Anthroposophic Psychotherapy for Edema

Matthias Girke

Last update: 04.04.2019

The mental and emotional complaints that patients express can be caused by their physical symptoms—such as anxiety in dyspnea, tension in ascites, heaviness and concerned awareness of the body’s changing shape in anasarca. These can lead to suffering, hopelessness, fear, anxiety and hatred of the disease, as well as despair. Many patients struggle to find a perspective for looking at their situation, and hunger for spiritual values and a more spiritual orientation. Our accompaniment of such patients should therefore include physical symptoms, mental and emotional complaints, as well as incorporating spiritual perspectives.

Therapeutic recommendations in talk therapy

Edemas are associated with weakened life processes and with a loosening of the patient’s soul and spirit from the body. This altered activity is often perceived as fatigue and exhaustion. Therapeutic support of the patient consists in promoting inner activity and self-empowerment. Rudolf Steiner’s six steps to self-education (1, p. 299 ff) are essential psychotherapeutic aids (2, p. 592–594):

  • Thinking
    Concentration exercises, biography work: learning to distinguish essentials from non-essentials, finding sources of strength through inner contemplative work (e.g., by working with spiritual texts, verses or fairy tale pictures) and meditating.

  • Sense perceptions     
    Focusing attention on sensory perceptions rather than remaining in worry-laden “captivity” within one’s own inner world. Actively opening one’s interest towards perceiving the world, consciously seeking out what is beautiful and valuable—this also helps when life is felt to be meaningless. A loss of meaning is often accompanied by a closure of the senses, the situation becomes “dark” and the person’s worried inner state dominates their awareness. Making ‘sense’ of things and opening up to ‘sense’ the world around one has a therapeutic dimension.

  • Will power
    Consciously deciding on actions, planning the day, setting small goals.

  • Feeling
    Dealing with fear, worry and despair through the acquisition of fundamental life convictions, working with symbols, doing meditative work with verses, accomplishing tasks in artistic therapy, experiencing support through therapeutic conversations, developing and deepening human relationships.

  • Positivity
    Developing perspectives in confronting the illness: discovering positive things (e.g., in one’s own development, in human relationships, in new perspectives, etc.) consciously experiencing moments of joy and gratitude.

  • Open-mindedness
    Paying attention to the unexpected and unique on the way through the illness. Discovering the future-oriented aspect of the illness: in addition to the question, “Where does this illness come from?”, learning to ask the other questions, “Where is this illness leading me and how is it empowering me?”

The patient’s life organization is related to their inner life forces. One central and therapeutically important connection is the relationship between a person’s more physiologically-expressed life processes and their thinking forces as creative life forces in the soul. A strengthening of this differentiated life organization can be achieved through engaging in invigorating inner work. In the German language the phonetic connection between ‘life’ (‘Leben’) and ‘experience’ (‘Erleben’) points to this relationship. Different verses, meditations and prayers are important tools that help lead the patient from an abstract level of thought and information into a deeper experience and feeling of meaning. This can transform tense, energy-sapping moods and create constructive soul forces to support the life organization.

Suitable meditations

I bear calm within myself,
I bear within myself
The forces which strengthen me.
I want to fill myself
With the warmth of these forces,
I want to pervade myself
With the power of my will.
And I want to feel
How calm spreads
Through all my being
When I strengthen myself
To find calm as
The force within me
Through the power of my striving.

Rudolf Steiner (3, p. 182)  

In my heart
Sun-strength shines
In my soul
World-warmth works.
I will breathe
The strength of the Sun
I will feel
The warmth of the world
Sun-strength fills me
World-warmth penetrates me.

Rudolf Steiner (3, p. 37)


  1. Steiner R. Occult science. Great Barrington: Anthroposophic Press; 2009.
  2. Girke M. Internal medicine. Foundations and therapeutic concepts of Anthroposophic Medicine. 1st ed. Berlin: Salumed; 2016.
  3. Steiner R. Mantric sayings. Meditations 1903-1925. Great Barrington: Steiner Books; 2015. This translation of “I bear calm within me” by Christian von Arnim, in: Glöckler M and Heine R (eds.). Leadership questions and forms of working in the anthroposophic medical movement. Dornach: Verlag am Goetheanum; 2016, p. 182. This translation of “In my heart / Sun-strength shines” by Astrid Schmitt-Stegman, in: Glöckler M (ed.). Meditations on heart-activity. Dornach: Medical Section at the Goetheanum; 2014, p. 37.

Research news

Phase IV trial: Kalium phosphoricum comp. versus placebo in irritability and nervousness 
In a new clinical study, Kalium phosphoricum comp. (KPC) versus placebo was tested in 77 patients per group. In a post-hoc analysis of intra-individual differences after 6 weeks treatment, a significant advantage of KPC vs. placebo was shown for characteristic symptoms of nervous exhaustion and nervousness (p = 0.020, p = 0.045 respectively). In both groups six adverse events (AE) were assessed as causally related to treatment (severity mild or moderate). No AE resulted in discontinuation in treatment. KPC could therefore be a beneficial treatment option for symptomatic relief of neurasthenia. The study has been published open access in Current Medical Research and Opinion

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