A Bioenergetics Pioneer -
a conversation with Alice Ladas
In my opinion, it is an example of conflict and ambivalence, created by IBA founders and leaders, my Dad Al Lowen included, that has contributed to the difficulty in presenting the Bioenergetic work to the world at large.
The fact that one of the central points of contention revolved around a question of female sexuality: the role of the clitoris, and specifically female ejaculation, is not surprising. While the truth of that question has no bearing on the validity or efficacy of Bioenergetics as a modality of psychotherapy, it tremendously affected the Bioenergetic Community and its members, most certainly Alice, at the time. Similar affects continue even today within the community.
In the end Alice never understood the reasons for her non-acceptance. My belief is that it was an unfortunate clash of ideologies, not an issue in reality.
While it is important to assure that Bioenergetic trainers and practitioners are both adequately trained, and sufficiently grounded and knowing of their own selves, it is equally important that leaders of Bioenergetics (or any group) recognize and do not act out their own narcissistic or psychopathic ideological agendas. Ideologies are little more than collective illusions. It is the problem we all face with the leaders of government, business, and institutions today: narcissism and psychopathy reign supreme; in fact, it is celebrated and cultivated in the media.
The history of Bioenergetics is intertwined with the freedom movements of the last century, including the “sexual revolution,” the women’s movement, alternative health and medicine, and the “human potential” movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Alice Ladas was there.
We at the Foundation look forward to exploring these issues in the future. For now, we hope you enjoy this profile of Alice Kahn Ladas, Ed. D.
Watch the full interview below!
I am pleased to see The Alexander Lowen Foundation present a historical and educational feature: a profile of Alice Kahn Ladas, Ed. D. Active in Bioenergetics in the 1950s, she continues her activism today.
Alice’s story is particularly interesting. Despite her strong early involvement with Lowen, Pierrakos, Walling and the Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis (IBA), inter-personal and academic conflicts regrettably precluded Alice’s acceptance as faculty member in the IBA, even as she continued her association and activism during the following decades.
“Who we are is demonstrated in what we look like, how we move, and what our expressions are.”
Dr. Ladas speaks about Alexander Lowen's contributions to psychiatry, new awards for Body-psychotherapy research, women’s sexuality, and the way to bring Bioenergetics into the main-stream.
“I was always interested in women being able to own their own bodies and use their bodies the way they wanted.”
Our conversation with Dr. Ladas continues, exploring her disagreements with Alexander Lowen, the women of Bioenergetics, and the evolution of the women’s movement.
“I work with words and I work with the body.”
Dr. Ladas concludes by speaking about nutrition, health, and integrating Bioenergetics with other modalities in therapy.
Interviewed by Yaniv Gafner for The Alexander Lowen Foundation
In this conversation, best-selling author and Bioenergetics pioneer, Alice Kahn Ladas, Ed.D., speaks about the development of Bioenergetics and the ways to bring Alexander Lowen’s ground-breaking work in psychobiology into the main-stream. With the affirmation of recent neuroscience findings, Dr. Ladas makes the case for new body-psychotherapy research.
Recognizing the importance of Alexander Lowen’s work, Dr. Ladas was instrumental in the creation of the Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis (IBA) in the 1950s, and facilitated the publishing of Dr. Lowen’s first book, The Physical Dynamics of Character Structure (Later published as The Language of the Body). Read the first original informational brochure of the IBA >>
In 1970, when the women of Bioenergetics began to meet separately from the men, she served as secretary in ten of those meetings. Despite her active role, Dr. Ladas had her disagreements with Dr. Lowen, and was never admitted as a faculty member of the Institute.
The challenges that Dr. Ladas faced along the way reveal striking parallels with the emergence of the women’s movement of the 20th Century, reflecting some difficulties that continue to exist for women today.
Dr. Ladas is a mother, grandmother, a social worker, sex therapist, body-psychotherapist, and a licensed psychologist. She established Lamaze education in the U.S. And in 1982, she co-authored “The G Spot and Other Discoveries about Human Sexuality”, which became an international bestseller. She also wrote ‘Using Goals in Bioenergetic Analysis’, ‘Breastfeeding: The less Available Option’, and many other scientific and popular articles.
Dr. Ladas has been the chair of the Research Committee of the US Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP) since 1999. In 2008, the USABP honored Dr. Ladas by naming its research award The Alice Kahn Ladas Research Award in honor of her tireless efforts to further Body Psychotherapy research.
In 2011, Dr. Ladas was the recipient of the Smith College Medal for her achievements in helping found the field of body-psychotherapy and recognizing that “thoughts, words and attitudes take place within our bodies.” Read the full Citation from Smith College >>
This past October, at the 21st International Conference of the IIBA in San Diego, CA, Dr. Ladas gave a speech entitled ‘Back to Basics of Bioenergetics’, carrying her message of turning words into actions and the need for more body-psychotherapy research. Read the full speech here >>
Dr. Ladas exemplifies the diverse nature of the Bioenergetics community. A vibrant and open community, which includes therapists, patients, and people from all walks of life. A community building on Alexander Lowen’s ideas and principles while incorporating new methods and approaches for therapy, bodywork, health and being in this world.
Today, Dr. Ladas continues to practice as a Somatic Psychologist in Santa Fe, New Mexico and New York City.
On Feb. 23, 2011, Dr. Ladas received the Smith College Medal, which is awarded to "those alumnae who, in the judgment of the trustees, exemplify in their lives and work the true purpose of a liberal arts education.
The Citation from Smith College
"Before Second Wave feminism, before women’s and gender studies, and well before the Pill, you embraced a radical notion: women are sexual beings and their sexuality is their own. Raised in a society discomfited by the body and its functions, you resolved to educate American women in childbirth and breastfeeding, teaching the first Lamaze class in the United States and advancing the work of the La Leche League through your doctoral dissertation at Columbia.
Body-psychotherapy, a field you helped to found, recognizes that “thoughts, words and attitudes take place within our bodies” a vital therapeutic acknowledgement for those healing from trauma. For advancing rigorous research on human sexuality, for speaking boldly to an often prudish culture, your alma mater is proud to honor your achievements and award you the Smith College Medal.”