Embodying the Couple Relationship: Kinesthetic Empathy and Somatic Mirroring in Couples Therapy

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Kinesthetic sensitivity plays a central role in the development of empathy and in understanding others’ intentions, skills that greatly affect spousal satisfaction. The present study examines how, in the couple relationship, somatic mirroring of the other’s physical expressions creates an emotional experience in the relationship, and in couples therapy, sets processes in motion. Such understanding is critical in couples therapy to harness the embodied knowledge needed to address issues in areas where verbal discussion is insufficient. Nine couples (n = 18) participated in 12 couples therapy sessions that incorporated somatic mirroring. The sessions were documented on video and through the personal diaries kept by the therapists and patients. The participants related to four main themes: Somatic mirroring (a) creates comfort and emotional availability, (b) contributes to identifying and labeling feeling, (c) contributes to arousing intimacy and desire, and (d) avoiding somatic mirroring is characteristic of moments of conflict in the relationship. To create a bridge between the research and the clinic, in the Discussion section methods for connecting with embodied knowledge in couples therapy are examined, with the implications of having familiarity with such knowledge on the intimate relationship and the couple’s communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-147
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Couple and Relationship Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Dance movement psychotherapy (DMP)
  • embodied knowledge
  • kinesthetic empathy
  • somatic mirroring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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