Who founded Sophrology?
Sophrology was founded by Dr Alfonso Caycedo in 1960. He was an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical School of Barcelona and a doctor, neurologist and psychiatrist at Barcelona Hospital Clinic.
Born in Colombia, Dr Caycedo travelled the world in search of new answers to provide better mental healthcare. He felt that modern society wasn’t supporting individuals in connecting to their full potential as humans because they were conditioned towards a certain way of thinking or relating to the world. He felt that more research into consciousness and how to positively influence it towards balance was needed. It is no wonder then that the meaning of the word “Sophrology” is “a study of consciousness in harmony.”
How Sophrology Was Formed
Dr Caycedo wanted to find an alternative form of therapy for psychiatric patients to avoid traumatic interventions like electroshock therapy. He spent his lifetime studying the human consciousness and how it can change its states and development.
Striving to offer a gentle therapeutic approach to his patients, Caycedo drew from his experience as a neuropsychiatrist, his studies into Greek philosophy, phenomenology and autogenic training, and his travels to explore practices that were used to influence consciousness like Yoga, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism.
In order to bring more harmony, Sophrology works with the mind-body connection using an approach backed by science to support patients in their journey towards enjoying a better quality of life. Caycedo coined the term “Sophrology” in 1960 and created the first Sophrology clinic in Madrid in the same year.
Dr Caycedo defined three main states of consciousness:
- Pathological Consciousness: When there is an element of disease or instability.
- Ordinary Consciousness: The day-to-day way of being.
- Sophronic Consciousness: When there is a balanced and empowered state of consciousness.
The practice of Sophrology supports transformation by learning to positively engage with body and mind through:
- Noticing sensations and perceptions without judgement
- Learning to observe tension, emotion and how to positively deal with them
- Developing more awareness of the body through movement
- Learning how to use visualisation to empower ourselves towards goals
- Looking for positive images and pleasant sensations
- Building confidence here and now and in relation to future events
- Developing perspective and the values the individual wants to live by
As you progress in your practice, you may reach a more profound connection with your body and mind and discover a new reality.
There are two ways to use the practice of Sophrology. It can be used to support a specific issue related to modern life, for example managing stress or anxiety, aiding restful sleep or preparing for an interview or a competition. Or for those who are interested to go beyond and enjoy a journey of self-discovery then Sophrology offers 12 progressive Degrees. Each Degree includes a set of physical and mental exercises supporting people as they discover new resources and awareness.
Sophrology can be practised in individual sessions with a Sophrologist who tailors the practice for the person’s individual needs or in a group with a common objective.
As part of the Sophrology method, after each practice, the person is encouraged to write down the sensations and feelings they experienced during the practice as a way to further enhance awareness of their process. This is called the phenodescription.
Dr Caycedo and His Research
As part of his research process, Dr Caycedo studied hypnosis and relaxation techniques, in particular, Autogenic Training, which was developed by Johannes Heinrich Schultz. During the 60s, he also travelled to Switzerland to study with Professor Ludwig Binswanger, a renowned phenomenological psychiatrist.
What was missing for him was a tool that could be practised by his patients to feel more in control of their journey and improve their daily life. So Dr Caycedo and his wife, a Yoga teacher, then travelled to India, Japan and Nepal for 2 years to study how Yoga and its asanas, Yoga of sound, meditation and contemplation, Zen and Tibetan meditation and some of the philosophies behind these practices were positively influencing consciousness and how he could adapt these exercises and principles for the Western world to help individuals live in a more balanced and harmonious relationship with themselves and the world.
Between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, Dr Caycedo worked in Barcelona at the Faculty of Medicine. During that time Caycedo developed Sophrology further by adding several Degrees and embarked on a programme to popularise it. He trained many fellow Doctors to use it and Sophrology quickly took off beyond the medical world to be used in sports and educational environments first in Switzerland and then in France.
During the 80s Caycedo also focused on social responsibility and travelled back to his native Colombia to set up a charity making Sophrology available to disadvantaged people and to inaugurate an international Sophrology school.
By the late 80s Sophrology started taking different forms and different directions, which concerned Dr Caycedo who wanted to keep the original Sophrology principles and exercises as true and consistent as possible to avoid the risk of losing the coherence and uniqueness of his work.
In November 1988 he led the 4th Sophrology World Congress in Andorra. Caycedo noticed that Sophrology was becoming splintered and its identity was getting lost. As a result, Caycedian Sophrology was born as a discipline to retain the essence of Sophrology.
From 1992 onwards Caycedian Sophrology schools bloomed around Europe, notably in France, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy and Belgium so everyone with or without a medical degree could be trained as a Caycedian Sophrologist.
Throughout the 90s Dr Caycedo worked on finalising a structure for Sophrology, which is now the current form with 12 Degrees. Today, various medical institutions and academies have furthered his scientific research which you can learn about here.
Sophrology in Today’s Society
More than sixty years have passed since Sophrology was first founded and it is still as relevant as it was in the 1960s. In fact, Sophrology is still in its infancy; from being a strictly medical treatment, Sophrology has expanded and is used alongside more traditional medical approaches in various fields including sports performance, education, corporate or well-being.
In today’s society Sophrology can be a valuable toolkit to help deal with stress, sleep, health issues, prepare for birth, and give guidance for self-awareness and self-development. There is still so much more to explore about Sophrology, both in terms of Sophrology’s potential and in terms of uncovering our own inner resources as human beings.
These days, Caycedo’s daughter Dr Natalia Caycedo carries on the work of her father. Now a Doctor in Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, she leads the International Academy of Caycedian Sophrology; she also founded Sofrocay, an association dedicated to the study and promotion of Caycedian Sophrology.
“Sophrology is a science studying consciousness in its balanced state, a discipline to develop an individual’s values, inspired by existential phenomenology.” – Natalia Caycedo
BeSophro’s Founder, Dominique’s, Journey
Dominique started Sophrology at a very young age. By 24 years old, she had intensively practised the 12 Degrees of Sophrology and it had completely changed her mindset and experience of daily life.
“It was after many years of practising Sophrology for myself that I decided to train to become a Caycedian Sophrologist. I studied first in Switzerland with Dr. Raymond Abrezol and then I knew that I wanted to continue my training with Dr. Alfonso Caycedo. I remember feeling a mix of huge excitement and worry about meeting him.
When I finally attended my first lecture with him, I discovered someone totally dedicated to his creation and who really believed in the infinite resource that consciousness is. A highly scientific researcher, fully grounded but also who was able to see beyond, to bring his vision for the world, a clearly knowledgeable man.
He was very courteous and I always found that his eyes were a mix of mystery and gentleness, the mystery that you often find in the eyes of those whose lives have given them a kind of wisdom.
His voice had a very low pitch that immediately allowed me to connect deeply during the practice. Being guided by the person who is at the source of the method was an amazing experience and I feel very fortunate and grateful to have crossed his path.”
After Dominique’s privilege of training with Alfonso Caycedo, she went on to launch BeSophro and has also co-founded The Sophrology Network, where Sophrologists from different backgrounds and training work together to raise awareness around the benefits of Sophrology, in the spirit that Sophrologists, as practitioners, are all continuously expanding their knowledge and need each other’s support to thrive.
Dominique’s work, notably through her best-selling and first widely published book on Sophrology in English, The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology, is instrumental in spreading the practice beyond Continental Europe. She is hoping that many more people can be empowered and find more meaning in daily life through what has been and still is such a valuable tool for her life.
If you are interested in starting your Sophrology journey, then why not try one of our online courses? We have tailored courses for: