Oct 11

Dr. Mayer's Contributions to Psychotherapy

Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy: Overview of the Contributions to the Field of Psychotherapy:


Dr. Mayer's interest in integrating the body and mind in psychotherapy led him to be the San Francisco Bay Area training coordinator for Dr. Eugene Gendlin's "focusing" process for ten years from 1978-1988. Focusing is a bodymind healing method, which won many psychotherapy awards. Dr Mayer added to Gendlin's process a Taoist breathing method called microcosmic orbit breathing and symbolic process methods including his mythic journey process (Mayer, 1982). These became part of the therapeutic approach that Dr Mayer developed called Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy (Mayer, 2007).

What is Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy?  "In order to help a patient face the challenges of everyday life, a therapist must be able to weave together psychological theories and healing methods that fit the unique person
and moment. Practicing the art of psychotherapy also requires transcending methodologies in order to meet a person in that place of raw humanness where contact is made with the deep source of one's being. In this spirit, Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy draws from traditional forms of psychotherapy, energy psychology, Qigong and other ancient sacred wisdom traditions such as mindfulness mediation, bodymind and symbolic process approaches to healing, hypnosis, and psycho-neuroimmunological research."


The book Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy: Ancient Pathways to Modern Health (Mayer, 2004b). Drawing from 30 years of training in Tai Chi and Qigong with some of the most respected masters of these traditions, this book shows how to integrate the essence of these practices into psychotherapy and into our healthcare without ever doing a Tai Chi/Qigong movement, and without mentioning a word about Qigong. Using case illustrations from his work in an integrated medical clinic the book shows how ancient and modern, East and West, psychotherapy and mind-body medicine cam be  amalgamated to make a stronger integrative medicine. Theory, research, and case illustrations are blended to show how bodymind healing methods can help alleviate hypertension, chronic pain, insomnia,  anxiety, depression,  trauma., and other common issues plaguing the modern world. This book, endorsed by major leaders in mind-body healthcare makes significant contributions to the field of psychotherapy, behavioral healthcare, Qigong, and energy psychology.

What creates change in psychotherapy? All psychological theories have their hypotheses regarding what creates psychotherapeutic change, and so does Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy (BMHP). In general, psychodynamic therapists emphasize the insight gained from going back to one's families of origin, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapists emphasize changes in beliefs and behavior, humanistic/existential psychotherapists emphasize choice, Jungians emphasize the role of symbolic process, and Dr. Eugene Gendlin emphasizes the energy shift that is experienced in the body and new meaning that emerges at key moments of change in psychotherapy. BMHP draws from all of these traditions and uses a mandala of psychotherapies. In addition to this integrative perspective, BMHP draws from certain traditions stemming from the ground of ancient sacred wisdom traditions. From these traditions there are three interrelated concepts woven together throughout his books  Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy, and Energy Psychology book: (1) transforming your life stance, (2) shape-shifting, and (3) repairing and cultivating your primordial Self.. Dr Mayer's philosophy is that psychological issues and bodily disease are divina afflictios (divine afflictions) giving us opportunities for psycho-spiritual growth, soul-making,  and finding the source of healing.

Just as Dr. Gendlin's research attempted to extract the essence of what made therapy work to empower the process of change for people, Dr Mayer discovered these three interrelated concepts from his thirty years of practice of psychotherapy, Qigong, and ancient sacred wisdom traditions that seemed to capture the essence of what created energetic change for people:

Transforming Your Life Stance: Change needs to be embodied change, thus the use of the concept "transforming your life stance." This is one of the quintessential elements of Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy (BMHP). Influenced by the traditions of Standing Meditation Qigong and postural initiation (Goodman, 1990; Gore, 1995; Mayer, 2004b, 2004c) as well as the recent advances showing the importance of the body in the role of psychological healing (van der Kolk, 1994, 2002), BMHP places the literal/physical and symbolic elements of transforming one's life stance at the hub of the wheel of its theory of change.

Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy has made a number of specific contributions to the field of psychotherapy:

Mythic Journey Process: Building upon the mythic processes of Sam Keen, (1989) and Carl Jung's active imagination process, Dr Mayer's mythic journey process (Mayer, 1982, 1993, 2007, 2009a) added a somatic dimension to psycho-mythological inner work. The MJP is a symbolic process tool that has a person transpose a life problem into a story set in ancient time in order to work through that issue. To ground the mythic dimension, the MJP uses Gendlin's Focusing so that the storyteller continually refers back to the felt sense of the body. It has been used by therapists, by lay people as a self-growth tool, and it is a central component of Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy. Dr Mayer uses it as a method in his workshops for relationship issues (Mayer, 1993), and to help people in his private practice and workshops with psychological and somatic issues. The Mythic Journey Process was included in many of Dr Mayer's written works (Mayer, 1982, 1993, 2007, 2009a).

Full Spectrum Approach to Symbolic Processes: Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy brings a full spectrum approach to symbolic process inner work which integrates the somatic and imaginal dimensions (Mayer 2007, 2009a), thus adding to imaginal psychotherapy. Some components of this symbolic process approach are a somatically oriented mythic journey process, and an integral approach combining Qigong and symbolic process methods.

The transcendent/transmuting dialectic: There has long been a split between psychotherapy and spiritual traditions. Modern psychologists have long been trained that by using spiritually transcendent methods, the transmutation of psychological complexes will not occur but will be bypassed and then reappear the next time an associated trigger touches off the complex. It is the viewpoint of BMHP that dichotomizing between transcendent and transmuting needs of the patient in psychotherapy is a function of the Western dualistic mind. Such dichotomization does not do justice to the holistic spirit of healing in the deepest sense of the "perennial philosophy" (Huxley, 1970); nor, as Dr. Mayer argues, does it meet the healing needs of an integrative psychology. In order to resolve this false dichotomy Dr Mayer introduces in Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy (Mayer 2007, 2009a) a theoretical framework and practices for integrating transcendent and transmuting dimensions of psychological and spiritual healing. . Dr Mayer's work in this regard is part of an emerging movement of integrating meditative and spiritual methods into psychotherapy (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006; Wilbur, 1980).

A Four Step Process for Clearing Negative Feelings with another:  1. Express your positive intent in communicating your feeling.  2. Distinguish  between the whole person and the behavior you don't like. “   3. Express your feelings as “I feel” statements.  4. Ask for what you want. For  more about specifically how to apply this process with another see Trials of the Heart: Healing the Wounds of Intimacy (Ten Speed Press, 1994).

Bodymind Healing Qigong DVD (2000, Bodymind Healing Publications) is used by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Medical Director, The Trauma Center, Boston University School of Medicine in the training of trauma therapists.

Energy in Psychotherapy: The internal process of psychological change, as Gendlin (1978) rightly pointed out, has energy activation  (Qigong) as an inextricable part of it, as a patient's energetic "felt shift" emerges along with a patient's discovering new meaning. Also symbolic process methods, such as his Mythic Journey Process (Mayer, 1994) and River of Life Process (Mayer 2007, 2009a), create an internal energy (Jung, Vol. VIII, p. 211-215) that helps a person find a meaningful life path, and helps patients to find a new life stance (Goodman, 1990, Mayer, 2004b). Thus one can cultivate "the spirit and soul" (Hillman, 1975) of Qigong (Mayer, 2004b, 2007).

As related to Energy Psychology, this expands the field of energy psychology to include both internal and external methods of energetic change. For example, some of the methods of generating internal energetic change of psychological complexes come from using the image/somatic dialectic (Mayer, 2007, 2009a, 2009b), symbolic process inner work, "focusing" (Gendlin, 1978), and internal Qigong (nei gung). Externally oriented energetic techniques involve such techniques as tapping, eye movements (Shapiro, 1995), acu-point self touch, and externally oriented Qigong movements.

The River of Life Process: Dr Mayer derived the River of Life method from  microcosmic orbit breathing, a Taoist breathing method first brought to the West by Richard Wilhelm (1931). Dr Mayer's River of Life method (Mayer, 1982, 1996, 2007, 2009a) adds a visualization of water to microcosmic orbit breathing. As a person is breathing in he or she imagines energy or a river traveling up the governing  vessel and on the exhalation one imagines a river traveling down the conception vessel  to  the belly (tan tien). This method induces a trance state that in Taoist terms opens the practitioner to experience the sea of elixir (Wilhelm, 1963). This transcendent state is used to help facilitate the practitioner release stress, mind-body energy blockages, and blocked life issues within the context of psychotherapy and behavioral healthcare. In addition, Dr. Mayer (1982) added a transmuting dimension to the River of Life by having a person focus (Gendlin, 1978) on a blockage that emerges in the river of their felt experience of  flowing down the river. Then in the Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy method the person uses various methods (such as cognitive restructuring, psychodynamic methods, self soothing) to transmute the life issues and energy blockages involved.

The Somatic Dimension of Self Soothing: With regards to the important psychodynamic method of self soothing (Kohut, 1971), Dr Mayer  (1997, 2007) added a somatic component. While saying self-soothing phrases a patient holds or touches a point in the center of the heart chakra, (Conception Vessel 17) to open the somatic dimension of compassion, love and  self acceptance.

Energy Psychology: Self- Healing Practices for Bodymind Health (North Atlantic/ Random House, 2009a).
The new field of energy psychology is a controversial new addition to psychotherapeutic traditions. Research is beginning to accumulate to validate its efficacy in dealing with trauma (Feinstein 2008a) and other psychological issues (Feinstein 2008b).  Dr Mayer's approach in his book, Energy Psychology expands the field of energy psychology from the well known energy psychology methods such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques by presenting an integral, comprehensive approach (Mayer, 2009b) to healing that combines leading-edge Western bodymind psychological methods with a broad system of ancient, sacred traditions. Incorporating his integral approach called Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy, the book Energy Psychology draws on Chinese medicine approaches, including Qigong and acupressure self-touch; kabalistic processes; methods drawn from ancient traditions of meditation and postural initiation (Goodman, 1990; Tomio, 1994). Dr Mayer's adds to the field of  energy psychology several processes for inducing and anchoring internally generated energy such as Dr Gendlin's, "focusing" method, psycho-mythological storytelling techniques that involve somatic and symbolic process methods from depth psychology, and naturally arising somatic movements that occur at a moment of "felt shift.(Gendlin, 1978)."

Presentations: Dr Mayer has presented his somatic, transpersonal, integral approach to psychotherapy at many professional organizations and conferences. His workshops on bodymind healing have been presented nationally and internationally. For example, Dr Mayer's trainings have been presented between 2005-2009 at leading-edge workshop venues such as Esalen Institute where mind/body, psychological/spiritual approaches to developing human potential are taught (Murphy, 1992; Kripal, 2007).


Mayer, M. H. (1982). The mythic journey process. The Focusing Folio, 2(2).
Mayer, M. H. (1984). The mystery of personal identity. San Diego, CA: ACS Publications.
Mayer, M. H. (1993). Trials of the heart: Healing the wounds of intimacy. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
Mayer, M. H. (1996). Qigong and behavioral medicine: An integrated approach to chronic pain. Qi: The Journal of Eastern Health and Fitness, 6(4), 20-31.
Mayer, M. H. (1997a). Psychotherapy and Qigong: Partners in healing anxiety. Berkeley, CA: The Psychotherapy & Healing Center.
Mayer, M. H. (1997b). Combining behavioral healthcare and Qigong with one chronic hypertensive adult. Mt. Diablo Hospital-Health Medicine Forum. Unpublished study.(Video available from Health Medicine Forum, Walnut Creek, CA, www.alterna-tivehealth.com).
Mayer, M. H. (1999). Qigong and hypertension: A critique of research. Journal ofAlter-native and Complementary Medicine, 5(4), 371-382. (Peer-reviewed).
Mayer, M. H. (2000). Bodymind healing Qigong(DVD). Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Center.
Mayer, M. H. (2001a). Find your hidden reservoir of healing energy: A guided meditation forcancer (Audio cassette). Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
Mayer, M. H. (2001b). Find your hidden reservoir of healing energy: A guided meditation for chronic disease (Audio cassette). Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
Mayer, M. H. (2003). Qigong clinical studies. In W. B. Jonas (Ed.), Healing, intention, and energy medicine (pp. 121-137). England: Churchill Livingston. (Peer-reviewed).
Mayer, M. H. (2004a). Qigong: Ancient path to modern health (DVD of keynote address to National Qigong Association). Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
Mayer, M. H. (2004b). Secrets to living younger longer: The self-healing path of Qigong, standing meditation and Tai Chi. Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
Mayer, M. H. (2004c). What do you stand for? The Journal of Qigong in America, Vol. 1, Summer.
Mayer, M. H. (2004d). Walking meditation: Yi Chuan Qigong. The Empty Vessel: A Journal of Comtemporary Taoism, Summer.
Mayer, M. H. (2005). Qigong: An age-old foundation of energy psychology. The Energy Field, Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, Vol. 6, (4), Winter.
Mayer, M. H. (2007). Bodymind healing psychotherapy: Ancient pathways to modern health.Orinda, CA: Bodymind Healing Publications.
Mayer, M.H. (2009a). Energy psychology: Self-healing practices for bodymind health, North Atlantic/Random House, 2009.)
Mayer, M.H. 2009b (Winter) Bodymind Healing in Psychotherapy: Towards an integral, comprehensive energy psychology, The Energy Field: The International; Energy Psychology News and Articles, p13. Available free online: www.bodymindhealing.com

References to Other Authors:

Feinstein, D. (2008). Energy psychology in disaster relief. Traumatology. 14(1), 124–137.

Feinstein, D. (2008). Energy psychology: A review of the preliminary evidence.
Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. 45(2), 199–213.

Gendlin, E. (1978). Focusing. New York: Bantam Books.

Goodman, F. D. (1990). Where spirits ride the wind: Trance journeys and other ecstatic experiences.

Gore, B.,(1995). Ecstatic B ody Postures, Santa Fe, N.M: Bear and Co.

Jung, C. G. (1960). The structure and dynamics of the psyche (Bollingen Series XX). Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to
face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Dell.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present and
further. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 144–156.

Keen, S. (1989) Your mythic journey: Finding meaning in yuour life through writing and storytelling. Tarcher.

Kohn, L. (2001).Daoism and Chinese Culture Cambridge, MA:Three Pines Press.

Kohut, H. (1977). The restoration of the self. New York: International Universities Press.

Kohut, H. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York: International Press.

Kripal, J. (2007). Esalen: America and the religion of no religion. University of Chicago Press.

Matthews, J., & Matthews, C. (1986). The western way: A practical guide to the western
mystery tradition. Volume II: The hermetic tradition. London: Arkana Paperbacks.

Murphy, M. (1992). The future of the body. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher.

Tomio, N. (1994). The Bodhisattva warriors. New York: Samuel Weiser.

van der Kolk, B. A. (1994). The body keeps the score: Memory and the evolving psychobiology
of post-traumatic stress. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, I, 253–265.

van der Kolk, B. A. (2002). Beyond the talking cure: Somatic experience and subcortical
imprints in the treatment of trauma. In F. Shapiro (Ed.), EMDR, Promises for a paradigm
shift, APA Press.

van der Kolk, B. A., et. al. (1996). Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience
on mind, body, and society. New York: Guilford Press.

Van der Post, L, and Jane Taylor., (1986) Testament to the bushmen. New York: Penguin.

Walsh, R., & Shapiro, S. (2006, April). The meeting of meditative disciplines and Western psychology. American Psychologist, 61(3), 227–239.

Wilbur, K. (2000). The eye of the spirit: An integral vision for a world gong slightly mad (Vol. 7). The collected works of Ken Wilber. Boston: Shambhala.