Luisa Repsold had just come out of surgery, after having her tonsils removed and doing a septum
adjustment. Back in 2019, the 21-year old was still living with her parents, finishing her
bachelors in her hometown, Rio de Janeiro. She knew the post operation would not be easy, but
she didn’t know it would be that difficult.
After a couple of days home, Luisa could not ingest anything without getting nauseous and
throwing up. She couldn’t even drink water, and quickly became extremely dehydrated. ‘’I don’t
even remember what was happening that first week. I was in a lot of pain and had no idea if it
was day or night, or how many days had passed since the surgery. I was just sleeping a lot and
desperate for it to go away’’, says Luisa.
Luisa, who is now doing her masters in the Netherlands, pulled out her phone and showed a
picture of her face post surgery. It was a scene from a horror movie: She was pale, hadn’t
brushed her hair in days, and there was dry blood collected around her nose. She was laying on
a big bed, eyes shut. Two days had passed since Luisa’s last meal. Her parents would take her
to the hospital the next morning. Before going to sleep, her parents asked if she wanted to do a
BodyTalk session. Luisa was very confused, as she had never heard the word before.
The term says it all: talking to the body. The practice consists of believing in the body and
mind’s own innate wisdom to address health issues. A BodyTalk therapist is a facilitator for that
The technique was developed by Australian chiropractor and acupuncturist John Veltheim in the
90’s. After being given one week to live due to a disease, Veltheim left the hospital. Together
with one of his students he combined a series of practices that he had learned throughout the
years, such as reiki, acupuncture, yoga, and techniques of non-Western medicine, developing
BodyTalk. Veltheim was cured and lived a healthy life until his recent death on the 22 of
November 2022. Together with his wife, he founded the International BodyTalk Association
BodyTalk has three main pillars: Vedanta philosophy, which believes the universe consists
physically, mentally and spiritually of the same essence. Quantum physics, referring specifically
to the observer effect: observing a situation or phenomenon necessarily changes it. The third
pillar is Chinese medicine.
Sheila Salgado is the BodyTalk therapist that treated Luisa. Sheila has been a physiotherapist
for 43 years, and for the past 15 years she has been working with BodyTalk in her office in Rio
de Janeiro. She explains the practice is a work of self-growth, consisting of releasing emotions,
beliefs and traumas that are kept inside our tissues and were not properly processed.
The therapy however, is non-invasive. In fact, it can be done from a distance, when it is not
possible to be present. Sheila describes it as a meditative state for the therapist: “I sit quietly in
order to access the ‘mind space’ of the client”. Then the therapist proceeds to ask the body ‘yes’
or ‘no’ questions.
“I was very suspicious, and thought it was very strange for my parents to suggest something like
this, since my dad is a doctor and is normally very skeptical about this sort of practice”, says
Luisa. However, the desperation spoke louder, and she was willing to try anything to make the
pain go away.
Sheila explains that the work is different per client: “The strength is of the person, not the
therapist. We have an important role, but as an observer”. Every individual body has its own
wisdom, which will guide the therapist towards a path of stability.
The treatment was done while Luisa was asleep. She woke up early the next day and went to
the hospital for rehydration. During an IV drip, she got a message from Sheila, explaining what
was going on. Luisa knew she was adopted as a baby, but had no memories of how traumatic
the separation from the biological mother was.
“It was a really moving session,” Sheila explains. “The septum deviation had to do with how the baby dealt with
that big change. The fear of separation got ‘stuck’ on her nose. The surgery brought to the
surface of adult Luisa the strong emotions she felt as a baby”. She adds that it is
very common for such things to happen in surgeries, as they often bring to the surface stories
that are deeply buried in us: “Surgeries are necessary sometimes, but they are regardless a
very invasive procedure”.
Luisa believes the session was essential for her recovery: “I felt like my body was failing me,
and I was just angry. After the session I was more comforting and understanding with myself.
My body was trying to tell me something. I know it wouldn’t have replaced the rehydration I had
at the hospital, but mentally I was fine and I think that’s what helped me recover even better, my
mind was strong and in peace”.
Mirthes Campos also did BodyTalk with Sheila. Campos has had back problems since she was
a kid, and often does exercises and physiotherapy to improve her strength. However, when
nothing is working, like painkillers or classic physiotherapy, BodyTalk becomes an alternative.
“Once I had this terrible pain in my shoulder that wouldn’t go away. I went to the doctor, I was
doing a treatment. But Sheila actually signaled that this pain was also because of a lot of
anguish”, tells Mirthes.
Mirthes’ husband had passed away a few months earlier, and she was carrying a weight bigger
than she could handle: “It doesn’t mean a miracle happened and the pain suddenly went away.
But it gives you many interesting parameters to review and reflect about your pain and work
through. I like to think of it as a therapeutic alternative, at least with Sheila since she works a lot with emotions”, says Mirthes. Sheila explained that pain is not a punishment, but our body trying to tell us something needs to be solved.
Psychologist and BodyTalk therapist Heloisa Castro explains that BodyTalk does not replace
medical treatments, but is rather complementary. “What sometimes happens is that someone is
taking a certain medication and has a bad side effect. With BodyTalk it is possible to ask the
body what could be causing that, and it’s often the dosage of the medication.”
BodyTalk cannot be performed during a psychology session. However, Castro says that a
BodyTalk session before or after the psychological treatment can be very helpful: “Sometimes a
patient comes with a lot of complaints that need to be worked on. In the psychology sessions we
will work through all of them, but with BodyTalk I can identify which problem is a priority”.
Like many other holistic practices, BodyTalk is seen with a lot of skepticism. The practice is still
quite new and there are few studies about BodyTalk. To become a certified BodyTalk therapist,
there is no need for academic education. Instead, there is an intensive training alongside
completing a series of courses and exams promoted by the IBA. The training can be completed
in a period between 6 months to 2 years.
Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) studied how BodyTalk has
an influence in decreasing chronic pain. A group of people was told that they had a 50% chance
of receiving a BodyTalk consultation once a week, for eight weeks in a row. However, they
would not know until after the eight weeks. In the end, 74% of the individuals who received
BodyTalk reported improvement on pain level. Half of those reported moderate to strong pain
improvement. In the group that didn’t receive BodyTalk, only 32% reported pain improvement.
Another study, by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), covers the
impact of holistic psychological practices, such as hypnosis, mindfulness and biofeedback, on
chronic pain. They analyzed around 50 studies, and concluded that psychological-based
interventions didn’t necessarily help reduce the pain, but helped decrease the impact the pain
had on the daily life of patients. However, the researchers also explain the accuracy of the
experiments analyzed is affected by the small sample size of the study.
Sheila explains that BodyTalk often has an effect on anyone who undergoes it: “Once, I
performed BodyTalk on the husband of a great friend of mine. He was extremely skeptical, and
with that nonsense that men don’t cry or feel. During the session he had a great mobilization of
emotion in his chest, a big cry coming from his guts”. In the end, the man told Sheila he really
liked her, but that in other times she would’ve been thrown in a fire pit. He never came back.