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This 1-day workshop is an opportunity to explore in detail a topic which Michael gave a three-hour talk on in October 2016. Since then he has refined that presentation and made it more accessible. You can read a detailed description about the background of the topic here ...
Over the last 15 years or so, relational perspectives have had a significant impact across the field of psychotherapy. However, the wider its increasing influence has spread, the less clear it has become what we actually mean by ‘relational’. The default common denominator would be the recognition that in therapy it's the relationship between client and therapist that matters, and that the quality of that relationship is a significant indicator of outcome.
These workshops are being offered by OTS, which was set up by Justin Smith as an initiative to de-mystify psychotherapy and counselling and make it more accessible and affordable to the wider community. OTS is unique in bringing together therapists from a broad spectrum of therapeutic approaches, working together to tailor the therapy to our client’s needs and ‘match’ clients to therapists. Our idea is to create the best fit for what is going to work best for each client and maximise the ‘quality of relationship’ (which is widely recognised as a crucial factor in making therapy work). OTS also aims to make therapy more affordable, through offering effective group therapy.
What do we mean by ‘relational’ psychotherapy?
Over the last 15 years or so, relational perspectives have had a significant impact across the fields of psychotherapy. However, the wider its increasing influence has spread, the less clear it has become what we actually mean by ‘relational’. The default common denominator would be the recognition that in therapy it's the relationship between client and therapist that matters, and that the quality of that relationship is a significant indicator of outcome.
However, whilst there is quite a lot of agreement that the therapeutic relationship matters, this apparent consensus breaks down at the first hurdle: there is no such level of agreement as to what actually constitutes quality of relationship. On the contrary: there is a tendency for the traditional approaches to define ‘therapeutic relating’ predominantly within their own frame of reference, taking their own paradigm of relating for granted. It is, therefore, not generally accepted that 100 years of psychotherapy have given us a diversity of distinct notions of what kind of relating is to be considered ‘therapeutic’. The common ground of ‘relationality’ is a negative distinction from classical one-person psychology and ‘medical model’ non-relationality, but beyond that it is unclear whether relating means in Gomez’s terms being ‘alongside’ as an ally or ‘opposite’ as a relational other. And then what kind of other: positive, nurturing and reparative or authentic/dialogical or transferential other? And in amongst all that, what happens with the ‘bad’ object, and who relates to it how?
A multiplicity of diverse, contradictory and complementary relational spaces
Unless we take into account these different and contradictory notions of relatedness - or in the terms of Petruska Clarkson’s seminal contribution from the early 1990's: the different relational modalities we now find in existence across the field - what we mean by ‘relational’ will remain confused and confusing. It clearly means very different things to different therapists, without - however - these differences being sufficiently acknowledged or investigated.
The therapist's internal conflict - processing the countertransference in terms of tensions and pulls between different relational modalities
Understanding how the therapist's internal conflict relates to the client's inner world - in psychoanalytic terms: processing the countertransference and how it interlocks with the transference - can be profoundly helped by understanding how the therapist is being pulled between equally valid, but contradictory and conflicting relational modalities. This understanding, i.e. how the therapist is internally affected by the intersubjective dynamic, turns Petruska Clarkson's theory of relational modalities from an abstract tool of psychotherapy integration into a clinically useful tool moment-to-moment.
This is the essence of Michael's "Diamond Model of the relational therapeutic space": seeing the relational modalities not as some range of helpful stances which the therapist consciously chooses between (one at a time), but considering all the modalities as going on all the time (as a dynamic, systemic whole). The conflicts and pulls between different relational modalities can then be reflected upon and engaged in as manifestations (and enactments) of the unconscious co-constructed dynamic.
The essential conflict: object-relating versus inter(subject)-relating
This day will be an introduction to Michael's diamond model. His starting point will be the perennial and underlying tension (and often: polarisation) between object-relating and inter(subject)-relating in the therapeutic space: the tension between 'using' each other as objects on the one hand (I-it relating, which much of the humanistic field is biased against because of its objectifying and exploitative connotations, but which Winnicott has a lot of positive and developmental things to say about) and subject-subject relating (mutual recognition or I-I relating, as advocated by the humanistic and modern psychoanalytic traditions). When we can validate both as potentially transformative and necessary ingredients in the therapeutic space, and recognise the tension between them as essential to the therapeutic endeavor (a tension not to be reduced, resolved or short-circuited ideologically, but to be entered into in each unique client-therapist relationship), a multiplicity of relational spaces – contradictory and complementary, forming a complex dynamic whole – can be seen to arise from that tension. Michael proposes his ‘diamond model’ as a map that can help therapists process their conflicted (countertransference) experience when involved in layers of multiple enactment.
Booking tickets: tbc
In the lineage of Body Psychotherapy, we come across a set of diverse and to some extent confusing and contradictory assumptions as to what we mean by therapeutic relating and the therapeutic relationship. On the whole, the whole range of body-oriented work as practiced today clearly belongs to the humanistic tradition, with its emphasis on authentic/dialogical and empathic/reparative relating. This sits alongside influences from the psychoanalytic tradition, notably the work of Reich and his ideas about working with transference, as well as his quasi-medical and scientific attitude to treatment (which he shared with Freud). These different paradigms of relating are quite difficult to integrate and bring together, as they are based on polarised attitudes and stances in terms of one-person and two-person psychologies.
That raises the question as to what we mean by being ‘relational', especially in recent years, when that notion has become increasingly fashionable, and is in danger of becoming diluted. As psychotherapists working in the body-oriented traditions, we have the potential to bring a more substantial, embodied and complex notion of relating to the talking therapies.
This workshop is an opportunity to explore your own experience of the tensions between the polarised humanistic and psychoanalytic traditions, and how you integrate them. This tension hinges around the essential conflict between ‘authentic relating’ and 'working with the transference' - two principles which many of us find equally valid and want to equally do justice to in our work.
It has been understood and acknowledged for decades that any direct and directive work with the body, especially if it includes touch, intensifies the transference. However, psychoanalysts have contested that by using directive body-oriented interventions, body-oriented therapists are minimising and sidestepping the transference. In fact, all therapies that are relying exclusively on an empathic, attuned, heartfelt connection are open to that psychoanalytic challenge (keeping things too cosy, encouraging regression or over-dependency, avoiding the negative transference) and the question of whether this is in the client's best interests.
When our intention is to work with the client’s ‘character’, i.e. with all the embodied levels of developmental injury, across the whole bodymind, how do these different traditions and paradigms of relating get in each other's way or complement each other and how might they create an integrative synergy?
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The bodymind connection in working with psychosomatic and physical symptoms
A weekend workshop in Athens with Michael Soth (17 & 18 November 2018)
Even though counsellors and psychotherapists are traditionally expected to focus on emotional, mental and verbal communications, many clients invariably do bring their physical and psychosomatic symptoms into the session.
Through including body-oriented ways of working into the talking therapies, we can learn to work with many of these symptoms more directly, more deeply and more effectively (and recognise other situations where the hope of curing illness through psychology is an unreasonable idealisation).
This CPD workshop is designed to expand your understanding of the bodymind connection as well as offering a wide range of creative and body-oriented techniques to include in your practice.
With some illnesses - like hypertension, chest and heart problems, digestive illnesses, symptoms of the immune system - it is scientifically established that emotional stress contributes to their origin. With many other psychosomatic problems, like all kinds of pain, tinnitus, insomnia, chronic fatigue and many other unexplained symptoms, it is known that the intensity of the suffering can be ameliorated through psychological therapy that addresses the regulation and expression of emotion and de-stresses the mind.
Stress is the catchall phrase that supposedly explains the influence of our psychological body-emotion-mind state on illness. However, what is less well understood, is how our bodymind does not just respond to stresses in our current situation and lifestyle, but carries accumulated stress from the past, reaching all the way back to childhood. A holistic and bio-social-psychological understanding of stress needs to include lifelong patterns of the bodymind including developmental injury and trauma (what Wilhelm Reich originally called character structures).
Sometimes clients bring psychosomatic illness as a presenting issue to the therapy, sometimes these symptoms actually evolve in direct response to the unfolding therapeutic process, and the therapist gets implicated in them, e.g. “After last session I had a headache for three days!”
Direct links to body sensations and symptoms as well as body image come up as part of our work in sessions every day, in so many ways: tangible pains, tensions, trembling and shaking, breathing difficulties (hyperventilation, asthma), the physical side of unbearable feelings like panic, rage, dread or terror. There are obvious somatic aspects to presenting issues such as eating disorders or addictions. And then there are the psychological implications of actual, sometimes terminal, illnesses and psychosomatic symptoms and dis-ease.
How do we work with these issues and symptoms in psychotherapy? What ways are available to us for including the client’s ‘felt sense’, their embodied self states, their body awareness and sensations, their physiological experience in the interaction ?
This workshop will give you a framework for thinking about the role of the body as it is relevant in your own style of therapeutic work, based upon the different ways in which clients as well as therapists relate to ‘the symptom’. Throughout the workshop, we will use roleplay of actual issues and dilemmas brought up by your clients. We will also identify and practice ways in which you can explore the emotional function and 'meaning' of your client's physical symptom or illness.
Drawing on a wide range of humanistic and psychoanalytic approaches (including Body Psychotherapy, Process-oriented Psychology, various schools of psychoanalysis and Jungian perspectives) as well as the holistic paradigm underpinning most complementary therapies, we will weave together an interdisciplinary bodymind approach which is applicable within the therapeutic relationship as we know it in counselling and psychotherapy.
Michael has been working with the psychological and bodymind connection of illness and psychosomatic symptoms for many years. In the 1990s he initiated a project called 'Soul in Illness', offering an integrative psychotherapeutic perspective, drawing on the wisdom which the different therapeutic approaches have accumulated regarding illness, both in terms of theoretical understanding and practical ways of working. He has run CPD workshops for therapists on ‘Working with Illness’ many times, and has developed a relational and embodied way of engaging with the client’s bodymind. In 2005 he presented for the first time his model of ‘8 ways of relating to the symptom’, which addresses the client’s own relationship to their symptom, as well as giving an overview of the different stances taken by the therapist in the various therapeutic approaches that correspond to each of the ways of relating to the symptom. These eight ways of relating to the symptom, including the corresponding theoretical understandings as well as methods and techniques for intervention, will form the underlying framework for this workshop.