available for emotional re-education or reprogramming. PBSP heals past emotional deficits using unique processes called ‘Structures’ and ‘Microtracking™’ that help clients to identify emotional deficits and create ‘new memories’. These ‘new memories’ provide symbolic fulfillment of the basic developmental needs of place, nurture, support, protection and limits. With the inclusion of ‘Holes and Roles,’ the latest innovation in PBSP theory and technique, therapists learn how to provide a highly effective and streamlined approach to reducing resistance, negative transference, and somatic overload. Many aspects of PBSP theories and techniques have close parallels in recent neuroscience findings about mirror neurons, empathy, morality, and the impact of language on the theory of mind.

At age 85, Albert Pesso is one of three living masters of body psychotherapy. His contributions to the field over the past 50 years are innumerable; he has written or contributed to almost a dozen books and written more than 50 articles along with leading seminars worldwide in the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP) mind body approach he co-founded with his wife, Diane Boyden-Pesso. Pesso was honored as the 7th recipient of the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy’s Lifetime Achievement Award during the August 2012 USABP Conference in Boulder, Colorado.

For more information about PBSP and Al Pesso go to http://www.pbsp.com

Al Pesso Keynote Address, German Humanistic Psychotherapy Congress, Oct 27, 2014

Al Pesso Keynote Address, German Humanistic Psychotherapy Congress, Oct 27, 2014

al pesso germany 2014As the theme of this conference is depression, this will be what I will attend to in this address.  I will also focus directly on the treatment of depression at the end of it.  Along with the topic of depression I will address the issue of client resistance to getting personal and therapeutic needs met, for there is a linkage here that I will highlight.

Now, to begin with I will supply you with the concepts that I hope will shed light on those dilemmas.  For then you will have the information and viewpoint necessary to follow what I have found to be a way toward understanding and solving the conditions of depression and resistance.  First and foremost, they arise from the experiential history of clients who share the characteristics of chronic depression and chronic frustration of the satisfaction of maturational and interpersonal needs.

Let us now look at what elements comprise the satisfactory and necessary foundation of a good life here on earth.  I take a philosophical, quasi-spiritual and biological position when I confront this question: “What is life all about?”  The answer that arises in me is, “We are made to be able to be happy in an imperfect world that is endlessly unfolding, and we human beings are the local agents of that cosmological unfolding.”  So, here it is. We are not only organically living beings, but we have a fundamental cosmological push toward fulfillment, not only of ourselves, but also of all others on this evolving planet and the unfolding cosmos itself.  Quite grandiose, isn’t it?  Yes, and those who suffer depression and resistance to experiencing personal satisfaction are severely conditioned by a too early awakening of that primordial push. For that push, though stated here in philosophical cosmic dimensions is, in my mind, to be found in the genetic information instilled in us at conception.  Our actions and behaviors do have personal and cultural dimensions, but below those individual histories lies the fundamental, genetic organization that attempts to attend to the fulfillment of the spiritual or cosmological element of aiding the fulfillment of all that is, and all that we see and experience. (An aside here: we are made of matter and matter is the stuff of the cosmos.  I personally do not see a separation of matter and spirit, but see matter itself as divine.  When I think of divinity I do not think of a personal seeing, hearing, talking, thinking, punishing god.  I want to simply state that my concept of god is all that is.  And, so if all that is is the cosmos which is endlessly unfolding, so is my concept of god endlessly unfolding.  I don’t know if this, is something that I should admit to in a Humanistic Conference.  I do think we living beings are part of a divine process, but in no way divine in the traditional concepts of a living talking, etc. god.  In my way of thinking, all that is, is precious.)

A bit much perhaps, but now I will go through the steps needed to look at life this way.

At the moment of conception, we inherit the information in our genes which has within it the history of that which has successfully lived from the beginning of time.  What a lottery prize!  That information regarding all that will become us in the future is simply a very compressed condensed bundle of information which will form our bodies and minds so that we can successfully live here on earth.  Not only form us, but inform us through our senses of what is good or bad for us.  That way, when we have become alive and corporal with body and flesh we can deal with and experience what is out there and be able to be happy enough doing so, in good times and bad.

But there is a timeline for the fulfilment of all this.  We are not immediately embodied and adult. We go through a maturational process which our genes attend to without our conscious collaboration or participation.

Before I attend to the timeline, I want to speak of what I see as the passions or pushes already in that bundle of information at conception that will unfold in good measure as we become embodied and slowly mature. I have no scientific proof of this, but here is what my experience has taught me about what passions or pushes we are fundamentally made of and that work through us without us necessarily having any consciousness of it.

The first push is The Survival of the Self.  The little being comes out fresh with the desire to live.  If it could speak, I am sure it would eagerly say “I want to live.”  It doesn’t say that, but just look around you at infants and how eager they are to see, hear and do things in the world with curiosity and vigor.

The second push is Survival of the Species, or in other words, survival of the others in our immediate lives and then, the intentionality to deliver the stuff of the next generation with the materials in our bodies that can do that, our eggs and sperm and all the sexual drives connected with the utilization of that push or passion to make more life.

Right here in those first two passions or pushes you can see that there should be sufficient time to mature the self in ease and satisfaction before one becomes confronted with the needs of others or one’s sexual drives and energies have been awakened too early by unfortunate circumstances.  Some of our above mentioned clients may very well be included in that population.

I know that there will be little disagreement with the above first two descriptions of genetic passions or pushes, but here come two more which I have come to believe also exist.  The third is the passion or push to make things whole.  Living things of all kinds seem to be very disturbed of that which is not whole and they are mightily pushed to make things whole.  Biologically this is apparent in the healing process in all living things.  It is obvious in the spelling itself, as well as the sounds of those words, at least in English, that healing and wholing are so similar.  Another way to view that is that nature abhors a vacuum.  We are drawn to fulfilling the task of making things whole.

I regularly like to illustrate this on its simplest basis by asking a group to watch me describe a circle in the air with my hands.  And then, note their reaction and response emotionally and physically.  Here it is.  (He demonstrates tracing a circle in the air with two fingers which at the end pause an inch apart without completing the circle.) And, how did you react to this? Do you like the stoppage of the directionality of the arc to completion?  Of course not. Didn’t you feel the motoric impulse to close the circle in your own limbs?  Watch what happens when I do the closure.  (He demonstrates tracing the circle in full.)

Just observing that simple motion in front of you has an impact on your body as well as on your mind.  Your mind may well have a feeling of discontent and frustration at seeing that, but I am sure many if not all of you, felt an impulse in your own arms and bodies to move the arc to completion.  And then, when I move it to completion and you see that, your own arms probably relaxed and your feelings of discontent and frustration changed immediately to relief and satisfaction.  Isn’t it impressive that such a simple hole in the air can make such a feeling of discomfort immediately in you, the viewer, and all other viewers as well?  It seems apparent that this is universal.

Now, let us proceed to the fourth passion or push which is an elaboration of the previous one which is a relational wholeness.  The fourth one is when we perceive an empty space in the context of living relationships.  Here is my way of understanding how we react to empty spaces in human relations.  I suspect that our genes prepare us for the sense of what a complete family structure should be.  We are made of a mother’s egg and a father’s sperm, and that must lead to innate knowledge that our mother and father must have been made the same way, leading to an innate notion of grandparents, and that our mother and father may have had siblings, and that would prepare us for aunts and uncles, and that those siblings may have had children leading us to anticipate cousins.  All this is obviously very simply put, but clearly we are biologically prepared to live within a family context of one kind of another for we are social animals by nature.  Many social animals demonstrate this and I have read and learned about birds and other species which show a very clear discrimination and particularity in sharing with other birds depending on their social relationship.

With us humans, I believe this sense of completion on the social level goes beyond our immediate family and extends to our culture and national history.  I am extending this in this manner to highlight and underline the next genetic passion or push, which is a step up from making things whole.  It is the passion or push to do justice — to make things just, just as they should be.  In English, just as and justice are quite similar and highlight the innate drive to make things balanced and right as well as complete.  I suddenly noted for myself my reaction to doing things right.  That impresses me, that what is not right, is wrong and that feeling of justice has to do with undoing the wrongs and making things right.  Just think of the satisfaction people that immediately feel when wrongs are righted and the frustration and anger people and also primates feel when wrongs are continued and tolerated.

Okay, now that I have spelled things out somewhat let’s review the list of four passions or pressures that are genetically based.

  1. Survival of the self
  2. Survival of the species
  3. Making things whole
  4. Doing justice on an interpersonal and social level

Looking at in this way it becomes clear that there must be timelines attended to in fulfilling those drives, even though the drives themselves are present at conception.  Clearly, the circumstances of one’s life will have an impact on the timing of the activation of those drives, and that impacts those clients who suffer depression and resistance or the inability to experience  having their essential maturational needs met. And, those needs as I will now demonstrate have to be met at the right age and with the right kinship relationship – all these, I believe, are genetic programs of expectation of satisfaction of those needs.

In my mind, the first two drives highlight that there is an internal agenda of what needs to be accomplished or experienced in life in order to be maturely ready and prepared to successfully attend to the survival of the species, i.e. to become a well-balanced parent.

I believe there are the 5 inherent tasks that must be successfully met in order to be ready to attend to survival of the species.

  1. Maturational needs met at the right age and with the right kinship relationship
  2. Integration and unification polarities
  3. Development of consciousness and language
  4. Development of one’s autonomy, i.e. pilot or neurologically speaking, sufficient pre-frontal cortex development
  5. Fulfillment of one’s personal uniqueness and potentiality i.e., to bear fruit

For this talk I will deal primarily with the first and partially with the second.

Here is the list of what I believe must be attended to in the satisfaction of maturational needs.

  1. Place
  2. Nurture
  3. Support
  4. Protection
  5. Limits

Each of these must be supplied on two levels. First literally and then symbolically in a state of benign dependency before one becomes autonomous.

Briefly, Place means coming into the world wanted and having not only a physical place in the mother’s uterus, but also a psychological place in the mother’s consciousness.  Then, one can be at home both in their own body and in the world, and further have a place in their own mind with a conscious sense of self.

Briefly, Nurture means we have to be supplied with that which sustains life. First, literally via the umbilical cord and mouth. Then, through the sensation of being given the stuff of life and love on a non-literal level.  When these needs are met one is capable of feeding and satisfying one’s self.

The same sequence is needed for Support and Protection, and I need not go further on that at this time.

Limits is a powerful issue for us to attend to in regard to our primary topics of depression and resistance. There is much to say about limits, but in this discussion I want to highlight the need for limits of the two nuclear forces that are the suppliers of the forces to live life.  The two forces are the capacity to make life, sexuality, and the capacity to destroy life, aggression.  Those two forces must be contained, unified and modulated by loving parents so that the child can learn to use those tamed forces in their future life of work and creation.  The limits topics make the nuclear forces of those primordial forces useful as controllable engines to run the activities of life, just as a nuclear reactor can provide power to communities without being destructive.

Now, I will jump ahead and speak about how we work with clients in general in PBSP doing what we call structures which is a process of creating new symbolic memories to provide the satisfactions of basic needs that may not have been provided in one’s historical reality.  We have found a successful and satisfying way to symbolically go back in time to experience having what we call ideal parents who would have had the love and capacity to do for us what our genes had anticipated so that we could go on with our lives prepared to attend to the unfolding of ourselves in the service of participating in the unfolding of the rest of our environment including our family, culture, nation and the planet itself.

In short, we start an individual session with the client by micro-tracking their present consciousness which is understood as a tapestry woven of threads of memory.  Here I will take a moment to speak of the three kinds of memory that influence our present consciousness.  The first is, of course, genetic memory and we have looked at what was stored in that.  I call that storage.  Then, there is our personal history and autobiographical memory which is a record of those elements of our genetic memory that have been satisfied in reality, resulting in a life of hope and satisfaction and what elements of our genetic memory have not been satisfied in our history leading toward a life of frustration and disappointment.

Those needs don’t go away.  If they are not satisfied at the right age with the right kinship relationship, they attempt to be met later in life and not with the gene-anticipated parental figures.  Sometimes I refer to that condition as marriage. The third memory which influences how we live and react in the present is the memory of absent figures in the family network and injustices to our family, culture, religion, or nation, as well as injustices to nature and the planet. The intended result of micro-tracking present consciousness is to surface the history that is the basis for the feelings and thoughts in the present.

Then, when the history that arises is one of frustration and absence of satisfaction of basic maturational needs, we construct a role-played event with group members taking the role of ideal parents and then have those needs met and planted in the client’s mind as having been accomplished at that earlier, right age.  This takes careful precise work.  In my workshop on Holes in Roles I illustrated that process in great detail.

When we offer that role-played event in the therapy session, most clients readily participate in it and experience the relief that this provides.  And then, this brightens their expectation for satisfaction of reality needs in the present.

Now, we come to our main topic.  Those clients who, though having had miserable histories with massive frustration of their basic needs simply cannot accept or believe such a thing is possible or worth doing.  They are extremely resistant though they have spent much time in therapy bewailing the fact that they have had such miserable histories.  Enough said. Now, what to do and why.

Here is what we have found over the years that is the crux of the dilemma.  Let’s go back to you seeing that incomplete circle in the air.  You were affected by it.  Think of what happens to a child who sees the reality of missing figures in the family, culture etc. or further hears or reads stories about such unjust events done in histories of their family, culture, etc. or are inculcated in church, synagogue, mosque or wherever the injustices were perpetrated on their sacred ancestors.  We have come to the conclusion that when compassion and empathy are aroused too early in a child’s life, the child is consciously and unconsciously motivated to do something about it, just as you all felt compelled to do something about the unfinished arc of the circle.

We believe that a part of their brain not available to consciousness makes what we call a “movie” where they are the one and only healer.  Kind of like a Messiah who is the one and only that so much of the planet is absorbed with.  The brain which is known by all of us able to make movies that we see and act in, namely dreams, has we believe the capacity to make movies that we do not see or even have the slightest awareness of their creation, where we are the primary actors and healers of the incompletions, the injustices, etc.  This movie is unconsciously created whether or not the child makes any reality effort in that regard.

The consequence of this movie has two powerful effects.  One, being the one and only there is no longer the innate sense of the nuclear powers being contained by another, and they subsequently break loose.  The power to destroy and the power to create are not felt as those powers in most people, but they are felt as physical overloads with no name except they result in panic attacks and anxiety.  Here is where depression as a defense comes in.  Those of us who do not act on those released atomic forces have what I call systemic defenses.  Here are four defenses that I have regularly noted that our brains use to keep us from acting on those emotions in the world.

  1. Depression: This type of depression doesn’t come from a feeling or experience of loss, but comes as a depressant of those nuclear forces and lowers the thermostat, so to speak, of their over-heated state.
  2. Dissociation: The client habitually loses contact with inner states and often speaks of feeling nothing.
  3. Retroflection: The client directs some measure of those powerful forces at the self as an unconscious way of not creating destruction on the outside world.
  4. Never Finishing Things: The client doesn’t finish things off, so to speak, as a way not to finalize the expression of those destructive forces.

Now, let’s look at resistance.  What has that got to do with this state of things?  Somehow, and I don’t know how, the brain seems to shut down the ability to receive and have pleasure from the satisfaction of getting what is longed for.  The client doesn’t decide to resist, but the receptor sites or materials for experiencing relief and pleasure are simply no longer functioning or operable.  We can see examples of this dilemma in martyrs who are endlessly taking care of the other and yet continue to live in misery.

How do we work in PBSP to solve this dilemma of chronic depression and inability to receive satisfaction?  We make a conscious counter-movie to offset the need and arousal of the unconscious healing movie. We ask the client, who at this moment is unable to receive or experience the satisfaction of maturational needs in the therapeutic context described earlier, “Who did you feel compassion or empathy for when you were a child?”  We put it that way because the child’s brain, which has not yet been fully developed, has no cortical oversight and modulation of limbic system impulses and has in all likelihood made the kind of healing movie mentioned earlier.

In the therapy session we make a movie using objects to exemplify the various people in one’s inner drama.  If the unconscious movie had to do with stepping in to be the husband of one’s grandmother whose actual husband had died too early leaving her and her offspring in danger, misery and poverty, then in this make believe movie that is seen in the mind’s eye of the client it is seen as people not just stones representing people.  For they no longer see the stones in their minds; they see the figures they represent and what is seen in the mind’s eye moves the mind’s body to repair or feel relief. Just as what we saw in the mind the unfinished circle our mind‘s body and real body feels the impulse to complete it. And then when the completion was done externally the mind and body of you viewers felt the relief and pleasure.

This procedure is replicated in this imaginary movie.  The client sees the grandmother with a long-living husband.  When asked, “How does your grandmother feel with that husband who has just said in the movie that he would be there with her for her entire life?” the client may say, “She is feeling so relieved and happy.”  Then, we go back to the movie scene and have the Ideal Husband say, “If I had been your ideal husband I would have been there your entire life and you would be relieved and happy.”  The client then may lean back, exhale and take a pleasant and deep breath.

At that moment, we have the figure, represented by the rock in the “movie” figuratively come out of the movie screen and speak to the client who is, so to speak in the audience, watching the “movie”.  The Ideal Husband says, “It is my job to be her husband and give her relief and happiness, not your job.” And then he goes back into the movie.  The reaction to that kind of statement is something to observe.  The client usually straightens up and says something like, ”I feel like something fell off my shoulders and I feel lighter inside.”  The client’s gaze often shifts and then may say, “I see more light.”

This is all part of the feelings of the relief of that closure of the hole and the client’s body relaxation is a consequence of that closure.  For now they are no longer the one and only, and the unconscious restraint of aggression and sexuality and motor endeavors connected to this situation relax physiologically for other parts of the brain now take over the modulation of those primordial energies which are no longer without limits.  The relief is experienced in the mind and body of the client and, surprisingly, it opens the door to receptivity of one’s own needs.

Then, the session generally shifts from the movie and then the client, who had been offered an ideal mother or father in their history who would have satisfied the basic need that had been absent in their life becomes open to receive that experience.  In the role-playing event that generally follows the memories of actual situations of frustration and loss can now be ameliorated by the Ideal Parents and experienced as real.  The therapist helps the client feel that level of relief felt in the now and helps the client access the mind’s body memory of themselves as a child. They are guided to place that experience of relief and pleasure experienced in the moment into the long term memory of the body of themselves as a child.  The shift here is impressive, for a different depth of satisfaction is then experienced because it is now linked to the memory and history of the self and not only felt in the present in the therapy room.  When the client expresses their feeling that they can be a child now and play and be happy that is a signal for the Ideal Parent to say, “If I had been your Ideal Parent when you were a child, I would have taken care of you and you could play and be happy.”

Somehow the client then feels the childlike pleasures of being in that state and their body might show playful motions and behaviors. Then, slowly as the memory has been embedded into what we hope is long term memory, the client returns to the present.  Their gaze will be more open and they often say that say they see more light.  The client may nod and indicate that the session, or structure as we call it in PBSP, is over.  The therapist then goes through the process of de-rolling all the figures in the session, with the Ideal Parent or Parents de-rolled last.  The client returns to the group and there is sharing in the group.

This is only the beginning of the healing.  One movie and one healing session is not the end of therapy.  There now is the possibility of discovering and unearthing numerous other movies that the client had made unconsciously.  He or she, moved by losses, for example, incurred during a war may need a movie where all their family members and neighbors would have been in a country with no war.  Another example for those who had been told repetitively in Church, Mosque and Synagogue about trials and tribulations of members of their culture one thousand years ago might have to see a movie with powerful figures who would have rescued their antecedents in those events and offset any possibility of cataclysm.  The number of movies can be enormous over time.  And each one provides another level of relief, which enables the client to then once again receive the blessings of satisfaction of other maturational needs at the right age and with the right kinship relationship.

Those experiences in the therapy room, now embedded in long term memory, make the client more likely and able to find ways to deal with this imperfect world of reality without giving up in despair and resignation, but able to seek and find solutions and satisfactions in real situations. And then as a result they can feel joy and pleasure living on this imperfect planet.

There it is.  I hope my words and images have given you a way to see your depressed clients who have similar histories to the ones I have spoken about in a brighter light.  Further, I hope you can find your own way to adapt and utilize some of the theories and techniques I have described for your clients’ benefit.  Thank you for listening.

The Art and Science of Making New Memories: Podcast of a Lecture by Al Pesso

The Art and Science of Making New Memories: Podcast of a Lecture by Al Pesso

Al standing  during his award talkIn this podcast of a spontaneous, detailed, and at times humorous lecture at Freiburg University Al Pesso presents the key concepts that frame PBSP’s philosophy of making new memories. It is presented in both English and German (total time 2 hours).

To listen to the podcast of Pesso’s lecture click here.

Creating New & More Appropriate Memories to Heal Trauma: 3-Day Seminar in Zurich (2/27 – 3/1)

Creating New & More Appropriate Memories to Heal Trauma: 3-Day Seminar in Zurich (2/27 – 3/1)

zurich_tourism_gv_01Join Al Pesso on February 27 to March 1st for a seminar at Zurich’s twin schools for Polarity and Trauma Therapy (Polarity Bidungszentrum/PBZ and Zentrum Fur Innere Okologie/ZIO) where he will demonstrate the transformational power implied in human potential — even for those with the most difficult life experiences conceivable.  Working with fragmented and incomplete embedded memories from the past, Pesso will first teach participants how to renegotiate and redraft these experiences, and then how to enact and complete them, thus creating a different future in view of new emotional conditions and possibilities.

According to Pesso, we must focus on an individual’s early development and on providing space for renegotiating any of their basic needs that have remained unfulfilled. Only then can we enable them to truly experience and unfold their own uniqueness.

Teaching Goals

Working with the whole person using PBSP elements and learning how to:

  • Micro-Track present consciousness to discover the embedded memories of the past that underlie and powerfully influence the way trauma victims experience the present
  • Make new memories of the past that satisfy unmet developmental needs, especially nurturance and protection which determine how and why people react in individual ways to traumatic events
  • Make “Holes in Roles Movies” that reverse clients’ tendency to resist healing change by illuminating and satisfying the innate tendency to heal and make broken family and cultural networks satisfyingly whole.

For information and to register contact Christine Pieler:

Zwinglistrasse 21
CH – 8004 Zürich
Tel: 044 218 80 80
www.polarity.ch  www.traumahealing.ch

Traveling Teacher/Therapist on the Move

Traveling Teacher/Therapist on the Move

Munich Germany

From Berlin, I traveled to Munich (October) where I started with the Heidelberg training group then I offered PBSP experiential and supervision workshops. Early November I land in Prague, Czech Republic, to present a PBSP experiential workshop then jet to Osnabrueck, Germany for more PBSP experiential workshops. I will hold a PBSP couples group session and a PBSP experiential workshop in Freiburg, Germany, then end my time in Richmond, UK.

Introduction & Acceptance Speeches From Al Pesso’s USABP Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony

Introduction & Acceptance Speeches From Al Pesso’s USABP Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony

On August 12, 2012, the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP) presented Albert Pesso a Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at their annual conference in Boulder, Colorado.  Since its inception in 1998 the USABP has given only six Lifetime Achievement Awards and we at PBSP are honored that Al is to be included in this group of leaders in the field of Body Psychotherapy.  Prior award recipients are: John Pierrakos, Alexander Lowen, Ilana Rubenfeld, Stanley Keleman, Ron Kurtz, and Peter Levine.

Below are transcripts of the introduction speech given by Ann Ladd (Ph.D., LCSW, USABP Board Director, Treasurer, Conference Chair) and Al Pesso’s acceptance speech.


by Ann Ladd, Ph.D., LCSW, USABP Board Director, Treasurer, Conference Chair

The name Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP) carries the history of the unique approach of Al Pesso. It was developed over the years in partnership with his lovely wife, Diane. It’s a therapeutic approach designed to free people for a full expression of life’s genetic promise or, as his pre-conference said, “the drive for happiness in an imperfect world.” I have the privilege today of introducing Al, one of our true pioneers, whom I met with Diane in this hotel at our first conference 14 years ago. I attended his first workshop here, when he was doing a very different form of work.

Spend only a few minutes with Al — how many of you have had that privilege? — spend only a few moments with Al, and you will be warmed by the gentle twinkle of his spirit. Yes? And, as the witness would say, “Struck by his kindness, humility, generosity, and keen intelligence” — a true scientific mind, full of observation, curiosity, and creation. Al is a man, who though never trained as a therapist himself, has trained hundreds, probably thousands, over his 50 years, of therapists in 12 countries. And, he has found acceptance, even more interestingly, for this unique psychomotor work in the traditional bastions of psychotherapy — psychiatric hospitals, research hospitals, and universities. First, in 1963, at the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital where Dr. Charles Pinderhughes recognized his genius and created a title of “Consultant in Psychiatric Research” for him. What else would you name someone who isn’t a therapist? Today we call them coaches, but he created the title of Consultant in Psychiatric Research for Al. Then, in 1968, at the Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital, McLean Hospital, in Belmont Mass, they created a psychomotor therapy department with Al as the director. From that place, he treated patients and trained residents. And, during that time he completed a degree at Goddard. In 1969 he wrote a book published by NYU Press, Movement in Psychotherapy, that describes the fundamental theories and exercises of the system at that time.

You know, those of you who have trained with Al over the years that if you’re going to know the current version of PBSP  with someone with a mind like Al’s, you need to check in with him every 6 to 12 months, don’t you? So, what is he coming up with now? Because he has never stopped asking and seeking answers for the questions that continue to arise in this work for those that come to trust him with their baggage.

The book that Al wrote was also published in Europe, and therefore in 1972, Al began to get requests to teach in Europe. At that point, he left McLean and, in 1973, with Diane established The Psychomotor Institute. Here, they had a private practice and a training institute. Al trained psychology students in almost every Boston university in the area. Many years later at a conference, Al introduced himself to Daniel Goldman having listened to him as a presenter at the conference. Goldman said, “Oh, I know you. I was in that class at Harvard.” So, who knows how many besides the ones he has trained directly he has influenced? Lots. He has, over the 50 years spent presenting his work, also been a featured speaker at many conferences of psychological organizations. I want you to recognize that this began in the 60’s and 70’s that Al’s work has been seen and recognized by those organizations: The American Academy of Psychotherapists; The Association of Humanistic Psychology; The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine; The Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute; The European Congress on Body Psychotherapy — our friends across the ocean; The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy; The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. And, he has been invited to present at the next Psychotherapy Networker Symposium next March. Besides these trainings in the States through his institute, he travels still, at 83, many weeks of the year — I’ll let him tell you how many — to do three-year trainings of his process in Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, Israel, the Czech-Republic, England, and Brazil. Psychomotor foundations, established by the loyal graduates, have organized several international congresses over the years. With a strong presence, one of the strongest presences in Holland, psychomotor was given recently the Committee of Recommendations’ approval for PBSP training programs for psychiatry students. It’s the only somatic program at the time to be approved by such a psychiatric committee for recommendation.

I’ve interviewed Al twice for this introduction, and to underline one of his qualities I gave earlier — of humility — only when I went online did I discover his work in 2009 for the treatment of violence in the Congo. Al was invited there by the German government mission, GTZ, to train healthcare practitioners in his therapeutic approach. In the training sessions, most of the healthcare practitioners he was training had also been survivors of horrendous violence in the Congo conflicts. These people were given an opportunity to not only to learn the process to help others, but to work through their own trauma.

As many of you know, Al and Diane were dancers. From 1961, Al headed the dance department at Emerson College, the theater arts school. They created exercises and systems which Al will discuss more clearly with you perhaps — exercises and systems designed to improve the dancers’ ability to move with freedom of expression, encouraging dancers to move following an emotional impulse, to just wait and follow the impulse, don’t do anything with it but follow it. Guess what that created? Catharsis. So, the dancers began emoting and, in short order, the chaos of this upheaval, unexpected, was welcomed and met.  And curious, Al and Diane  asked, “What should we do with this”?  The answer was, “We should meet it. It needs another person. That emotion is an interactive process. It needs to be met and held.” In this way, the birth of psychomotor-psychotherapy was born. And advance they did, with the ideal parent, whereas you create a new memory, in that it has to do with what you are looking for from your genetic inheritance. This was done with those dancers.  In fact, Al was approached by another professor at Emerson, who came to him disdainfully and said, “I hear you’re doing psychotherapy now. When do you think you’re going to do brain surgery.” This turned out to be prophetic. Since any of you who have been in Al’s workshops know that he does some form of micro-surgery to the psyche, with his little tricks and thinking, and with his props. This is the current version of his work which is a sort of micro-surgery of the psyche in the memory-making and repairing holes-in-roles.

Al told me he was chosen for a dance scholarship with Martha Graham because he could leap like a salmon going up stream. He had been a body worker since age 5, so when he walked into the first dance studio led by disciples of Martha Graham, the first time he had interest in dance, he was this sort of muscular little guy, and they thought this was good because they mostly had women in that dance studio then. So, he was given a scholarship there because it would be nice to have a guy to lift those gals. So anyway, he was brought in.  But that statement, “leap like a salmon going upstream”, I think this defines the progress and character of the unique work that Al and Diane have developed over the years. I give you: Al Pesso.


by Al Pesso, PBSP Co-Founder

You’re going to make it hard for me to talk. She said it all.

I want to first say, thank you so much for the organization giving me this award. And, I have to say that this award should include Diane Boyden. She should receive the lifetime achievement award, that she achieved having a lifetime with me and tolerated it. We are such a partnership; I feel so fortunate that I met that woman and I met her leaping like a salmon. You’ve heard all the scientific stuff and the academic stuff, so I thought that I would talk about my lifetime. Do you want to hear something about my life?

I started as a little boy in Brooklyn, always interested in building up my body — not to be a big muscleman; I think I had something in mind like the Greek Ideal — strong body, strong mind. I move very rapidly. Education-wise, I went to the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, many of whose graduates have received Nobel prizes. But my family didn’t really believe in education. Coming from a Jewish familyyou’d think that education would be a natural thing. But they were Sephardic Jews, and they didn’t have that Ashkenazi push toward education. Those who know: Sephardic Jews were Spanish Jews and descendents from those who escaped from Spain during the Inquisition in the 15th Century.

By a strange stroke of luck, I was interested in all this body-building stuff and around the corner from where I lived in Brooklyn, East Flatbush  the most muscular man in America, Dan Lurie, opened up a gymnasium and I practically lived there.  I just wanted to keep building my body and being strong and healthy. Here comes accident — you never know how your life is going to go. My parents were not academic or artistic particularly — I don’t know where that stuff came from — for, living above the gymnasium was a young woman, who was the girlfriend of the guy who ran the place and she was studying modern dance in Greenwich Village. She came down and showed some of her stuff and I went, “Wow, that’s beautiful.” It just fit that whole sense of beauty and wonder of movement which was really at the heart of my psyche, and I didn’t know it. So, I talked my friend  into going to Greenwich Village with me to go to that studio. I didn’t call and make an appointment; we just opened the door and the dance teacher, Gertrude Shurr, saw these two muscle boys and said, “Sit down, please.” And, my buddy looked over and  said, “Look at all those naked girls.” They were in leotards, sitting on the floor. And, I thought, “I’m seeing beauty; this stuff is incredible.” Well, I ended up getting a scholarship to that studio where I washed the floors, the toilets, the windows and all that stuff, I practically lived there. And my teacher wrote a book on modern dance, and it is still in some libraries, Modern Dance Teaching and Techniques. In it, one can see me as a nineteen-year-old. You can see pictures of me where I modeled the different steps.

You know all that other stuff comes years and years later, but where did that stuff come from? So, I then went to study with Martha Graham and she was a goddess for me. She was phenomenal. The sense of ritual and sense of Greek drama that she brought to the theater — that everything had meaning and it wasn’t dance frivolity — and an opportunity to show off, but dance to touch the human heart and to bring forward meaning. Well, she gave me a scholarship and I lived there as well, pretty much. And, I had taken classes endlessly as well. Do you know Bennington College? At that time it was a girl’s school and one of the majors was dance, and Martha was connected to it. And, I got a scholarship to go to Bennington. I was one of two males that had the privilege of going to that school, because I could “leap like a salmon swimming upstream.” Martha Hill was teaching a class and said, “Class,”  (to all those beautiful woman who were in that class), “look at Al leap.” And, whoosh, boom, I came down, pop, twisted my foot and broke my fifth metatarsal. Do you hear the compassion in your voice? Well, guess who else had compassionbecause Diane was in that class. And, afterwards I was in a cast and was walking around with crutches.  I was living in the Main House and you had to go ½ mile down to the Commons.  I would be sitting in the Commons reading and studying and Diane was living in one of the houses surrounding the Commons. And, she said, “You don’t want to walk up and down to the Commons and sit alone. Would you like to come and sit and study in my room?” Maybe that was the same compassion you all just had. Compassion! Woof! And, we got to be really good friends. This woman — I really was taken.  Not because she pulled me in. but because she had something special. I didn’t know that at once.

As I look back at my life, I got to be some kind of crazy pioneer at that time. Here’s what I mean: they were looking for someone to take a position as a modern dance teacher in West Virginia. I must have thought, “I am going to be a pioneer. I am going to bring modern dance to Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia.” So, here I am in this posh girl’s school, Bennington College, with a scholarshipand I just walk away from it!! I guess that is the pioneer part. I wanted to bring stuff. They had a State Forest Festival in West Virginia and I was chosen to be the choreographer for it. At that age, I was already involved in Civil Rights and I integrated it, and, for the first time, they had black dancers in that festival. I wrote Diane letters, nine letters a week and I wanted to get married. So, boom, I went back and wegot married. Long story and I won’t go into the details here.

Then, we became dance gypsies in New York. I don’t know if you know the New York scene at that time. I performed and choreographed off-Broadway shows, taught in Settlement Houses, etc., etc. And, we danced in night clubs to support our lives. Can you imagine doing night clubs dancing? We did all that and then we were in a road company of Kiss me, Kate. We had a daughter at that time. And, we went on tour with our daughter and in one-night stands all around the country. How does that sound to you? Nutty.

And then, I don’t only need to thank my wife for putting up with me, but I have to thank my poor children for having to live with all this — what should I call it? And, one of them is right here. My wife can’t be here; she’s ailing and my oldest daughter is taking care of her. Her heart is here because I’m here. When we were on tour for Kiss me, Kate, someone photographed a picture, and it was like a Picasso picture because her face and my face were conjoined. One of us was looking forward and one of us was looking sideways—that’s who we are. We are both meshed together.

So, we did that tour, and then came the time when our children had to go to school. So, we moved to Wollaston, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Quincy, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Boston. That was like being nowhere after being in the center of the modern dance world. I have to confess — I have never told this in public — I began to get very distressed at the loss of my dream. My dream was to be a dancer. I never had a dream of being a psychotherapist. Psychotherapy never entered my mind. But the dream of being a dancer collapsed. And out of that collapse, I got to tell you now that that disaster provided the possibility for an entirely unknowable opening. Then, something really new and significant can emerge that can be a surprising contribution to life. So, don’t be afraid when your dreams collapse, folks, because somehow, something may grow out of that. It sure did in my life.

We opened a dance school and shortly  had 500 students. I was teaching dance all over the suburbs of Boston. And, we established a dance company. Then, I got the proposal to teach at Emerson College. Here I am, still with no degree, andit’s kind of crazy, but I became an Associate Professor and Director of the dance department at Emerson College. I don’t know how that happened, but it happened. And, we wanted to know, the two of us, how to help people, and here’s the beginning folks because we’re talking somatic and we were dealing with body and expression, right from the beginning. That was our life. How stuff moved through our body to express stuff. Not to show off, not to win prizes, but to express something, to express something. We saw that some of our dancers couldn’t express, and we began to think how to help them know their instrument better. You know when you have a piano or a violin you work with it like crazy with a dancer the instrument  is themselves. So we had to look at how does human movement occur. Here’s the transition. How does human movement occur? Is all human movement the same? And by reading and exploring, we came to the conclusion that there were three different motor systems. Human movement was a braid of three systems.  Body-righting and the reflexive system to keep us upright in a gravity field; that has to do with gait. So, that’s a motor system related to gravity and ground and to get in synchrony with that.  Then, there’s a motor system of voluntary movement, not with emotion, but to get coordinated with the outside world, to be able to move and relate to the outside world and space outside ourselves. Then we said, “There’s an emotional movement and that correlation with the inside world, where we mobilize our body not from walking, not from adapting to the outside world, but from listening to our inner states and moving in terms of those inner states.” That was good enough to know, but what we did was to separate those three movement modalities. We said, “Move purely reflexively”, and it was, like, decorticated — that would be reflexive movement. Or “Move with purely voluntary movement, but not emotional or reflexive”, and then our dance students  would make their bodies move the way that they choose without any affect. And then we said, “Do purely emotional movement. Ffind an emotion inside and don’t do control, don’t do reflexive movement, and we will see what happens.” Boom! And, as Ann Ladd already told you, WOW, everything inside me sprang up because there was no voluntary movement to be the inhibitory factor. And, we saw catharsis, and holy smokes, pheew, that felt goood.  And people would say, “That feels good”, but then they said, “Aww”. I’ll talk quickly here. What happened? We really saw and Mark Ludwig pointed out very clearly over there — we saw so clearly that an emotion is an interactive process. That when we have an emotion it is to respond to something internally that’s wanting or going to relate to something externally. We internally anticipate a response. So, we began to think in terms of shape/countershape.  There’s a feeling, the “shape” of the emotion and it anticipates a “countershape” that will match it. So, now imagine we’re giving completion and closure. The reason I’m hesitating now is that we thought then that everything that’s in there should come out. Then we began to realize quickly that some of what’s in there had a history of frustration and pain that wanted to come out. But some of it had a history of genetic needs of attachment and maturation that had never been met. We saw both of them and we found a way –no matter what came out –to give  them the response that was anticipated, and that gave relief. But more importantly, was when they had a need, we gave them the satisfier who would provide the satisfaction of that need. We call that “accommodation” and people then began to feel the relief of getting what had never happened in their lives before.

That’s where the psychotherapy began. We saw that what was loaded in the body was a somatic sensation which was a result of the non-expression of a basic need. That need for expression, given the right opportunity for a response — given accommodation — could get those needs satisfied. That was the beginning of psychotherapy. We began then not to be so concentrated on dancers getting better with their instruments; we began to understand that this could be helpful to their lives. We began to go into their history. Now, I’m going to do a quick segueway to let you guys go to the next thing quickly. We have three different sources of information in our psyche, in our mind, or in our body. And, those different sources are pushing us through life. There’s the genetic history that is waiting for fulfillment; there’s the autobiographical history that is a memory of the frustration and a memory of satisfaction of those genetic needs; and then the third one: “stories of injustice”. (I’m jumping so far ahead now.) What we began to learn was: it wasn’t so important to let them get out or express all their agonies. What was most important was to help them get their basic needs met. Then we got to get all kinds of therapeutic or theoretical thoughts — what are the basic needs?,  and a whole elaborate system came out.

By that time, I was at McLean Hospital, Veterans Administration Hospital, and during that time the whole system came out. I’m going to go quickly through this history so that we can come to an end. Doing that kind of therapy for years and we used to start just from the body. But then we realized that people were receiving the present, through the lens of those histories.  So, we began to know that when people perceive reality it wasn’t everybody’s reality. It was a reality based on their perception through the lens of history and their body’s reactions to their past experience. That means that every moment of the present, we’re looking at the world through the lens of history. And we can thus say, “Present consciousness is a tapestry woven of threads of memory.” So, we began to start not with the body, we started to parse “present consciousness.” We had to see what emotions they had in this very instance, what thoughts they had in this very instance and use a techniques we we call “micro-tracking” with “witnessing figures” and “voice figures”.  We present that information back to the person of what we’re seeing and hearing at that moment in the therapeutic relationship. Then, when they get conscious clarity of their different emotions and different thoughts — it’s rather like a Google search — which results in bringing up information that it’s based on in some part of their brain. It’s like giving a couple of fragments ideas to a Google search, and everything based about it comes up. So when we witness now, it’s everything they’re feeling now, what they’re thinking now, everything arising about that kind of feeling and thought. And, phew, all of their history related to those states came up. And then, they would remember all the negative stuff. I won’t go into detail of how we handle that.

We used to think that we had to get all the negative stuff out. I don’t believe that anymore. Now, we go directly to “reversals.” As soon as they remember a negative history that has come up because they’re looking at present history through that lens, we can give them a new “ideal figure” who had that figure been back in time would have satisfied that need. So, we knew that they had to move through time and space and not get the healing in the present from the therapist, but get the healing in the past from an ideal mother or ideal father or whatever kinship figure their genes had anticipated that should have been there back then. So, we had to see how to make new memories, not to eradicate the old ones but as a supplement to what had been missing. That was the kind of work we had done.

Some people couldn’t take in that new memory; they couldn’t receive it because of the whole issue of resistance andcoupled with that sometimes, negative transference. About seven years ago we began to see the relationship between hearing stories in our real early years of injustice and cruelty to people in our family, people in our tribe, people in our culture, in our religion, and in our nation. And, I have come to the conclusion that we have what I call the “messiah gene”  and that when we hear stories of injustice when we are quite young and our ego isn’t fully formed, some part of our brain makes a movie where we are the one and only healer of that injustice. It’s like nature abhors a vacuum. When we hear something is missing in history that would have been a healing thing, part of our brain makes a movie that we don’t see, but where we are the star actor. And being the star actor — i.e., healer of injustice — we become the one and only.  The messiah is in all religions defined as the one and only redeemer. Whenever that part of the brain puts us into the one and only position, it has an odd effect on the two nuclear forces that run our lives, aggression and sexuality. They break loose. With some people, when it breaks loose as it did in the Congo and many other places, it results in the possible  outbreak of raping behavior and murdering behavior. But the average person who makes these movies in their mind has some kind of systemic defense that holds that explosive stuff down. Those nuclear-released energies may become somatized in some people. They get depression not to feel at all, they may dissociate not to feel at all, or they may retroflect and direct that energy towards themselves. What we found is that not only did those movies break things loose, they had a tendency to shrink the receptor sites for taking in what people absolutely needed in their lives. That tells us about resistance and why people are crying for something but when you offer it they say, “Aaah, that doesn’t work. That doesn’t work.” They’re going to knock their the therapist’scompetence off just like they knocked off all those other prior therapists or any other authorities off. Thinking, on the one hand, “Nobody is wise enough to help me”, and on the other hand, “I’m beyond help.” But we found that when we made these movies where they could see these the holes-in-roles  filled by an ideal figure — now, they are not in that movie. To repeat, they are going to see the movie where the role they had was now played by some appropriate figure and now they don’t have to be that figure. It shifts something remarkable internally. Here’s where we’re doing brain surgery. Those sensory overloads that they somatized and had no sense of drop away, and they feel like something dropped off their shoulders. Their perception shifts, the sense of ownership of their body shifts, and they can begin to take in and receive. I touched very, very quickly this latest stuff, if you want to know more you can go on the website and read it. But I think that I’m going to stop here.

Modular Training Now Available For Key PBSP Techniques


Location: Boston, MA / Cost: $350 per workshop

Registration Requirements: Participation is limited to licensed or certified social workers and mental health professionals who have a masters degree or higher. / CE Credit & CEUs: Pending.


PBSP Body & Spatial Sensitization Exercises can be used as diagnostic tools and treatment techniques.  The exercises designed to be used for diagnostic purposes help clients to surface and identify more powerful and accurate emotional truths than mere verbal speculation can produce.  The exercises designed as treatment techniques help clients gain consciousness of the sources of emotionally disturbing states and impulses that register in their bodies. What clients report in therapy sessions about their emotional and psychological states of mind is usually a confabulation having little to do with the true source of their feelings. PBSP Body & Spatial Sensitization Exercises provide therapists with ways to help clients get in touch with and discover the triggers of emotional states that have registered in the body somatically.  Participants will learn techniques to discover and interpret emotional information coming from the body and exercises to offer clients that utilize the body as a way to master and control those disturbing emotional reactions. (December 8 – 9 in Boston, MA)  Click here for more information and to register.


Learn about, experience, and practice an entirely unique and innovative system with a comprehensive theory to: a) reduce somatic overload of anxiety, panic, and distress states; b) overcome resistance to healing; and c) deal with negative transference from clients. When primary caregivers tell stories to children — who are not yet cortically bounded and have not yet reached emotional maturation — about something hurtful or painful that happened in the past to them or to members of their kinship circle, religion, or tribe/clan, the child unwittingly and unconsciously makes movies somewhere in the back of their minds where they personally provide the caretaker with whomever would have provided the missing justice and satisfaction of essential needs.  The earlier in life that people hear such stories, the more unbounded their emotional and body reactions will be. When a child perceives a gap in the life of a caretaker, they feel distress and part of their persona develops to fill that gap. If this innate desire for justice is exercised too early before a child’s maturational needs are met and before they are bounded cortically, they develop an exclusive justice and a sense that they are the one and only healer (something akin to feeling like the Messiah or a Savior). As a result of unconsciously experiencing themselves as the ‘The One and Only,’ the two fundamental forces of life, aggression and sexuality, break loose leading to immense somatic overload.  With PBSP Holes In Roles technique the primary nuclear forces of life, the capacity to create (sexuality) and the capacity to destroy (aggression), can be harnessed and therefore modulated resulting in greater comfort and fruition than can be achieved through any other therapeutic approach.  In addition, this technique helps clients to step out of the role of Messiah and become more collegial and collaborative in life. Using PBSP Holes In Roles technique also dramatically reduces resistance to healing and shortens the length of therapy. (December 11 – 12 in Boston, MA) Click here for more information and to register.


Trauma is an event that breaks the boundary between the self, the outside world, and the inner world. It is a forceful entry — physical, sexual, or emotional — into the self without choice. PBSP offers a set of powerful theories and techniques utilizing the body as well as language and imagery to provide clients with healing from trauma by strengthening an internal pilot that can regain control of their internal and external worlds.  In this module, participants will have the opportunity to learn, experience, and practice a variety of PBSP Trauma Techniques that can be utilized for different aspects of the traumatic experience. (December 15 – 16 in Boston, MA)  Click here for more information and to register.


In this module participants will learn the theory and techniques of PBSP MicroTracking using Witness and Voice Figures and have the opportunity to experience and practice that technique as well. Present consciousness is a tapestry woven out of threads of memory. With the PBSP MicroTracking technique one can help clients discover the history and foundations of present consciousness and their emotional states and behavior.  PBSP MicroTracking is akin to mindfulness in that it helps clients become more conscious of and gain perspective about how they feel and think without being so immersed in those states.  It also reinforces the therapeutic alliance and a produces a sense of gratitude toward the therapist without it resulting in having the therapist become the healer of the events of the past.  Thus, a secondary benefit of this technique is that it reduces the incidence of transference. (Training Dates TBD)


There is no universal reality; people see and react to the present through the lens of personal memory. Individual consciousness of the present is based on: a) genetic memory, b) autobiographical memory, and c) significant stories of family and tribal events.  We are born with an anticipation of an optimal unfolding and satisfaction of maturational needs. When that history is satisfied properly though anticipated kinship interactions, the body/brain releases rewards of pleasure in the present and hope for the future. When it is unsatisfied and frustrated, those needs do not disappear and we are under the influence of our autobiographical memory of the frustration of those genetic maturational expectations which produces pain, frustration, despair, and a lessening of hope for the future. The goal of this set of PBSP therapeutic techniques is to provide clients with new symbolic memories postulated in a ritualistic fashion as if they had happened in the past so that they will influence and improve how they experience the present and anticipate the future.  In this module participants will learn the theory underlying these PBSP techniques and have the opportunity to both experience and practice the techniques themselves. (Training Dates TBD)


The purposes of this set of techniques are: a) to awaken and include a client’s pilot, i.e. the higher cognitive aspects of their brain, so that they can look at all their associations and memories without being overwhelmed by them; and b) to distinguish when they have transferred or projected feelings associated with one person onto another person, including the therapists themselves. These techniques can be particularly valuable in couples therapy to help partners realize when they have projected  associations with their parents or other significant figures onto each other and to help them disengage those associations.  Participants in this module will learn the theory underlying this set of techniques as well as having the opportunity to experience and practice them. Participation in this module is restricted to therapists who are currently enrolled in or have completed PBSP certification training.  (Training Dates TBD)

USABP 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award

USABP 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award

We are very pleased to announce that the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP) will be giving Albert Pesso a Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at their next annual conference in Boulder, Colorado on August 12, 2012.  Since its inception in 1998 the USABP has given only six Lifetime Achievement Awards and we at PBSP are honored that Al is to be included in this group of leaders in the field of Body Psychotherapy.  Prior award recipients are: John Pierrakos, Alexander Lowen, Ilana Rubenfeld, Stanley Keleman, Ron Kurtz, and Peter Levine. 


At age 82, Albert Pesso is one of three living masters of body psychotherapy. His contributions to the field over the past 50 years are innumerable; he has written or contributed to almost a dozen books and written more than 50 articles along with leading seminars worldwide in the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP) mind body approach he co-founded with his wife, Diane Boyden-Pesso. Pesso will be honored as the 7th recipient of the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy’s Lifetime Achievement Award during the August 2012 USABP Conference in Boulder, Colorado. He is also presenting a pre-conference workshop on “The Drive to be Happy in an Imperfect World,” August 9, 2012.

“We’re made genetically to be able to be happy in an imperfect world that is endlessly unfolding, and we are the local agents of that unfolding process,” Pesso said during a recent SKYPE call. “Our lives are not predestined, the world is not done, and we are not puppets in it. We are part of an exciting unfolding and participate in it.”  

To read the rest of this article by Nancy Eichhorn in the USABP’s magazine “Somatic Psychotherapy Today” online click here.

To listen to a podcast or read the transcript of an interview by Serge Prengel with Al Pesso in “Somatic Perspectives on Psychotherapy,” a joint publication by the USABP and EABP, click here.

The USABP is a practitioner-centered member-driven association that is committed to the goals of organizing, representing and shaping the emerging profession of Body Psychotherapy and is the only national organization of its kind in America. To learn more about the Lifetime Achievement Award and the USABP go to www.usabp.org. 

Master Class: An Interview with Albert Pesso by Nancy Eichhorn

Master Class: An Interview with Albert Pesso by Nancy Eichhorn

(Excerpted with permission from Nancy Eichhorn’s article in the Spring 2012 issue of the USABPs magazine, “Somatic Psychotherapy Today.”)

Visionaries see what has never been seen. Entrepreneurs bring these visions to life.  Teachers impart concepts so others can use them. And Masters? They see what hasn’t been seen, do what hasn’t been done, and embody the teachings of a lifetime enabling the survival of the Self and the human species.

At age 82, Albert Pesso is one of three living masters of body psychotherapy. His contributions to the field over the past 50 years are innumerable; he has written or contributed to almost a dozen books and written more than 50 articles along with leading seminars worldwide in the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP) mind body approach he co-founded with his wife, Diane Boyden-Pesso. Pesso will be honored as the 7th recipient of the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy’s Lifetime Achievement Award during the August 2012 USABP Conference in Boulder, Colorado. He is also presenting a pre-conference workshop on “The Drive to be Happy in an Imperfect World,” August 9, 2012.

“We’re made genetically to be able to be happy in an imperfect world that is endlessly unfolding, and we are the local agents of that unfolding process,” Pesso said during a recent SKYPE call. “Our lives are not predestined, the world is not done, and we are not puppets in it. We are part of an exciting unfolding and participate in it.”

As a writer responsible to create Pesso’s character with words that do justice to his truth, I feel stymied—nouns and verbs cannot convey the body and the immense actions of this man. Pesso joked saying that “the body guy got into language,” but his essence doesn’t conform to a unidimensional character placid on a page. Pesso has choreographed his professional footfalls starting as a dancer studying under Martha Graham before moving into his roles of teacher, researcher, therapist, director and co-founder of PBSP.

Early in his career, Pesso believed that truly talented performers knew their instruments intimately—a flutist fingered her flute, a drummer drilled his drums with a synchrony of beat and sound, and a dancer knew his body’s movements—and what created and maintained each action and reaction inside and out.  His drive to understand the body’s mechanisms led to dancers connecting with their deepest emotions to bring forth on stage. The release proved cathartic in many ways but nothing truly changed, healing wasn’t achieved. When he and Diane started cathartic healing groups, unconscious family-of-origin holes and roles resulted in mismatches between participants. Pesso knew healing was an interactional process but something was missing.

“The participants were touching stuff in the body that never got answered, but we had to learn how to give them what the body needed rather than simply let it out. The old idea that you have to get it out to get new in is absolute nonsense,” Pesso said.

Pesso has introduced a multitude of topics to the field of psychotherapy including theory and terminology. His views on trauma and its triggers in the amygdala include the standard three—flight, fight, and freeze—and he offers a fourth—appease—a novel and accurate action that saves lives as surely as running, striking back or playing dead. His concept of “Holes and Roles” within family networks that translate throughout our lives include what he calls our “stem-selves” , the parts of ourselves that are able to fulfill any role be it father, mother, sister brother, teacher, friend, minister or miser, murderer, or demonic monster.

Pesso speaks of the mind’s eye and the mind’s body: the mind’s eye sees mental imagery; the mind’s body feels the sensations of mentally enacting what was seen (aided by mirror neurons) or what was perceived as needing to be done. Pesso articulates that first we see in our mind’s eye and then we do in our mind’s body before there is a single thought.  “Seeing and doing” become recorded as sensorial and motoric memories based on past experiences that create our current reality. Accessing memories of how we see and what we do with what we perceive to foster new memories creates lasting change in our lives. Pesso’s latest venture into the brain’s memories and their impact on our lives involves getting into the brain without cutting it open.

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