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Michael's presentation: Techniques for expanding talking therapy into bodymind process
Even the best therapeutic intervention can only be as good as the client's receptivity to it, and that is not mainly a left-brain issue. Whether a therapist's words 'land' in the client is not only a question of their content and meaning. Whether or not a therapist's response is being received gets determined, largely pre-reflexively, by the client's whole bodymind system, and that depends interpersonally on the 'felt sense' of the working alliance. Readiness for change (i.e. neuroplasticity) occurs at the edge of the window of tolerance (which Michael will introduce as having both intra-psychic and intersubjective dimensions). Practically, this often boils down to charged moments of heightened affect when the working alliance is in crisis and enactments are manifesting.
As a therapist, how do you 'catch' and make use of these moments that are characterised by spontaneous bodymind processes, which occur between client and therapist before, alongside and in spite of left-brain reflections and words?
In this presentation Michael will focus on the principles of embodied- relational practice, not so much in terms of body-oriented techniques that can be used to deliberately pursue heightened affect, but mostly in terms of embodied ways of being and working in those critical moments that arise spontaneously as part of the normal talking interaction between client and therapist. Rather than grafting new 'body techniques' onto their existing style and practice, the aim of this presentation is to help therapists to become more deeply embodied in moments of crisis and to craft spontaneously and creatively embodying interventions from within enactments.
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?