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Michael is a TRS (The Relational School) member and has drawn from Martha Stark’s seminal 1999 book 'Modes of Therapeutic Action’, Lavinia Gomez’s work on object relations and the tension between humanistic and psychoanalytic traditions as well as Petruska Clarkson’s 5 modalities of therapeutic relating to develop a broad-spectrum integration of therapeutic traditions as part of the relational project. For this study day Michael will present and explore with us his particular journey since his own experience of a ‘relational turn’ in the mid-1990’s.
What do we mean by ‘relational’?
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: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/what-do-we-mean-by-relational-a-study-day-with-michael-soth-tickets-35742304194
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?
Engaging with therapeutic impasses, breakdowns and stuckness by integrating non-verbal communication, somatic processes and ‘implicit relational knowing’
“How can we use our own embodied awareness and our perception of the client's bodymind to maximise our understanding of the intersubjective dynamics in the therapeutic process?”
This workshop is based on integrating the wisdom and expertise of two diverse and in many ways contradictory traditions: the psychoanalytic tradition and the body-oriented Reichian and post-Reichian tradition. Psychoanalysis has developed incredible sensitivity to unconscious mental processes and relational vicissitudes, but remains limited to the ‘talking cure’.
Body psychotherapy has developed a profound understanding of bodymind processes, and a rich and creative toolbox of working experientially bottom-up towards an integration of physical, emotional, imaginal and mental aspects of being, but remains limited by fixed relational stances on the part of the therapist and a lack of awareness around countertransference (where it is understood as the therapist’s problem only, rather than also containing information about the client’s unconscious).
By bringing the two traditions together, we get the best of both worlds, leading to profound possibilities of deepening the therapeutic process, making therapy more effective, and dealing with otherwise unmanageable impasses and complications.
Whereas recognising and working with the transference has been an essential aspect of the Reichian tradition, working in the transference and with the countertransference has been a neglected part of the therapeutic relationship in body-oriented work. Most humanistic therapists share with Freud the classical assumption that countertransference boils down to the therapist’s own ‘stuff’ or pathology, and is therefore best dealt with by further therapeutic work on one's own process and character as a therapist, towards authenticity or congruence.
As long as we reduce countertransference - in David Boadella’s terms – to an “interference with contact”, our work can not benefit from what the psychoanalytic tradition calls the ‘countertransference revolution’: the recognition that the transference and countertransference “interlock” (in Heinrich Racker’s terms) and that some of our experience in the therapeutic position can give us deep insight into the client’s inner world, including their early relational experiences which contributed to their character formation. This interlocking depends upon ‘somatic resonance’, but goes way beyond its traditional meaning as ‘feeling the client’s feelings’. The ‘countertransference revolution’ helps us recognise how the “client’s conflict becomes the therapist’s conflict”.
The fact that body-oriented tradition has overlooked and ignored the ‘countertransference revolution’ is curious, because it is precisely embodied perception should enable the therapist to be much more acutely aware of the ways in which the client's unconscious experience is communicated nonverbally, subliminally - via empathic attunement, somatic resonance, projective identification - and thus appears in the countertransference.
“Within the Body Psychotherapy tradition … the relational vicissitudes of the therapeutic endeavour are still under-theorised. Thus, a holistic and phenomenological two-person psychology as bodymind process still awaits formulation.”
Michael has been working on re-integrating the Reichian and psychoanalytic traditions since the 1980’s and is an internationally recognised trainer in this field.
In this workshop, we will use participants’ own personal-professional experience and client material to learn experientially and theoretically, using role-plays to work through supervision vignettes in an embodied and experiential way. Michael will interweave the group process with the learning as well as skills practice, to demonstrate and teach, drawing on our shared experience in the group.
to deepen and enhance our ‘implicit relational knowing’
to deepen our awareness of the relational significance of non-verbal communication
to apply the insight of modern neuroscience to our practice
to integrate ‘one-person‘, ‘one-and-a-half-person’ and ‘two-person psychology’
to recognise oscillations in the working alliance in response to unconscious processes
to recognise transference and countertransference as bodymind processes
to understand the principles and application of the countertransference revolution
to recognise the therapeutic potential of impasses and enactments
Ενώ το να αναγνωρίζουμε και να εργαζόμαστε με τη μεταβίβαση έχει υπάρξει ένα βασικό στοιχείο της Ραϊχικής παράδοσης, το να εργαζόμαστε μέσα στη μεταβίβαση και στην αντιμεταβίβαση έχει υπάρξει ένα παραμελημένο κομμάτι της θεραπευτικής σχέσης στη σωματικά προσανατολισμένη θεραπεία. Οι πιο πολλοί ανθρωπιστικοί θεραπευτές μοιράζονται με τον Φρόυντ την κλασσική υπόθεση ότι η αντιμεταβίβαση συνοψίζεται στα θέματα του ίδιου του θεραπευτή ή στην παθολογία του και συνεπώς αντιμετωπίζεται καλύτερα με περαιτέρω θεραπευτική εργασία επί της προσωπικής διεργασίας και του χαρακτήρα ως θεραπευτή, με στόχο την αυθεντικότητα ή τη συνέπεια.
Όσο αναγάγουμε την αντιμεταβίβαση σε μια «παρεμβολή στην επαφή» (με τους όρους του David Boadella), η εργασία μας δεν μπορεί να επωφεληθεί από αυτό που η ψυχαναλυτική παράδοση ονομάζει «την επανάσταση της αντιμεταβίβασης»: η αναγνώριση ότι η μεταβίβαση και η αντιμεταβίβαση «αλληλοεμπλέκονται» (με τον όρο του Heinrich Racker) και ένα μέρος της εμπειρίας μας στη θεραπευτική θέση μπορεί να μας δώσει βαθιά επίγνωση για τον εσωτερικό κόσμο του θεραπευόμενου, συμπεριλαμβανομένων των πρώιμων σχεσιακών βιωμάτων που έχουν συνεισφέρει στη δημιουργία του χαρακτήρα του. Αυτή η αλληλοεμπλοκή εξαρτάται από τη σωματική αντήχηση (somatic resonance), αλλά είναι πολύ διαφορετική από την κλασσική έννοια του «νιώθω τα συναισθήματα του θεραπευόμενου». Η «επανάσταση της αντιμεταβίβασης» μάς βοηθάει να αναγνωρίσουμε πώς η «σύγκρουση του θεραπευόμενου γίνεται η σύγκρουση του θεραπευτή».
Είναι περίεργο που η σωματικά προσανατολισμένη παράδοση έχει παραβλέψει και αγνοήσει «την επανάσταση της αντιμεταβίβασης», επειδή ακριβώς η ενσώματη ακρίβεια είναι η οποία θα έπρεπε να επιτρέπει στον θεραπευτή να είναι πολύ περισσότερο ενήμερος των τρόπων με τους οποίους η ασυνείδητη εμπειρία του θεραπευόμενου επικοινωνείται μη λεκτικά, υποσυνείδητα δια μέσω ενσυναισθητικού συντονισμού, σωματικής αντήχησης, προβολικής ταύτισης και συνεπώς παρουσιάζεται στην αντιμεταβίβαση.
«Εντός της παράδοσης της Σωματικής Ψυχοθεραπείας… οι σχεσιακές δυσκολίες της θεραπευτικού εγχειρήματος είναι ακόμα ελλιπώς θεωρητικοποιημένες. Έτσι, μια ολιστική και φαινομενολογική ψυχολογία των δύο προσώπων ως διεργασία ψυχοσώματος ακόμα παραμένει να αναπτυχθεί.»
Anticipating the recurrent pitfalls of the 2-chair technique and making therapeutic and transformational use of them
When it comes to shifting the focus of therapeutic interaction from 'talking about' to 'exploring the experience', there are few techniques more useful than 'empty-chair' or 'two-chair' work (this applies to supervision as well as therapy).
However, when therapists risk using the technique, it often does not produce the intended or intuited results. Having started with what seemed a burning, vibrant issue, the spark gets lost, and the interaction ‘goes flat’ or starts going round in circles.
From many years of using the technique myself, as well as supervising it, I have concluded there are some built-in recurring pitfalls which we can anticipate and prepare for; when understood and addressed, these pitfalls can actually enhance our use of the technique and make it more elegant and effective.
These three CPD days are designed to engender both detailed knowledge and skill as well as confidence, whatever level of experience you are currently bringing to this type of work.
I am expecting that in terms of the nitty-gritty detail of technique (what you actually do and say as a therapist and how and in what sequence), these days will be amongst the most specific and useful you will ever do. In terms of this particular technique, it's as close to a 'recipe book' or ‘manual’ of therapeutic intervention as is feasible when what we are really interested in is the aliveness and spontaneity of the client-therapist interaction.
For more detailed inofrmation about the background, format and content of the weekend workshop, download the leaflet.