Basic Body Awareness Therapy (BBAT)

BBAT is based on the hypothesis of the person’s lack of contact with and awareness of the body concerning physical, mental, and relational factors (Dropsy, 1973). The contact deficiency may lead to dysfunctional movement quality, pain, and reduced function. BBAT focuses on movement quality and how the movements are performed and experienced in relation to space, time, and energy (Skjaerven, Kristoffersen, and Gard, 2008). To gain more functional movement quality, you need to be present in to become aware of how you move, directing attention to healthy movement potentials.

BBAT provides a broad spectrum of training situations, including simple movement coordinations (Dropsy, 1984; Skjaerven, Gard, Sundal, and Strand, 2015).

BBAT is rooted in a “know how” tradition, focusing on movement experiences (Dewey, 1934; Duesund, 1995; Kolb, 1984). Patients suffering from musculoskeletal problems are lacking sensory-motor awareness, reflected in dysfunctional movement coordinations, coping strategies and habits in daily life. Heightened sensory-motor awareness is closely associated with the experiences of well-being, reflecting a state of general health and self-efficacy (Dropsy, 1984). In BBAT, the physiotherapist monitors the phenomena of awareness, body awareness, and movement awareness when promoting movement quality. 

A preliminary literature review performed in the stages of this project resulted in BBAT showing clinical experiences or significant effects in areas such as: 

  • Stroke (Lindvall, Anderzén, Carlsson, and Forsberg, 2016), 
  • Rheumatic diseases (Olsen and Skjaerven, 2016), 
  • Traumatized refugees (Madsen, Carlsson, Nordbrandt, and Jensen, 2016; Stade, Skammeritz, Hjortkaer, and Carlsson, 2015), 
  • Major depression (Danielsson and Rosberg, 2015), 
  • Chronic whiplash associated disorders (Seferiadis, Ohlin, Billhult, and Gunnarsson, 2016), 
  • Eating disorders (Catalan- Matamoros, 2007; Catalan-Matamoros et al., 2011; Thörnborg and Mattsson, 2010), 
  • Fibromyalgia and chronic pain (Gard, 2005; Mannerkorpi and Gard, 2003), 
  • Psychiatric care (Gyllensten, Ekdahl, and Hansson, 2009; Gyllensten, Hansson, and Ekdahl, 2003; Hedlund, 2014; Hedlund and Gyllensten, 2013; Johnsen and Råheim, 2010; Mattsson, Egberg, Armelius, and Mattsson, 1995; Roxendal, 1985), 
  • Borderline personality disorders (Skatteboe, Friis, Hope, and Vaglum, 1989), 
  • Chronic pelvic pain (Mattsson, Wikman, Dahlgren, and Mattsson, 2000; Mattsson et al., 1997, 1998; Olsen et al., 2017), 
  • Long-lasting chronic pain (Bergström, Ejelöva, Mattsson, and Stålnacke, 2014), and 
  • Group physiotherapy (Klingberg-Olsson, Lundgren, and Lindström, 2000; Leirvåg, Pedersen, and Karterud, 2010; Skatteboe, Friis, Hope, and Vaglum, 1989). 

Furthermore, studies have been conducted on the following: 

  • Motivational factors (Fjellman-Wiklund, Grip, Karlsson, and Sundelin, 2004; Grahn, Ekdahl, and Borgquist, 2000; Mannerkorpi and Gard, 2003) 
  • Embodied identity (Hedlund and Gyllensten, 2010, 2013);
  • Hip arthrosis (Strand et al., 2016). 

Also, studies on reliability and validity of evaluation tools in BBAT have been performed (Gyllensten, 2001; Gyllensten, Ekdahl, and Hansson, 1999; Hedlund, Gyllensten, Waldegren, and Hansson, 2016; Roxendal, 1987; Skatteboe, 2000; Skjaerven, Gard, Sundal, and Strand, 2015).

A recent published study unpacks phenomena implemented in the context of BBAT. The main findings center on phenomena of movement quality, movement awareness and therapeutic process, providing a base for a movement awareness domain in physiotherapy. The body and movement awareness approach brings the person, the lived body and its movements together in the therapeutic process. BBAT is unique because of its multi-perspective approach to movement and its broad scope of daily life movements, lying, sitting, standing, relational and walking, and its relation to health and self-efficacy. The patient’s awareness of movement habits is the basis for the physiotherapist`s choice of therapeutic strategies.

What is BBAT?

BBAT is a movement awareness training program, a physiotheraputic approach, aimed at re-establishing new movement habits and ways of being, including reflective talk on the direct movement experiences to enhance learning and insight. The professional therapeutic approach provides reliable and valide assessment tools as well as structured strategies for individual and group therapeutic settings. When movement principles in BBAT is implemented in physiotherapy, presence in and awareness of movement, is a core in therapy. The approach is person-centered and aims towards promoting health, with coping strategies as central in therapy. To enhance the contact with ”the self” the physiotherapist arranges for situations that focus on basic movement principles. BBAT and its principles can be implemented into clinical practice, health promotion and preventive health care.

Everyday movements – core movements for personal use

BBAT includes movement coordinations, situations and approaches designed to personally involve the patient during the period of treatment. The BBAT-movements represent examples from everyday-movements, lying, sitting, standing, walking, relational movements and massage (touch). The movements are simple, small and soft, meant to foster more functional movement quality and habits with the aim for the patient to come in contact with, getting insight in and learning new movement strategies. The therapy situations do not require other equipment than a floor, a mat and a chair. The physiotherapist acts as a guide, bridging the therapy situation with the everyday life and needs. A treatment contract is developed in dialogue with the patient, focusing on how the movement principles can be adjusted and practiced at home, at work etc. Use of a diary is a concrete and helpful tool to strengthen the learning process and influences the therapeutic outcome.

An eye for movement quality and health

Basic Body Awareness Therapy is well kown for its focus on movement quality, ”how the movements are performed in relation to space, time and energy”, movement patterns and experiences. Four perspectives are incorporated in BBAT as a framework and basis for assessment and therapy, and physical, physiological, psyco-socio-cultural and existential aspects are equally considered. Postural stability, free breathing and mental awareness are key elements, when integrated into movements, promoting more functional movement quality, wellbeing and health. An often reported quote by the patients is ”I experience being more coherent, strong and safe”. By emphasising movement aspects into the movement learning, the patient can gain more functional form, flow, rhythm, energy and intention in their coordinations.


Scientific articles from Liv Helvik Skjaerven, professor in Physiotherapy, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Department of Function and Health, Bergen, Norway.

Curriculum of Master of Physiotherapy in Basic Body Awareness Methodology at University of Almeria, Spain. Liv Helvik Skjaerven and Daniel Catalan-Matamoros. In:

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