[VIDEO] Psychotherapy as a Martial Art

By Dr. Keith Witt
August 18, 2021

Psychotherapy is based on a trusting and vulnerable relationship between therapist and client, but there is always an edge in the therapeutic relationship. Change is scary, and people tend to resist it in various ways, mobilizing defenses of different sorts to growth and love. Therapists engage these defenses very much as martial artists engage each other in their practices.

Against a backdrop of trust and deep understanding, therapy progresses as a series of little engagements, very much like martial arts sparing/training.

Similarly, the principles of many martial arts are completely applicable to the therapy sessions. Miyamoto Musashi’s “Do not think dishonestly,” and “Resolute acceptance of death,” (from his classic, A Book of Five Rings) are good examples. In Tai Chi Chuan the ideas of non-opposition, softness, and return, and the ideal of the best victory being one where you and your opponent create a collaborative solution are all highly applicable to the therapy session.

Blending the principles of martial arts with the practice of psychotherapy was central in my early development as a clinician, and I still find the material invaluable in my healing work.

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