Change Illness Beliefs with Words, Biofeedback, and Somatic Feedback*

I never felt that thinking about my work affected my body. I was totally surprised to see my body’s reaction on the computer screen. I now realized how I contributed to my illness and could see other ways to  change and improve my health. The feedback made the invisible visible, the undocumented documented.

Use of words, biofeedback and somatic feedback to transform illness beliefs. Many clients are unaware how much their thoughts and emotions affect their physiology. The numbers and graphs on the computer screen show how the body is responding. Seeing the changes in the physiological recording and the  immediate feedback signals are usually accepted by the client as evidence, whereas the verbal comments made by a therapist might be denied as the therapist’s subjective opinion. The feedback is experienced as objective data—numbers and graphs ‘‘do not lie’’—which represents truth to the client. Clients seek biofeedback therapy because they believe the cause of illness is in their body, and then the biofeedback may demonstrate that emotions and cognitions influence their somatic illness patterns. This process has been labeled by Ian Wickramasekera (2003) as a ‘‘Trojan Horse’’ approach. Biofeedback and somatic feedback exercises provide effective tools for changing illness attributions and awaken the client to the impact of thoughts and emotions on physiology. Whether the feedback comes from a biofeedback device that records the covert physiological signal or is subjectively experienced through a somatic exercise, the self-experience is a powerful trigger for an ‘‘aha’’ experience—a realization that mind, body, and emotions are not separate (Wilson, Peper, & Gibney, 2004). Clinically, this approach can be used to facilitate changing illness beliefs and to motivate clients to begin changing their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns. Clients begin to realize that they can be active participants in the healing process and that in many cases it is their mind-body life patterns that contribute to illness or health. For more information, case example and detailed description of a somatic feedback practice, download a pre-publication of our  article,  The Power of Words, Biofeedback, and Somatic Feedback to Impact Illness Beliefs.

*Adapted from: Peper, E., Shumay, D.M., & Moss, D. (2012). Change Illness Beliefs with Biofeedback and Somatic Feedback. Biofeedback. 40(4), 154–159.

7 Comments on “Change Illness Beliefs with Words, Biofeedback, and Somatic Feedback*”

  1. Hi Erik. Great work. I have contacts at the Stanford Behavior Technology Lab and they are doing great work in behavior modification to reduce violence and increase health maintenance. if you do not know them I would be happy to make an introduction.

    Jeff Saperstein

    • erikpeper says:

      Hi Jeff, connect me with them. Thanks and a happy new year.

    • Luann says:

      dear Erik and Jeff,
      First, thanks Erik for sharing your work. I am very interested in your perspective; I have been working with clients for many years to help them cultivate increased somatic awareness through my body work teachings and practice. For the past year, I have been teaching part-time at the School of Mind-Body Medicine with Dr. Moss. Because enter the mind-body conversation through the portal of body and bodily experiencing, I especially appreciate how well you synthesize different practices.

      I am also interested in the work at the Stanford Behavior Tech Lab. Jeff, have you any citations or references you can share?

      thanks again for the conversation,
      Luann Drolc Fortune, PhD, LMT

  2. Tombegou. says:

    The blog is is good, I wanted to see “The numbers and graphs on the computer screen show how the body is responding.” to introspect. Are they on this page somewhere that my eye fails to catch?

  3. Erik, I mentioned your work with Dr. Gorter when I did a presentation at the MCC clinic in November 2011. You have made a great contribution to my emission from cancer. Thanks.

  4. Hi Erik, Reading your article on healing with words and the power of belief brought to mind my article on healing cancer with hypnosis (which I define as a state of heightened belief). It’s great to see the world of medicine finally starting to come around to this line of thinking. When I wrote my first paper on this over 50 years ago in 1961, I was thought of as a charlatan. Now even the Mayo Clinic is thinking along these lines. You can find this article in the articles section of my website,
    Al Barrios

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