The Rubenfeld Synergy Method (RSM) is a form of healing therapy that includes both massage and talk therapy. The massage aspect aims to address physical discomfort, while the talk therapy attempts to treat psychological distress.
This approach to massage and therapy differs from other approaches in the way it recognizes and acts upon the mind-body connection instead of just focusing on one aspect. Therefore, RSM may offer benefit in a wider range of situations than talk therapy or massage therapy alone, especially those situations in which a person experiences both physical and psychological symptoms.
What Is the Rubenfeld Synergy Method?
The physical and psychological benefits of massage are widely recognized, but the actual activity is often focused solely on the body. RSM was developed to add a mind-based component to the process in order to address underlying problems more completely by identifying connections between the body and mind that may have otherwise been neglected. Sessions consist of gentle massage during which the therapist invites commentary from the participant about their ongoing psychological reactions to each touch.
RSM, developed over a period of about 20 years, was first introduced by Ilana Rubenfeld who, while recovering from a serious back injury, was motivated to find a treatment that helped address her pain on both a psychological and physical level. Not a professional psychologist herself, Ilana worked to refine her holistic approach by studying with psychologists, and in 1977, an official RSM training program came into existence.
Currently, certification can be acquired through the International Association of Rubenfeld Synergists (INARS).
What To Expect From a Rubenfeld Synergy Session
During a session, the person receiving the therapy, who remains fully clothed, lies on a padded table or sits in a chair. Therapists encourage the participant to try and maintain a sense of mindfulness of their thoughts and emotions. Ideally, a running commentary is established before massage begins, and the participant starts to share their physical and psychological sensations with the therapist. A gentle massage is then typically initiated at the head or feet and gradually advances to the other end of the body. The participant continues to describe their feelings as they come to mind at each point of touch.
The Use of Touch and Talk in Rubenfeld Synergy
RSM is largely based on the concepts of Cartesian dualism, Gestalt psychology, psychotherapy and, of course, massage. Dualism refers to the idea that the body and mind, while distinct, are inseparably interactive and so exist as a single system. Gestaltism is a psychological perspective that emphasizes the difference between a whole system (body-mind connection) and the sum of its parts (body and mind separately). Taken together, these theories suggest that effective therapies need to target the body and mind both as separate entities and as a unique system in action.
A psychotherapeutic technique called free association has been adapted as a critical part of RSM. Before and while receiving the massage, therapy participants are coached to engage in a form of running commentary where they aim to describe the nature of the relationship between the therapist’s touches and their psychological experiences. In this manner, touch and talk are used together to treat mental and physical symptoms individually while also extracting information about the dualistic system (body-mind relationship) as it is experienced by the massage recipient.
What Does the Rubenfeld Synergy Method Treat?
RSM may lead some to experience insight or gain new perspective on the relationship between the body and the mind as the approach works to ease stress and pain throughout these interdependent systems. Because RSM addresses both physical and psychological symptoms, it has the potential to be particularly useful for people who experience physical pain and discomfort associated with stress, anxiety, trauma or other mental health concerns, regardless of the underlying cause of these issues. It may also be effective for isolated physical or psychological distress and is likely to be helpful in the process of uncovering relationships between the two systems that were not previously recognized by the individual.
- Kipling, R. (2014). A roadmap to body psychotherapy modalities. Touching the Relational Edge: Body Psychotherapy, 37. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=b6jzAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA37&dq=rubenfeld+synergy+method&ots=rifelH_vo6&sig=rMooJv9SPAYWkAVXaWY3gcQciwo#v=onepage&q=rubenfeld%20synergy%20method&f=false
- Medina, L. L., & Montgomery, M. J. (2012). Touch therapy combined with talk therapy: The Rubenfeld Synergy Method®. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy, 7(1), 71-79. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17432979.2011.622788
- Meurer, S. & Pettersen-Chu, T. (2009, October 27). Touch meets talk: The Rubenfeld Synergy Method. Retrieved from https://www.massagemag.com/touch-meets-talk-the-rubenfeld-synergy-method-6310/
- What a session is like. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rubenfeldsynergy.com/aboutRSM/session.html