Albert Pesso (1929 – 2016)
Albert Pesso co-created, along with his wife Diane Boyden-Pesso, the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor, a widely respected interactive technique that helps clients create new memories to compensate for emotional deficits in the past.
He has been called one of the three living masters of body-based psychotherapy and was chosen to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award by the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy.
Al began his career as a dancer and choreographer, studying under the renowned Martha Graham while Diane received her training from the legendary Jose Limon and Ziegfeld Follies star, Harriet Hoctor. Al and Diane were fellow students at Bennington College, after which they married and danced together in New York City for several years.
In 1956 they established their own dance centre in Massachusetts. Five years later, the pair developed what would become the foundational theory of PBSP. As they encouraged dancers to allow their bodies to act out their inner feelings, Al and Diane observed that the resulting emotional outpouring was cathartic, but did not necessarily help the individual heal his or her emotional scars.
They went on to develop an interactive model that drew on spatial relationships, specific wording, and physical touch to provide a response from the outer world to each of the inner needs expressed by the individual. This, the pair ultimately concluded, facilitated the creation of new body-based memories to complement the memories of emotional deficits in the past. This creation of a new memory, that meets basic needs and corrects traumatic wounding – is one of the unique contributions of PBSP to the unfolding field of psychotherapy.
In the early days, both Al and Diane retained a foothold in the dance world — he as a tenured associate professor and director of the dance department at Emerson College, she on the faculty of Wheaton College, Emerson College, and Sargent College of Boston University — even as they developed and began teaching their new form of body-based psychotherapy.
In the 50 years after developing PBSP, Al served as director of Psychomotor Therapy at both McLean Hospital (Belmont, MA) and in the Pain Unit of New England Rehabilitation Hospital; as adjunct professor for California’s Fielding Institute; and as a consultant in psychiatric research at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Boston. He also taught courses on PBSP in the Harvard University continuing education program and other educational and medical institutions abroad.
Al spent much of his time on the road, training new PBSP therapists and counseling clients. Diane continued to advise on the development of training programmes and new techniques until shortly before her death in early 2016. Al died in March 2016, much missed by the PBSP community.
Clients included top executives of multinational corporations, high profile entertainers and individuals from every walk of life.
Al Pesso wrote and contributed to a dozen books, more than 50 articles, and led hundreds of seminars internationally. Countless individuals have become more resourceful and lead more fulfilled lives as a result of his acclaimed work with groups across the world.
Al was a featured speaker at the conferences of many psychology organizations, such as: the American Academy of Psychotherapists; the Association of Humanistic Psychology; the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine; the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute; the European Congress on Body Psychotherapy; the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy; the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists along with a host of others on three continents.
He also made presentations at numerous medical schools and hospitals, including Grand Rounds at Boston University Medical School.