Who is Prof. Waldo Bernasconni?

Professor Waldo A. Bernasconi was born in Lugano, Switzerland in 1945. He graduated in journalism, clinical psychology, anthropology, and medicine: psychoanthropology (Antioch University, Yellow Springs, Ohio), psychology (International college, Los Angeles, California), Ph.D. in behavioral science (La Jolla University, San Diego, California). Taught as a Reichian therapist (vegetotherapy), in the 70s he became a representative of the International Institute for Bioenergetics “Wilhelm Reich” in Switzerland, and later on the “Facilitator Development Institute” of Carl Rogers.

Prof. Bernasconi also specialized in sexology and sex therapy (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists), short-term psychotherapeutic methods (CISSPAT, Padova, Italy), behavioral therapy (Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany). He was a lecturer in clinical psychology at the European Graduate School in Maastricht, Netherlands, a guest lecturer in cultural anthropology at the State University in Magdeburg, Germany, supervisor, during the 90s, in a post-graduate program in analytical psychotherapy at the Medical University in Sofia, Bulgaria, guest lecturer at the State University in Rijeka, Croatia, and director of the post-graduate programs in clinical psychology at the Westdeutsche Akademie, Mülheim, Germany.


In 1980, he established the International Neo-Reichian School in Lugano, Switzerland. The school’s purpose was to train specialists in body psychotherapy in the particular approach of the Neo-Reichian analytical psychotherapy that incorporates knowledge from the fields of anthropology, psychoanthropology, social psychology, analytical psychology, general medicine, neurosciences, psychosomatics, etc. 

Bernasconi combined the work of a practicing psychotherapist with the work of an academic, educator, and writer. He is the creator of the analytical body psychotherapeutic method “Therapy of The Five Movements”. Unlike all other Neo-Reichian approaches that use Reich’s work on the muscular armor and the correspondence between muscular blockages and character types, Bernasconi also saw a connection between the muscular blockages, the character types, and the specific behavioral models that these blockages influence and which develop in the evolutive (developmental) phases in which character types are formed. The five movements are synonymous with the behavioral models that are learned and acquired during each of the developmental phases of early childhood. The analytical part in Prof. Bernasconi’s therapy is combined with specific physical exercises and experiential simulations whose goal it is to activate or deactivate the blocked muscle groups and to extract the psychic and emotional contents that have accumulated in them. 


In essence, this method is an analytical one but the body work allows unconscious traumatic contents to be drawn out into awareness and to be worked through. This clears the way to developing a healthy approach to satisfying one’s needs, achieving pleasure and self-awareness. All therapeutic schools use the cognitive level as a starting point for doing work on the emotional level. Apart from the cognitive, body psychotherapy uses one other “entry point” to the emotional level – the body level, in which traumatic emotional contents are “stored”.


Neo-Reichian therapy includes studying, understanding and healing people with psychological, existential and psychosomatic problems. A main philosophical postulate of Waldo Bernasconi is that our deep essence, our nature, is healthy. He appealed to spontaneity, naturalness, and wholeness. The method created by him is covers a broad spectrum and is efficient in work with both psychological as well as psychosomatic problems. His contribution to preventive work in the field of psychosomatic health is immense. For many years prof. Bernasconi headed a clinic for psychogenic eating disorders in Lugano, Switzerland where he had outstanding therapeutic results due to this specialized form of analytical body psychotherapy in conjunction with the classical therapeutic protocol. Thanks to this, hundreds of patients with eating disorders were restored to life and health. Among them were a number of Bulgarian women and girls who can attest to the efficiency of the Neo-Reichian therapeutic approach in comparison to many other therapeutic approaches.


But in the professional way of every therapist there can also be daunting and dangerous challenges.


Throughout his professional life, prof. Bernasconi worked in Switzerland. His clinic for eating disorders was also based there. In 2016 prof. Bernasconi was convicted in Italy for sexual and professional abuse on charges found in the diary of an Italian patient who commited suicide after leaving the clinic. The psychiatric examination of the diary of the deceased woman concluded that prof. Bernasconi was innocent but the court did not accept the examination on the grounds that it dealt with a diary and not the testimony of a living witness. 

What happened to prof. Bernasconi, even though we are not familiar with the details, since we have been autonomous for over 15 years, nor do we have access to the court documents, is cause for all of us – his followers – to place ethical principles at the forefront of our work. The European Association of Body Psychotherapy familiarized itself with the case and concluded that our further development of the Neo-Reichian method by us – prof. Bernasconi’s followers, and our school’s autonomy have made us stronger and more careful in our profession. 


In March 2018 prof. Bernasconi passed away but he left thousands of grateful students, followers and patients behind. Apart from an outstanding theorist and innovator in the field of body psychotherapy, prof. Bernasconi was also an exceptionally erudite, cordial, dedicated and humane therapist, an educator and a personal example for all of his students and clients.


The therapeutic method of the Neo-Reichian analytical psychotherapy was created on the basis of the work and teaching of S. Freud, C. G. Jung, W. Reich, A. Lowen, J. Pierrakos, F. Perls, C. Rogers, J. Moreno, and others, and it was expanded upon by the innovative ideas of prof. Bernasconi. This method has existed in Bulgaria for 25 years. It has been approved by the Bulgarian Association for Psychotherapy (BAP) and in 2012 it was accredited, and in 2019 reaccredited, by the Forum of Body Psychotherapy Organizations, part of the European Association for Body Psychotherapy (EABP). This was done after years of careful monitoring of our work which encompasses: theory, practice, lectures, training workshops, compliance with the code of ethics, the institute’s lecturers, individual therapy, and supervision.


Professor Waldo Bernasconi is the author of numerous monographs on the subjects of the significance of colors, anthropological psychology, bioenergetics, and “Therapy of the Five Movements” – the specific therapeutic method created by him. He is also the author of two diagnostic instruments: the color bioenergetic test BBCT (Bernasconi Bioenergetic Color Test) and BBI (Bernasconi Bioenergetic Inventory).


All works by prof. Bernasconi have been translated into Bulgarian and are being used and studied by the students at the Institute. Six of his books have also been published and are available to the wider public.


Fundamental works:


  • “Cromoterapia”, Ed. Ottaviano, 1980 (translated in various languages)
  • “Il BBCT: Bernasconi Bioenergetic Color Test”, Ed. IRC-press, 1985/riedizione 2005 (translated in Bulgarian)
  • “Colore e Bioenergia”, Ed. Ottaviano, 1986
  • “Il potere della comunicazione”, Ed. Gli Archi, 1987 (translated in French)
  • “La terapia dei cinque movimenti”, Ed. IRC-press, 1992 (translated in Bulgarian)
  • “Id: storie dell’evoluzione”, Ed. IRC-press, 1994
  • “L’uomo a cassetti”, Ed. IRC-press, 1996 (translated in Bulgarian)
  • “Come curarsi con la medicina alternativa”, Ed. Mosaico, 1997 (translated in various languages)
  • “Anoressia, bulimia, obesità da iperfagia”, Ed. Italian University press, 1999 (translated in Bulgarian)
  • “La nevrosi di potere”, Ed. IRC-press, 1999 (translated in Bulgarian)
  • “Teorie neoreichiane”, Ed. IRC-press, 2003 (translated in Bulgarian)
  • “Perchè proprio io?”, Ed. Forum Crisalide, 2004
  • “Ecce homo nevroticus normalis!”, Ed. IRC-press, 2005 (translated in Bulgarian)


Honorary titles:


  • Award of Merit and Gold Medal, State University of Rijeka, Faculty of Medicine (for researches in the field of psychoanthropology)
  • Gold Medal, Ecoforum for Peace (United Nation Peace Messenger), Sofia (for contribution to the work in the sphere of the ecology of the spirit)
  • Verdienstmedaille “Hannes von An der Lan”, Academia Alpina Medicinae Intergralis (for researches on the effect of colour over the living cells in the human organism)
  • Doctor “Honoris Causa” of Psychology, Newport University, Newport (for formulation and creating innovative theories concerning the “structure of the Self”)