Scientific Research that Introduces

Breathwork into Psychotherapy


The use of conscious breathing exercises for physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual healing has a long and widely varied history, but little work has been done to see if these practices can be brought into a coherent and unified form that contributes to the field of body psychotherapy. Conventional psychology has for too long reduced us to our lowest common denominators. Much of the spiritual depth, strength, and inspiration that we cherish at the core of our lives has been written off by psychologists who primarily focus on behaviour and cognition.

We have become increasingly interested in the inner dimensions of change and healing in breathwork experiences, especially at the intersection of psychotherapy, neuroscience and spirituality. The core of our fascination and interest is in the idea that breath work and psychotherapy are currently offered separately as therapy. Since 2015, Open Up is introducing deep psychological practices in conjunction with breathwork and were able to study the effects more deeply. Our founder Katrien Franken have guided thousands of people, who's inner healing intelligence of the body that is worked with, reached far beyond only cognitive therapy and has proven to create a huge healing potential. Something that we now want to scientifically measure.

Since november 2020 Katrien Franken has opened a scientific department within Open Up and will defy an investigation on the physiological effects of conscious connected breathwork (Study 1), and is will study breath work in a psychotherapy meta-analysis to measure if a combined therapy can have any significance in the increase of our well-being, and decrease of symptoms of anxiety and depression ( Study 2).

Because breath work is psychosomatic, and psychotherapy examines our thinking directed towards the experience of life, we are steering towards a modern exploration of consciousness as a powerful catalyst for healing and self-exploration, using the expertise in both areas. This research will help articulate its complexity, and relationship to help us better understand the healing mechanisms underlying personal transformation.​​

The Scientific Research project is a foundation and source of credibility for what is possible in exploring new understandings of human healing potential.

We are conduction two studies

in a high-quality research

Image by Wijnand Boerma

Study 1


The physical and physiological effects of breath work

This study measures the physiological responses and effects in conscious connected breathing. This study and trial takes place between 15th of June – 20th of July 2021, and contributes to the Study 2. 

Scientific Research Open Up

Study 2


The therapeutic potential of breathwork & psychotherapy for mental health 

This study focusses on introducing breathwork into psychotherapy and measures the effects in two controle groups on wellbeing, anxiety and depression in a combined therapy.

Apply to Participate in 

Study 1

Trial period: 15th of June - 20th of July 2021

Location: VU, Medical Faculty building, Amsterdam

This study focusses on the physical and physiological effects of Breath work, and will be conducted in June / July 2021 at VU Medical Faculty in Amsterdam. Your participation involves one individual session that will last approximately three hours, including the preparation with EEG equipment. We only accept people with the following basic requirements:

you are in good health 

the contra-indications don't apply to you

your age is between 20-35

Application and Research Process

Step 1
Fill in the Application

Step 2
Review of Application

Step 3
Breath work Session

Step 4

Apply only if you are in good health, and between 20 - 35 years old, and available for one session between 15th of June - 20th of July 2021. If you want to take part in our study you must fill out the Application form

We might need to arrange a call for further details about your application. All being well, you will receive approval and further information details to prepare you for your participation.

We'll welcome you at the VU for the study, which will take place between 15th of June - 20th of July 2021 and takes approximately 3 hours in total. Taking part in this study is free of costs. We don't cover any costs for travel or otherwise. 

Your integration process happens in the session and can continue after. Our team will be available for individual check-ins & support.


Individual Trial and Control Groups

Each participant will be checked for approval, prepared, and supervised. People with contra-indications: glaucoma, retinal detachment, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks, angina, and high blood pressure), aneurysm, communicable or infectious diseases, seizure disorders, strong medication, severe mental illness, recent significant surgery or injuries, and pregnancy cannot take part in both studies.

All participants are requested to fill in questionnaires prior and after the trial and in between the sessions. Full support will be given throughout to help participants prepare, receive and integrate their experience.


Changing Healthcare

One of our goals at Open Up is to contribute to research about the efficacy of breathwork with psychotherapy facilitating optimal body, mind, and spiritual wellbeing. Our mission is to conduct profound scientific studies that can lay a solid foundation to bring more knowledge to the healing aspects of ones experience, and to measure the results. We inspire to open to novel insights and transformative practices at the frontiers of psycho-somatic therapy that can create lasting healing and growth.

Our in-depth studies will be presented to better understand and appreciate how breathwork works, and why it​ can be a bridge to psychotherapy. We want to introduce a new and more efficient way for long-term recovery by conducting a study that gives us insight and possibilities for much more powerful, experiential and accelerated methods of healing depression and anxiety. With positive results we aim to start training psychotherapists with the Open Up method, and introduce it into healthcare.

The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science. – E.O. Wilson

Support this Study 

We are on the cusp of a new era of understanding breathwork as therapy. While the proliferation of studies on breathwork is increasing by legends such as Stanislav Grof and Wim Hof, scientifically recognised data collected for our type of research remains rare. We relish the important part that the findings from both studies can play in advancing global recognition of the growing demand for safe and transformative guidance and therapy. Our focus on clinical research helps us understand how to harness the transformative power of breathwork to cognitive therapy, so that we can offer tailored transformative journeys to people seeking to make formative life-changes. 



We are pioneering therapeutic breathwork through high-quality research and education, but we can’t do it without you. Your gift will fund the development of this research and will help us to create innovative therapies for those that need it most.


Crafting Transformation


Our priority for safety in conducting this study is formed through the expertise of the growing team of medical professionals, scientific researchers and professors. We inspire to lay the ground for coordinating wider research territories and methods that can produce quantitative analysis of the experience that participants have at the Open Up sessions.

Research questions may include the following. 1. Will the experiences of the participants on a physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual level be felt or experienced as transformative and/or healing? Data for this question will be collected by sharing their personal journey, through using people's self-assessments and interviews. 2. Have participants observed life changes as a result of their combination therapy sessions and, if so, will these changes be consistent over 6 months? We will be collecting data with the help or under full supervision of the scientific and medical team. 3. How do they express the essence of their experience in images, symbols, words or metaphors, and what insights from that are useful in their daily life? Data for this question will be collected through interviews and questionnaires.  




What is the physiological basis for the transformational effects of the combined therapy? Psychotherapy intensively and extensively examines a person's psychological history, helping to bring more understanding and insight to the what and why of behavioral patterns, coping and soothing mechanisms and preparing someone within safety and care to become open to meet the body's intelligence.


What is the neurophysiological basis for the transformational effects of the combined therapy through feeling and experiencing oneself from a place of safety and responsibility. A fixed mindset is governed by fear. Within each of us are two opposing forces: one pulls us to safety and the other propels us toward growth. As Maslow articulated, “when the delight of growth is greater than the anxiety of safety, we choose growth.” 

Being / Becoming

Exploring the release of memory in the body on a cellular level and neutralising the body's response to fear where one's perception starts to change. In deep breathwork different phenomena of experiencing oneself become part of the healing process. How can these transpersonal and non-ordinary states influence the healing mechanism of the body?

 Partners / Team
Scientific Researchers team
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Hersencentrum / GGZ Amsterdam
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