Blog Post

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?"

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 the late 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 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 client, fully-clothed, lies on a bodywork table, but may sit in a chair, stand, walk, or even dance. The session begins with the Synergist inviting the client to bring awareness to his or her body. The Synergist then makes gentle contact with the client using a listening touch. This listening touch heightens physical and emotional awareness and helps clients experience rather than just talk about their feelings. It allows the client to discover the wisdom of his or her body. Sessions are generally 45-60 minutes in length."

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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