A Pseudoscience Known as Rubenfeld Synergy

JW asks: “I have a friend who is seeing a Rubenfeld Synergy practitioner (Synergist) for pain relief.  I’ve expressed my concern that it sounds New Age to me. She assures me that it is not New Age but a form of Touch/Talk therapy.  Could you give me some insight into this and let me know if it is something I should avoid?”

Ilana Rubenfeld

This is definitely something you should avoid because it is not based on science and is very much associated with New Age thought.

According to its website, “The Rubenfeld Synergy Method® (RSM) is a unique therapeutic approach that combines the power of gentle touch, talk and compassionate listening to tap inner resources for improving health and wellness, in all aspects of the self: body, mind, emotions and spirit.” It is an “alternative healing method which combines touch and talk together to help people deal with the stresses in their lives. . . .

It goes on to explain: “Most of us tend to think of our bodies and our minds as separate systems and believe they function independently and hence we treat them separately. The reality is they need to be considered as a single whole. There is a very real mind body connection which influences our lives. Every part of the body is the mind expressing itself.  . . . . Throughout our lifetime, stress, memories and emotions get stored in our bodies. . . . Through the Rubenfeld Synergy Method clients learn to be in touch with their bodymind. Through gentle touch and reflective listening, RSM offers pathways to deep emotion, connection, creativity, and self-awareness. The listening touch of RSM becomes the gateway to emotional awareness and taps the inner resources necessary for inner healing and personal well-being.”

The Rubenfeld Method was invented by Ilana Rubenfeld, who was a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and a music conductor who suffered a back spasm that “re-orchestrated” her life journey, as she puts it. She has no medical background and claims to have studied with prominent psychotherapists such as Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, at the great New Age hub in California known as the Esalen Institute.  She elaborated upon Perls theories on posture and incorporated touch as a way of “listening” to the body into her therapy. In 1977, she began to teach her method to others.

In 1994, Ms. Rubenfeld received the “Pathfinder Award” by the Association of Humanistic Psychology(AHP) for her outstanding contributions to Humanistic Psychology – another bedrock of New Age thought.

Here’s how one practitioner describes a typical Rubenfeld Synergy Session:

The sessions “often take place with the client lying on a body-work table (fully clothed). The Synergist lightly rests her hands on the client, perhaps at the neck or shoulders or feet, ‘listening’ with her hands to the unique story this person’s body tells. Rubenfeld Synergy is not a method of tissue manipulation. Rather, the Synergist waits gently for the movement of energy. The client is never hurried or prodded. The Synergist’s ‘work’ is simply to support the client in coming home to the truth held in the body.”

Needless to say, there is no scientific evidence to support any of these practices, which is why the Rubenfeld Synergy Method remains in the realm of pseudoscience.

I would avoid any contact with this therapy because of its association with the New Age, and because it does not offer its clients what they deserve  – scientific scrutiny of the methods used.

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