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Zero Balancing

Published in Eco Echo, February 2010
Joe Church is a Zero Balancer and psychotherapist who practices in Norwich. Here he explains what Zero Balancing is, and how as well as being a very effective bodywork treatment in its own right, it can also serve as a powerful complement to psychotherapy or self development work.
The last week in February was Zero Balancing Awareness Week. I don’t suppose you were aware of that! Not long ago a colleague of mine referred to Zero Balancing as ‘bodywork’s best kept secret’. More widespread in the US, in Britain quite a lot of people have heard of it, but relatively few have tried it yet, or really know what it is.
This is a great shame because it offers something unique in the world of bodywork and complementary therapies, namely engaging the whole person through touch at the level of their bones. As well as being a deeply enjoyable and rejuvenating experience in itself, Zero Balancing is also a safe, non-invasive way of addressing a wide variety of stress-related conditions, ranging from physical symptoms such as frozen shoulder or back pain, to more emotional issues such as anxiety, past trauma or regaining a lost spark for life.
So just what is Zero Balancing? Imagine a firm clothed massage that gets right to the roots of the problem, without being painful or invasive. Put simply, it is a gentle, yet powerful hands-on method of releasing and rebalancing tension and blockages accumulated in the deepest structures of the body. The recipient lies down in a relaxed position. Using finger pressure and held stretches into key areas, tension around the bones and joints is allowed to release. It should feel good or ‘hurt good’, and can put you in touch with a deep state of genuine wellness – that peaceful, still, healing place in us that we aim for in yoga or meditation. 
Zero Balancing was developed in the 1970’s by Dr Fritz Smith MD, an inspired osteopath, medical doctor and acupuncturist. By combining these Eastern and Western principles of health, he discovered a way of engaging the energy and structure of bone through touch. This led to all manner of seemingly unrelated symptoms in his patients clearing up, and – even more surprising to him – a tendency for their lives to unfold more naturally and with more ease, helping them to move forward in their lives and realise more fully their unique potential.
In my practice people come for ZB for all sorts of reasons: physical injury, chronic stress, past trauma (such as shock, bereavement or abuse), or other unresolved personal history that may have been held in the body over many years. Release at this core level (of bone tension) helps to ease or end chronic body pain, allow natural realignment and improve posture. It re-establishes an even flow of energy and vitality in the core structure of the body, the blockage of which is often the underlying cause for a wide range of conditions, including stress-related ‘dis-ease’ such as back eck/shoulder pain, headaches, sleeplessness, anxiety and fatigue. It can also be a boon for elderly people who feel themselves tightening up, and can help with balance and stability.
Zero Balancing addresses the underlying cause of symptoms, rather than focusing too much on the symptom itself. Sometimes this cause can be emotional in content.
For example, frozen shoulder is often linked to grief or shock, which can lock up the ribs of the upper body and seize up the shoulder joint. By addressing the root cause of symptoms such as this through releasing the vibration of this stuck emotion from the bone, Zero Balancing can act as a powerful catalyst for change within a person’s mental and emotional state, as well as within the physical body. So the person who is relieved of their frozen shoulder, for example, might also experience something lifting that may have been colouring their everyday experience for many years.
Zero Balancing has sometimes been referred to as ‘therapy with no talking or tears’ because of the quiet, gentle way it can help people deal with emotional or spiritual issues. Whereas the soft tissue energy of our flesh and organs is where we experience our emotional reactions and how we are in the everyday world, bone energy is concerned with who we are at our very centre – with our identity. We hold a lot in our bones and Zero Balancing sometimes taps into childhood patterning.
Letting go of tension and reclaiming our energy at this deep level can actually give us the opportunity to release past trauma or conditioning without necessarily going through a catharsis or digging up the emotions that we may have visited many times before. Instead we can experience our fundamental being – ‘balanced to zero’ – which is actually beyond the fears and concerns of our personality. In this state something can be quietly let go of and our spark for life can return.
The effects of early life trauma are profound. Our history forms us, but the way we react as adults depends on how we relate to that history. Counselling and psychotherapy can be an essential part of this healing process, and when this is integrated with the body in this way the change can be more profound. In my own psychotherapy practice I have found that clients who receive Zero Balancing aswell tend to move forward in their talking therapy more quickly and more deeply, and that they tend to do so with more perspective and humour.
This ‘lightness of being’ in body and mind can reduce our need to talk in circles about our issues, or try to work them out purely in our head. It helps us to loosen from old attitudes and habits of mind, embodied for so long, which no longer serve us. Such a bone-deep perspective frees us to respond to situations afresh, less bound by our habitual responses and past conditioning, often enabling us to find more peace of mind, a clearer sense of direction and to move forward in our lives more smoothly and creatively. We begin to feel more comfortable in our own skin, opening to a natural ease and deeper confidence that we can literally feel in our bones.
To contact Joe about Zero Balancing, counselling and psychotherapy or self development groups you can phone him on 01603 623498 or email joechurch.jc@gmail.com.

Zero Balancing: Therapy without the Talking?

By Joe Church, published in Norwich Mind’s Associate Magazine, May 1st 2013

In the 1970’s Dr Fritz Smith, an inspired medical doctor, osteopath, and acupuncturist, combined his understandings of these Eastern and Western traditions with insights he gained from his extensive experience of meditation.  Out of this he came up with a hands-on method of healing the body through touch that, to his surprise, also had profound and far-reaching positive effects on the mind.

As a practising Zero Balancer and psychotherapist who is trained in the Person Centred Therapy, a humanistic talking therapy developed by Carl Rogers’, I am struck by how Rogers’ Person Centred Theory so clearly reflects the principles behind Zero Balancing, and vice versa.  Essentially, they both offer the client, in different ways, the ‘conditions’ for activating and supporting what Rogers called the Actualising Tendency – a person’s natural and innate tendency towards healing, growth and well being. 

The difference is, whereas Person Centred Therapy works mainly on the level of the conscious mind, Zero Balancing works at the level of the Unconscious.  And this is one of the reasons why they compliment each other so well.

In this article I would like to outline how Zero Balancing touch, or ‘interface’ touch, can be agued to be an embodied version of Rogers’ Core Conditions of Empathy, Congruence and Unconditional Positive Regard – qualities that he says are both necessary and sufficient for a therapist to bring to the therapeutic relationship in order to facilitate positive change.  I would like to explain how the Zero Balancing practitioner offers the client an embodied, and largely unconscious, experience of being met in this way, through the medium of touch, and what some of the therapeutic benefits of this can be. 

I trained in Zero Balancing fifteen years ago after having experienced it myself. I will never forget my very first session.  I arrived feeling anxious, stressed about issues I had been carrying with me for many years, and quite lost to myself.  Half an hour later, and no talking, I got up off the couch, and although none of my issues had been resolved, I experienced what I can only describe as peace.  I felt a tangible sense of ease and well-being that pervaded my whole mind and body, right to my bones.

In the ensuing days and weeks, although life’s challenges continued to cause me acute stress, something of this peaceful experience remained with me, and from it there emerged a renewed confidence and humour that seemed to arise from being rooted in my body and being rather than having anything sorted out in my life.  From this new perspective the issues and worries in my mind seemed to have less hold on me.  I began to discover my inner resources, make more creative choices, and my life began to change for the better.

In this as yet little known therapy the client lies down, clothed, in a relaxed position.  The practitioner places held stretches and gentle but focussed pressure with the fingers, called ‘fulcrums’, into key areas of the bones and joints, using a particular kind of touch called ‘interface’ touch.

To touch a person at interface, I have to embody empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard.  Inherent in interface touch is an instinctive awareness of the client’s psychological and physical boundaries, and an ability to meet them there without interference or distance.  I don’t need to know the content or story of the person’s experience, but I must sense the person on an essential experiential level, exactly as they are, without imposing my own ideas or agenda. 

From this place, I must sense how they would like to be met through touch, both on the level of their physical body, and on the more subtle level of who they are.  I do not work this out with my mind.  Rather, if I allow my own body to intuit, one might say ‘empathise with’, exactly where and how the client would like to be touched, in a way that also feels good to me and my body, then the client instinctively knows that it is safe to trust and let go into the experience and the relationship. 

With interface touch it is essential that I am absolutely clear where I ‘end’ and the client ‘begins’, so that we do not ‘blend’ and lose our boundary.  The result is that the client has an enhanced experience of themselves in relationship and at a clear interface, and as I work I simply bear witness to the client’s experience.  It is not personal, but rather an essential meeting at the level of instinct and being – a deep, honest and very real, or as Rogers might say, ‘Congruent’ meeting, but with no ‘content’ in the form of talking or conscious communication.  It is as if our busy minds have got out of the way and our unconscious bodies are having an instinctive conversation. 

As I work I evaluate the clients skeleton with my hands, picking up on where the client is ‘holding’ pain or history in the tissue.  I then touch the person there at interface for a few seconds.  Interface, as well as clear boundaries, requires very clear focus and no judgement at all.  There is no message conveyed by my touch that the person should let go or change in any way. 

Instead I am simply acknowledging what I sense and ‘showing’ it to the person – shining a clear light on it if you will.  The soreness or stuckness or numbness, or whatever it is, gently comes into the person’s awareness as they are put in touch with themselves on an instinctual level.  The result is that they have a deeper experience of themselves in relationship to another without any judgment whatsoever.  I see this equating to an embodied experience of Rogers’ Unconditional Positive Regard and Therapeutic Presence.

Being touched in this way allows tension, emotions and other residues of personal history held deep in the body to be let go of, usually without catharsis.  Directly releasing ‘holding’ from the body’s energy field in this way can, with regular sessions, help address all manner of personal issues, ranging from every day stress or chronic anxiety to early childhood trauma or a lost spark for life.  It also helps with many stress related physical symptoms, such as sleeplessness or tension headaches. 

Some people choose to just have Zero Balancing.  Others find it beneficial to have talking therapy too.  I have noticed in my practice how people who have Zero Balancing along side their talking therapy tend to move more quickly through their issues.  Coming from a more embodied place, and more rooted in their being, there is often more perspective and humour with which to engage with the emotional terrain and the issues being tackled.

It has been beyond the scope of this short article to elucidate all the theory and explain exactly how this happens, but I hope that I have at least highlighted some parallels between this mode of bodywork and Person Centred Therapy, and how they complement each other so well.