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Bioenergetics—definition, education, certification, and salary

bioenergetic practitioner soothing patients cheeks with two hands

Graduates of bioenergetic therapy school are trained in the alternative therapy medium known as bioenergetics, which aims to improve health and wellness while reducing overall tension through a combination of psychotherapeutic and bodywork techniques.

Bioenergetics therapists aim to heal the stress that builds up in the body, including muscle tension, postural problems, and breathing inhibitions.

In This Article

What is bioenergetics?

There are two main definitions to be aware of.

Scientific:
A field in biochemistry, it refers to the collective study of the movement and transfer of energy between living organisms. This study can include a vast amount of different organisms and scientific processes. Photosynthesis is one simple example of bioenergetics as it includes the transfer of energy between plants and solar energy.
Alternative medicine therapy:
The second definition of bioenergetics describes an alternative form of psychotherapy. This medium revolves around the idea that healing can occur with the generalized release of bodily tension.

Technically, both definitions assert that bioenergetics as a whole revolves around the transformation of energy between organisms. So in effect, bioenergetic therapy is the specialized focus of energy transformation aiming to heal or alleviate both mental and physical ailments.

Who is it for?

Bioenergetics therapy also focuses on enhancing physical mobility and muscular wellness as well as improving spiritual and mental health. While bioenergetic therapy is a formal psychotherapeutic study, it does require practitioners to keep an open mind when approaching every client’s unique needs.

Some clients may be seeking respite from disease or the side effects of strong medications, while others may want relief from the mental trauma that is causing stress and tension.

“The role of the physical body in psychotherapy can be much broader than sensation awareness or addressing specific traumas. Bioenergetic Analysis uses body-based techniques to create transformational change in how one moves and holds their body, and in their perceptions and experience of life,” said Diana Guest, Southern California Institute for Bioenergetics Analysis (SCIBA) coordinating trainer and International Institute For Bioenergetic Analysis (IIBA) faculty member.

To truly make an impact on a client’s needs, a practitioner should understand the history of the trade, traditions, and foundational teachings of bioenergetic therapy.

Who discovered it?

Bioenergetic therapy arose from the psychoanalytic tradition through Wilhelm Reich. It was one of Reich’s students, Alexander Lowen, who fully developed this method of therapy. Practitioners used these traditions alongside unique applications—to relieve the bodily effects of stress that build up due to mental, emotional, or physical traumas.


How does bioenergetics work?

Practitioners utilize a collection of different strategies to release stress and tension in their clients. Clients may undergo massage therapy, breathing exercises, verbal therapy, and other therapeutic techniques during a consultation.

Some clients may seek out bioenergetic therapy to ease severe pain, while others may use it to calm the mind and body from daily stress and anxiety. Practitioners will spend a good amount of time developing a personalized treatment plan to treat each client’s needs appropriately.


Career overview

There is a growing interest across the country in alternative forms of therapy such as bioenergetics. Consequently, this may be a great time to pursue education and training in alternative treatment techniques.

Bioenergetic practitioners could find that knowledge of spiritual healing, massage therapy, guided imagery, and other relaxation methods may enhance their practice.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job growth for related career fields such as massage therapy will enjoy a 20% job growth rate through 2031, which is much faster than average for other careers combined.


Educational requirements

Training for bioenergetic therapy can encompass a variety of challenges, such as investing in the spiritual guidance of your future clients while also reflecting upon your own personal growth and reasons for pursuing work in this particular therapy field.

“Anyone interested in Bioenergetic training should be curious about the connection between the body and the mind. They should have a willingness and curiosity about their own internal process and how their past impacts their current life. The training is a profound life-changing process for one’s personal as well as professional life,” said Guest.

What you’ll study in a bioenergetics program

Bioenergetic degree and certification programs include two phases of training:

Pre-clinical

The pre-clinical phase involves a close study of the theoretical aspects of bioenergetics, including readings by Reich, Lowen, and other authorities.

Clinical

During the clinical phase, you will study therapeutic and analytical techniques in bioenergetics and you’ll begin clinical work with individual clients or groups on a supervised basis. This education and training are critical to becoming a high-quality practitioner.

Average length of study

Bioenergetic school usually takes four to six years to complete. Besides formal training and coursework, a diploma or certification in bioenergetics includes 150 hours of personal bioenergetic therapy and at least 50 hours of supervised practice. Some programs require you to hold a degree in a medical or mental health field.

Average program tuition

Unless your training is included as part of the curriculum for general psychotherapy or a holistic nursing program, for example, you could expect to pay higher tuition as many bioenergetic certification programs are offered separately through private institutions or specialization societies. 

A full certification program may cost anywhere from $12,000 to $23,000, depending on the school’s tuition and other associated costs. However, if attending a program through a state-accredited college or university you may potentially be eligible to seek out financial aid.

If attending an unaccredited program, you still may be able to seek out some tuition incentives or financial reprieve grants. There are several requirements that must be met in order to qualify for financial aid from a university or collegiate program.

Accredited vs. non-accredited programs

If an education program in bioenergetics is not accredited, students may apply for alternative tuition forgiveness programs or even work-education programs that may not be offered by state-run universities or colleges.

However, unaccredited programs may not have access to the range of scholarships or grants that are more commonly available in accredited educational institutions.

Many of the requirements surrounding financial aid and the ability to access financial help as a bioenergetics student depend on the state standards in which your educational program is located—as well as if the school or program is accredited and regimented by state requirements or not.


Getting certified as a practitioner

Bioenergetics certification programs adhere to the curriculum standards advocated by the International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis which was founded by Dr. Alexander Lowen in 1956, though some programs may veer from Dr. Lowen’s basic standards by offering a curriculum that includes other therapeutic focuses.

In general, certification requires you to complete the two phases of training as well as undergo your own personal therapy and supervised practice as a trainee.

Clients may be more comfortable utilizing the services of an alternative therapist who has achieved certification it may also prove to be useful in a number of other realms, including alternative medicine careers, nursing, counseling, social work, massage therapy, and psychotherapy.

In order to practice bioenergetic therapy in your profession as a psychotherapist, counselor, or other healing practitioners, you will need to adhere to state laws regarding licensure for that profession. Every student pursuing a career in bioenergetic healing should research their state’s requirements for licensure.


Bioenergetics salary

Salaries depend on your exact job title and whether you work at a hospital, clinic, or wellness center—as well as the size of your practice.

Many bioenergetic therapists or practitioners utilize various massage specialties through their treatment plans and massage therapist salaries may represent what a bioenergetics practitioner could earn. Take a look at massage therapists’ median annual salaries by state below to get a general idea of the pay potential:

Massage Therapists

National data

Median Salary: $46,910

Projected job growth: 20%

10th Percentile: $24,450

25th Percentile: $34,770

75th Percentile: $60,510

90th Percentile: $77,600

Projected job growth: 20%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $28,810 $17,050 $48,730
Alaska $121,120 $30,330 $154,310
Arizona $43,150 $29,160 $61,890
Arkansas $37,970 $23,440 $60,400
California $47,590 $29,270 $92,590
Colorado $47,900 $29,670 $62,600
Connecticut $53,060 $26,100 $113,830
Delaware $43,600 $24,040 $78,690
District of Columbia $47,230 $31,340 $61,250
Florida $38,600 $23,360 $73,190
Georgia $38,050 $18,050 $62,650
Hawaii $49,080 $23,260 $96,520
Idaho $47,980 $24,470 $128,110
Illinois $49,130 $23,670 $79,010
Indiana $47,960 $22,680 $80,880
Iowa $46,440 $24,580 $60,490
Kansas $39,370 $16,860 $66,060
Kentucky $48,700 $28,810 $78,560
Louisiana $29,550 $17,440 $78,990
Maine $39,200 $30,150 $77,450
Maryland $46,940 $24,440 $122,960
Massachusetts $58,190 $37,070 $97,240
Michigan $59,040 $26,040 $97,410
Minnesota $46,910 $29,130 $73,290
Mississippi $43,460 $28,310 $51,520
Missouri $36,610 $21,420 $60,450
Montana $59,380 $22,680 $82,970
Nebraska $46,640 $23,110 $79,010
Nevada $30,700 $17,720 $59,380
New Hampshire $47,980 $23,250 $77,440
New Jersey $44,870 $29,110 $61,670
New Mexico $38,330 $28,190 $79,010
New York $47,460 $31,930 $75,940
North Carolina $47,120 $22,740 $68,920
North Dakota $60,550 $30,380 $87,620
Ohio $46,490 $29,380 $76,190
Oklahoma $47,550 $26,160 $59,380
Oregon $70,300 $30,350 $94,020
Pennsylvania $46,410 $25,890 $71,500
Rhode Island $30,350 $24,540 $30,350
South Carolina $35,880 $17,440 $55,800
South Dakota $30,780 $23,340 $49,300
Tennessee $45,400 $18,850 $60,400
Texas $42,860 $22,330 $62,680
Utah $45,910 $18,020 $65,640
Vermont $47,850 $29,650 $61,340
Virginia $46,460 $21,190 $76,250
Washington $65,610 $31,150 $88,610
West Virginia $46,640 $23,340 $75,450
Wisconsin $39,300 $17,470 $61,450
Wyoming $47,820 $29,010 $61,690

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.


Is bioenergetics therapy right for you?

Students who seek to help others will find the field of bioenergetics extremely rewarding because it takes an integrated, holistic approach to mind and body. It contributes to the alleviation of tension and stress and encourages a healthy balance of physical and mental energies. 


joe edwards

Written and reported by:

Joe Edwards

Staff Writer

Updated: November 1st, 2022.

Diana Guest MFT CBT SCIBA Coordinating Trainer

With professional insights from:

Diana Guest, MFT, CBT

SCIBA Coordinating Trainer & IIBA Faculty Member