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Rubenfeld Synergy

Rubenfeld synergy


The Rubenfeld synergy method is a hybrid of various bodywork and psychotherapy techniques, aimed at accessing stored emotions and memories. This psychophysical approach uses talk, touch, and movement to remove tensions, imbalances, and energy blocks.


Rubenfeld synergy is a trademarked system for mind-body integration developed during the early 1960s by former orchestra and coral conductor Ilana Rubenfeld. A graduate of the Julliard School of Music, where she studied with Pablo Casals, she played viola, oboe, and piano. Later, she became a conductor and served as assistant to Leopold Stokowshi. Back and shoulder spasms from her work set her on a path seeking healing for her own pain and eventually a system to help others as well. Her method incorporates elements from:

  • The body/mind teachings of F. M. Alexander and Moshe Feldenkrais .
  • The hypnotherapy methods of Milton Erickson.
  • The Gestalt psychotherapy theory and techniques of Fritz and Laura Perls.

Rubenfeld was an Alexander teacher and trainer who studied with the Perls, trained also with Moshe Feldenkrais , and became one of his first teachers in America. Her synthesis of the various elements became Rubenfeld synergy method after Buckminster Fuller suggested the word synergy to her in 1975.


Reported benefits include recovery from physical and emotional trauma, release of tension, improved ease of movement, pain management, as well as improved body image, self-esteem, and mind-body awareness.


A typical Rubenfeld synergy session lasts between 40 and 60 minutes. The number and frequency of these sessions is determined by the specific needs of the patient. Rubenfeld synergy may involve gentle touch with "open and listening hands," but the patient may remain fully clothed. Clients may sit or lay down, or may move about during the session. A wide range of techniques may be used by the practitioner, including dream work, aura analysis, sound, imagination, breathing exercises, humor, spirituality, and verbal expression. Practitioners say that motions and memories can be "stored" in any part of the body as energy blocks, tensions, and imbalancesholding patterns. For example, sexually abused women are thought to often store memories from their experiences of abuse in their pelvis. The patient is considered an equal partner in the healing process. There may be considerable emphasis on a lifestyle governed by choices instead of habits.


Rubenfeld synergy may involve substantial physical contact. Patients should be aware that traditional psychotherapists often frown upon such touching because of the risk of inducing improper fantasies. As with all therapies involving touch, it is important to ensure that a practitioner is certified to reduce risk of improper behavior.

Side effects

There are few, if any, known side effects.

Research & general acceptance

Some aspects of Rubenfeld synergy method, including psychotherapy techniques, are known and generally respected by the medical establishment. Other aspects, such as aura analysis, are well outside the boundaries of traditional medicine. Medical practitioners recognize that Rubenfeld techniques may promote relaxation , but some worry that false hope may be given in cases of serious illness.

Training & certification

Training and certification are offered through the Rubenfeld Synergy Center in New York City. There are no formal prerequisites for admission. Classes have included physicians, massage therapists, physical therapists, psychotherapists, nurses, and even actors, musicians, and business executives. Ilana Rubenfeld reserves the right to interview all applicants for training, and certification requires both her approval and that of her faculty. Training takes place over four years, and consists of three seven-day sessions a year, combined with three one-day regional meetings a year. The center believes that its trainees must themselves experience the Rubenfeld method, so they are required to participate in 20 private sessions a year with a Rubenfeld practitioner. Graduate practitioners are referred to as synergists. The Rubenfeld Synergy Center also offers post-graduate training.



Rubenfeld, Ilana. The Listening Hand: Self-Healing Through the Rubenfeld Synergy Method of Talk and Touch. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 2000.


Canadian Association of Rubenfeld Synergists. 112 Lund St., Richmond Hill, ON, Canada L4C 5V9. (905) 883-3158.

National Association of Rubenfeld Synergists. 1000 River Road, Suite 8H, Belmar, NJ 07719. (800) 484-3250 code 8516.

Rubenfeld Synergy Center. 45 West 60th Street, Apt. 11A, New York, NY 10023. (212) 315-3533.

David Helwig

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