eyeballing the balls

Paul Bindrim popularised nude psychotherapy in the 60s and 70s. Ian Nicholson explains further*

image found here

Bindrim was a licensed psychologist with academic qualifications from Columbia and Duke University and he was careful to package his therapeutic innovations in the language of scientific advancement.  He had spent most of his career on the edge of professional respectability and he was thus not especially troubled by the idea of being at odds with mainstream psychology.

this image has nothing to do with mainstream psychology, or has it?

Bindrim was convinced that the “natural state” of humanity had been lost and that disrobing would reestablish a healthy connection with one’s body and the true self. Where possible, the sessions were held at sites that contained just the right blend of modernist comfort and mystical possibility. Bindrim sought out locations that combined “abundant trees and wildlife” with the conveniences of a “high class resort hotel”

modernist comfort found here

Drawing on his experience as an encounter group leader, he carefully structured the sessions and alternated the pace. The sessions usually consisted of 15–25 participants who paid $100 per person for the weekend or $45 for a 24-hour marathon. Participants were invited to “eyeball” each other (stare into each other’s eyes at close range) and then to respond in some physical way (hugging, wrestling, etc.)

image found here

Bodies were exposed and scrutinized with a science-like rigor. Particular attention was paid to revealing the most private areas of the body and mind—all with a view to freeing the self from socially imposed constraints. “This,” Bindrim asserted gesturing to a participant’s genitalia and anus, “is where it’s at. 

Determined to squelch the “exaggerated sense of guilt” in the body, Bindrim devised an exercise called “crotch eyeballing” in which participants were instructed to look at each others genitals and disclose the sexual experiences they felt most guilty about while lying naked in a circle with their legs in the air. In this position, Bindrim insisted “you soon realize that the head end and the tail end are indispensable parts of the same person, and that one end is about as good as the other”

image found here

Although Bindrim worked hard to package his therapy as a legitimate science, reporters approached the topic with a combination of prurient fascination and skepticism. Information about the size, duration, and gender composition of the marathon was reported in detail as was the policy on sexual activity. At the same time, many reporters had difficulty taking the issue seriously. Bill Sluis, a reporter for the SantaBarbara News, concluded his story on nude therapy by asking facetiously whether Bindrim might have discovered the way to end the Vietnam War. “How about getting Ho Chi Minh and LBJ together?” Sluis asked. “I’d love to,” Bindrim said. “I would love to have them experience each other in a nude therapy session.”

LBJ found here

Sensing a trend, and undoubtedly anticipating a spike in newsstand sales, Psychology Today put nude therapy on its front page using a racy picture of a naked woman with large breasts and the caption “The Quest for the Authentic Self.” Feasting on a steady diet of zealous enthusiasm, Bindrim became increasingly enamored with his own therapeutic skill. “Frigid females, impotent males and sexual exhibitionists have become, at least temporarily symptom free. Arthritics have been relieved of pain. Long standing bachelors who could not commit themselves emotionally have married” he said.

image found here (NSFW)

Nude psychotherapy’s claim to professional legitimacy was damaged by a gradual shift in public attitudes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Although his work had once been greeted with enthusiastic endorsements and outraged denunciations, there was now silence. With no fresh ideas, and with therapeutic nudism now constructed as an “unethical” sexual act, Bindrim was soon forgotten by a field that he had formerly enthralled.

* this is an excerpt from a scholarly look at nude psychotherapy. I admit to having extracted the most salacious bits for their comedic value

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37 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How weird — I was just reading about that in The Psychopath Test (the book is much more interesting than the title would lead you to believe).

    • Are you talking about the Jon Ronson book? I’ve read a lengthy excerpt – it was fascinating!

      • That’s the one. Also, you might want to check your email…

  2. His whole alleged scientific premises have “comedic value” How could any form of immodest behavior prancing around letting it all hang out improve anyone’s self esteem, self respect, and such as well as respect for others? In such things as these lies real humanity. It is not a matter of whether to wear clothing or not.

  3. Modernist comfort, abundant trees and wildlife? I hope he sorted the aircon, or everyone’s bits would have been too cold to eyeball! It’s bloody cold down South today!

    • It’s winter here today but it’s 20 degrees and beautifully sunny

  4. I recall reading(forget where, but it was back when this was “in”) that one of the points he wanted to make was that, unlike Leary’s approach to self-discovery, nudism was safe and healthy.
    It’s a treasure trove for limerick writers and punsters, isn’t it!

  5. Crotch eyeballing – it’s the cure for what ails you.

    Or maybe not.

    • Generally, I’d agree with the latter category

  6. I have been working for some time on a holistic treatment combining therapeutic nudism a la Bindrim, with the laughter therapy developed by the internationally renowned Enda Junkins, LCSW, LMFT, BCD.

    Last week, I tried it out. I went into my Staff Room and removed all my clothes – and everyone laughed at me.

    • haha Affer. Too funny. I would be sure not to combine those therapies if I ever became a psychologist.

    • any more information on Edna Junkins? I’d like to do a post on her 😉

  7. i think there’s something to this… i’m going to start preaching the gospel of nude therapy. but only when i’m surrounded by supermodels and athletes. not something i want to see practiced at the local WalMart.

    • I’d like Lars Mikklesen and Ian McShane to attend my sessions

  8. Thank Goodness I didn’t start my Psych nurse training until the 80’s. There would have been far too much of me to bare….

    • Do you have a blog Princess?

  9. The picture of the buzzy thing on the eyeball is very disturbing as are some of the images that are now in my mind *breaks open a packet of gingernuts in an attempt to recover*

  10. I wonder if Columbia and/or Duke use any of this to promote their Psyc. Departments…

  11. Just one of the bizarre therapies that have been fashionable for a while. Like Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream therapy, which was briefly popular in the seventies and then faded away through lack of proven effectiveness. There’s no limit to human gullibility.

  12. I admit to having extracted the most salacious bits – NO!

    Go on then YES!!!

  13. Weird concept ! but an interesting read.

  14. Hmmmm… quite a fruity topic it would seem, so much in fact that I’m going to invent a saying about yoghurts.

    Well, more of a fromage phrase really.

    • Make that frottage and I’m in!

  15. One end is about as good as the other.

    Seems imminently practical. 🙂

    • I have my preferences…..

  16. Glad to hear that trend is over.

  17. I don’t think it really took off 😉

  18. “For comedic value?” Outrageous, i was reading for educational benefit

    • well there’s that too…..

  19. It’s a shame it fell foul of a new brand of puritanism

    • so you’d give it a whirl if it were still around….?

  20. It sounds like a Woody Allen film waiting to happen.

    • ah yes, Woody in the good old days

  21. Probably off topic, but I find the bee on the eyball very, very fascinating!

  22. Is it a coincidence that your last post was titled “Spreadeagled”?


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