Wilhelm Reich was a Viennese psychiatrist who was a follower of Sigmund Freud but later broke away to establish his own therapy. Like Freud, Reich believed that frightening and painful experiences and feelings could be repressed by the conscious mind. Reich based his therapy on his belief that repressed feelings could cause physical as well as psychological problems and that these could be released by certain movements. He divided the body into seven zones in which tightening of certain groups of muscles created ‘body armour’. Rigid patterns of behaviour he termed ‘character armour’. He believed that the blockages created by these armours impeded energy flow in the body and could lead to deteriorating health.
Reichian therapy is a form of bodywork in which the therapist helps the patient to become aware of the ways in which posture, muscular tension and breathing patterns reflect emotion. Physical manipulation of the body aims to relax the body armouring.