Rolfing and Psychotherapy with a Psychotic Client

Charles G. Siemers is a Certified Advanced Rolfer with a private practice in Marina del Rey and Manhattan Beach, California.Martha B.Eaton, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Santa Barbarba and Pasadena, California, specializing in schizophrenic and psychotic clients.
Pages: 25-28
Rolfing collection and memory

Undated Rolfers’ Notes – Rolfing history and memory

Charles G. Siemers is a Certified Advanced Rolfer with a private practice in Marina del Rey and Manhattan Beach, California.Martha B.Eaton, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Santa Barbarba and Pasadena, California, specializing in schizophrenic and psychotic clients.


Peggy is a 30-year old woman diagnosed “atypical psychotic.” She is a graduate student in psychology and education, specializing in learning disabilities. Her psychosis was brought on by her experience with a therapist who hypnotized her and told her that she was a victim of incest and that her mother had tried to kill her by hitting her over the head with brick. Peggy could not integrate this information and became psychotic approximately a week later.

After two years of psychotherapy, Peggy became impatient and wanted to “break though” to her feelings physically. Martha decided to send her to a Rolfer she knew well and could work closely with. She suggested Peggy see Charles every other week.


First Hour

Upon seeing her for the first time, Charles observed that she did not fit into the room, i.e., did not stand in an appropriate relationship to other physical objects in the room. She was out of place. Charles dramatically understood the meaning of spatial disorientation.

Spatial disorientation was also evident during the first session. Peggy did not have a feeling of physical dimension front from back, left from right. She needed to touch the hinge before moving the particular limb. I surmised that by working with the movement of the hinges–knee forward, knee backward while lying on her side, she would begin to resolve this aspect of her spatial disorientation.

During this session and the succeeding sessions she became nauseous and disintegrated when a little energy began flowing through her. I had great difficulty putting her together. Sessions were delicate because her consciousness had no firm basis.

Four days later during her psychotherapy session, Peggy was very regressed, confused and hyperactive. She spoke so quickly Martha could not understand her words. A week later she was very schizy and her fingernails were painted blue with red stripes. She was hallucinating, both visually and auditorially, and was very impatient.

Second Hour

Spatial disorientation was evident in a new way: she arrived at the wrong door of my office. She stood in the Rolfing room appropriately but I knew she did not experience physical space or physically feel around herself in relation to other objects in the room. She had probably mentally memorized the room. During the session she was able to move her hinges without touching the limb.

During her psychotherapy session three days later, she was very confused any split off from her feelings. She said she did not “know anything,” but she could observe what she was doing. She had developed a distance from herself.

During our discussions together Charles and Martha surmised that possibly the witness state was beginning to come in to help her.

Third Hour

Peggy continued to learn physical orientation—front to back.

Later during the session, while working on her left hip, I saw something swirl up in her aura. She felt unconscious content surfacing. She became confused and disoriented. Putting her back together was even more difficult than usual.

Two hours later, during her psychotherapy session, she was very confused and began talking about Peter, her cousin, who “molested” her, classically out by the shed. She thought she was about six years old and he was about eight.

During her next two psychotherapy sessions she appeared more sane. Her perspective continued to grow, e.g., she began to realize that her husband represented a fiancial security only.

Martha reported a breakthrough to Charles during one of our regular discussions together. Remembering Peter was important, even though Peggy had difficulty integrating the knowledge. In addition, Martha told Peggy she could talk to her Rolfer about her voices, i.e., auditory hallucinations, or anything else. We continued our discussion of her along the lines that she was a collection of voices with no central voice or core.

Fourth Hour

Peggy arrived 45 minutes late for her fourth session. Her voices had taken her to another beach town. I barely worked on her. She was very fragile, and I was concerned that she would become more psychotic. This was the first time she had talked about her internal voices.

Peggy arrived two hours late for her psychotherapy session. She was very confused and reported that four different voices were talking to her. Three days later she was fully psychotic. She presented her journal to me, telling me she had written as a child would write, with very primitive letters and phrases.

Fifth Hour

Toward the end of the session, while working on her back, she felt unconscious material swirl up in her aura from the right hip to around the right side of her head, neck and shoulder. She was unable to grasp the content. It was easier than usual to pull her together.

Two hours later she arrived for her psychotherapy session. She reported she had a severe pain at the right base of her skull. She asked me whether her mother could really have hit her on the head with a brick, and was beginning to believe it. She felt nauseous, confused and disorganized but she was not hallucinating.

Sixth Hour

Peggy arrived for her sixth hour and made contact with me for the first time, althought she still talked like a bullet. The session went well until I worked on her back. She began to feel that she wanted to get up and leave. Her feeling accelerated. I asked her to move her limbs in order to discharge her anxiety. She would not move. I continued to work. She began to feel angry, and reported that this was the first time she had ever felt a feeling. Then she disassociated. She described this process as seeing her anger from a distance, mentally. She could move closer or farther from her feeling.

I saw she went into her head and she looked “wacked out” across her face. She drew her shoulders up and together, the third cervical moved forward, her neck arched and her head tilted up, cutting her head from her body. Warmth moved out of her flesh all over. Her lower legs tightened and looked drawn. I began to understand the meaning of disassociation.

I called Martha to report on the events of the sixth hour prior to psychotherapy session.

Peggy arrived feeling angry and disconnected to herself. I seized the opportunity to help her explore the connection between her body and her feelings, which led to her feeling her core for the first time. She felt very excited and secure.

She arrived twenty minutes late for her following session: she had gone somewhere else for twelve minutes, feeling wierd and confused. She bought new eyeglasses, “so I can see better inside and outside.” We looked inside toward her core with her new glasses.

Peggy was manic during the following two session: she planned to write eight to twelve books, be build her house, buy a new house, get three jobs and finish school. She also bought six notebooks for each of her six voices. Since she did not know who does what, she decided to keep track.

Seventh Hour

During the seventh hour, Peggy became connected through her neck. I was particularly interested to hear from Martha that Peggy was disassociating less.

In addition, after the seveth hour, I could see her structural problems clearer. The haziness or glassed-over condition I had been struggling with all along lifted and I felt I could really begin Rolfing her. Although this was my intention and that is what I was trying to do all along, I did not really feel her structure was being addressed, for some other process seemed to be happening.

During her psychotherapy session she was focused on her neck pain and began to accept the fact that her mother had indeed hit her over the head with a brick. She was very active, but not in a manic way. She bought two more notebooks for her newly discovered voices and a third called “Core-Integrated” which was mostly blank.

Eighth Hour

In the orientation I asked her to try to disassociate. She was not able to. I felt I was doing my normal Rolfing work with a sensitive person for the first time.

During her psychotherapy session she felt sexual energy in her pelvis, became frightened but did not disassociate. Instead, she wanted to leave by going to sleep.

Ninth Hour

I gave her an upper session and emphasized the structural mechanisms of her disassociated process.

During her psychotherapy session she seemed confused and wished the pain at the base of her skull would go away. She seemed agitated but she was still in touch with her core. She began to take better care of herself by doing yoga and eating foods which seemed healthy to her.

Tenth Hour

Peggy arrived less manic and at times was sleepy during her final session. I was able to educate her so that could learn to drop her shoulders and feel physically present in the room. Warmth flowed through her.

During her psychotherapy session she felt very good but reported she gets sleepy easily. When she gets sleepy at home she allows herself to take a nap. She seemed more centered and integrated.


A year later she arrived for Rolfing sessions more human and handled the work with greater understanding.

Her psychotherapy continues. She has become more independent, more centered, and more integrated.


The combination of Rolfing and psychotherapy proved valuable for a very disturbed client. Unconscious memories surfaced. During the uncovering of unconscious content however, Peggy deteriorated significantly at first. As she accepted and integrated these memories she was able to function at a level far surpassing any manner she had functioned at previously.

Her spatial disorientation was partially resolved by the standard Rolfing process which facilitated an appropriate physical orientation.

Her disassociation process was substantially lessened by Rolfing which connected her through the neck, helped her become aware of the disassociation process, and helped her understand and accept the unconscious material.

In terms of the flow of her overall process, she moved from a mental approach to physical sensations to emotional feeling and experiencing her core.Rolfing and Psychotherapy with a Psychotic Client

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