The practice of vegetotherapy involves the analyst asking the patient to physically simulate the bodily effects of strong emotions. The principal technique is asking the patient to remove outer clothing, lie down on a sheet-covered bed in the doctor's office, and breathe deeply and rhythmically. An additional technique is to palpate or tickle areas of muscular tension[ ("body armor"). This activity and stimulation eventually causes the patient to experience the simulated emotions, thus (theoretically) releasing emotions pent up inside both the body and the psyche (compare with Primal Therapy). Screaming usually occurs, and vomiting can occur in some patients.
The catharsis of emotive expression breaks down the cathexis of stored emotions. While experiencing a simulated emotional state, the patient may reflect on past experiences which should have caused that emotion, but where the emotion has not been fully resolved. These emotions are described as stored emotions, and in Reichian analysis are seen as manifesting in the body.