Ladybird radix - Keith Pearce
Today Radix fits well into the category Body Psychotherapy. When it was developed by Charles Kelley in the USA in the 1960s and 1970s, and even in the mid-1980s when it came to my attention, Radix did not define itself as a therapy but as 'Education in Feeling'.
Dr Charles R Kelley (Chuck) was a research psychologist and Bates teacher before he met Wilhelm Reich in the 1950s a few years before Reich's death. Kelley was inspired by Reich's ideas of Orgone energy and muscular armouring as a way of understanding important aspects of human functioning, in particular the inhibition and expression of emotions.
Chuck Kelley and his English-born wife Erica developed Radix in both theory and practice into a personal growth method, working with individuals alone and in groups. Based in California, training programmes for Radix teachers were eventually offered in Europe and Australia as well as North America.
A classical Radix session consisted of four consecutive elements: charge-tension-discharge-relaxation (a model which parallels Reich's so-called orgasm formula). In practice what that meant was a session beginning with warm-up exercises to build energy levels in the student's body (and the teacher's body too). The second phase comprised experiencing and managing the resulting energies and tensions and focusing them towards the third phase when they would be discharged - energy flowing in the form of sounds, movements and often emotional release- leading to the fourth and final phase of relaxation and integration.
Sessions are often conducted in carpeted rooms furnished with little more than cushions and mattresses. As a body-based therapy Radix is not primarily concerned with talking or cognition. Much of the work is done with the client in a standing or lying position and attention is mainly focused on awareness of the body. In detail this means breath and breathing, inner sensing of body states, especially tensions, but also temperature variations and energy flows. Also important is emotional awareness and the links and correspondences between emotions and sensations, the two aspects of feelings. The whole process is primarily experiential and only secondarily concerned with understanding the meaning of the experiences. Thoughts and mental processes generally are downplayed but not discounted.
A typical pattern of sessions for individual clients is a one-hour session weekly. The number of sessions is open-ended, although my practice is to offer an initial session without commitment (on either side) and then a review after five or six sessions.
What Radix is not
Radix is sometimes confused with Reiki and less often but more amusingly Radox. Because of its Reichian heritage Radix is sometimes thought to be simply a sex therapy. It is not. Sexual energy is worked with as part of the whole picture.
I trained in 1987 and 1988 having previously completed the mandatory 50 personal sessions and two non-mandatory extra experiences - as a 'model' (ie. a client for trainees to practice on) in a training workshop, and as a participant in the one-year 'Segment One' programme. The training itself comprised four elements running in parallel over two years: ongoing personal sessions; residential experiential/didactic workshops with the training group several times each year; distance learning by audio tapes; supervised practice with a group of clients known as a contract group.
Assessment included written exams but was mainly by ongoing observation of practice in training workshops and with contract group clients.
Started by one man and his wife, the Radix programme developed into a small but significant element in the humanistic personal growth and so-called 'new education' culture of 60s and 70s West Coast America. In due course a body of trainers emerged from the graduates of the training programme and an expanding regular training programme was developed. The Radix Institute was formed as the legal/organisational structure overseeing the work. Then a separate Radix Teachers Association emerged as the body co-ordinating the mutual interests of the graduates of the training. Complex legal, financial and personal issues developed in and around these bodies. In common with other small and large training organisations challenges led to steep learning curves and discontinuities!
Radix has evolved and in common with other therapies is more aware than ever that personal growth is a risky business if it is to be worthwhile. Self-responsibility of clients/students has always been a significant fundamental feature of Radix and I still ask clients to sign a disclaimer.
Collectively Radix practitioners have evolved more varied ways of working than the classical four stage 'discharge' model outlined above. In particular it is now recognised that for some people emotional discharge work is not as important as learning to contain and channel emotional energies.
Currently training programmes are available in America and Australia. In Europe there are relatively few practitioners and those who are active are mainly concentrated in Germany and Austria. There are three active practitioners in Britain today.
Having begun its life outside the field of therapy to avoid the perceived problems of association with the medical model, Radix can now be located on the fringes of the broad area of psychotherapy but still carries many of the characteristics of an outsider rather than being mainstream.
Many practitioners combine it with others activities and disciplines such as Transactional Analysis or Massage, while others have like me made it their own with eclectic additions and variations built on to a basic structure of theory and practical techniques. For example dreamwork and other aspects of transpersonal and spiritual psychology lend themselves well to extending the scope of Radix proper to support personal exploration and discovery.
Registration and Regulation
Radix practitioners vary in their attitudes to this issue. My own view is that there is no substitute for self-responsibility and that registration gives a false sense of security in what is inherently a risky business. Openness to challenge by peers as well as sufficient self-knowledge to seek support when needed seem to me better ways of reducing risks of practitioner error (and dealing with them when they occasionally and inevitably arise) than impersonal registration procedures. Appropriate safety for clients is more likely to be achieved where therapist's seek and receive ongoing supervision and participate in peer support groups than when they receive public 'approval' on the basis of measurable criteria supervised by committees.
Seven things you may not know about Radix
a. The name Radix is a Latin word meaning root or source
b. You do not have to strip naked to do Radix
c. The name radix (with a small 'r') refers to the energy in our bodies which Reich called the Orgone and others have called chi, prana, elan vital, vis medicatrix naturae or life force.....
d. Breathing is good for you and the regular in and out breaths we all take form the basic pulsation of human life which is reflected in every cell and flow in the body. Radix is fundamentally a pulsation therapy.
e. Wilhelm Reich whose work inspired Radix died in prison in the USA in 1957 at the age of 60 of a broken heart. He had been charged with a technical breach of interstate commerce laws.
f. Chuck Kelley was inspired in part by the US authorities mistreatment of Reich.
g. Radix is closely related to other Reichian bodywork therapies including Bioenergetics, Biodynamic Massage and Medical Orgonomy. These days there is a European Body Psychotherapy Association which forms an umbrella group and meeting place for the wide and increasing range of Body Psychotherapies and Somatotherapies.
Keith Pearce has been practising Radix since 1987 and has a private practice in Birmingham. He also runs groups in Liverpool. His previous career was in town planning.
How to find out more
Contact Keith on 0121 440 6129 at 90 Viceroy Close, Birmingham B5 7UU or e-mail to: email@example.com
First draft 2/1/01
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