Calendar of Events

Calendar of Events 2017-03-31T22:36:16+00:00

There are four different ways in which you can display the forthcoming events (use the drop-down menu on the right to switch between them): Calendar, Agenda, Stream, and Posterboard.

To see all events and display earlier or later time periods, click the < or > next to the calendar icon on the left.

You can use the Categories and Tags drop-down menu to filter the display and restrict it to certain kinds of events. To de-select categories or tags and show all events, click the crossed circle next to the currently displayed category.

View a whole month at a time: hovering over a date cell that contains an event, you can see a summary - click to follow the link to the full event details.

View a sequential listing of events by date, including their titles, date and time details. By clicking on the plus-sign on the right, you can expand the panel to see the full workshop/event description - at the bottom you find a button saying "Read more ..." - follow that to the dedicated page with all the event details.

View a list of events, including their titles, date and time details as well as an excerpt of the event description and its image - click the title to follow the link to the full event details.

Events are displayed with their date, time, images and titles in large boxes - four across the page - with an excerpt of the event description - click the title to follow the link to the full event details.

None of these previous listings include proposed events - there is a separate page for those in the menu: Proposed Events.

Apr
28
Sat
2018
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Nick Totton
Apr 28 @ 10:00 – Apr 29 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2018 (Weekend 2 of 5 with Nick)

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain's Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2018.

It is likely that the group will continue in 2019 with another series of four weekends.

Jun
3
Sun
2018
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group (currently closed)
Jun 3 @ 10:00 – 17:00

An ongoing, broad-spectrum integrative group

This semi-closed group has been running for several years now, with new participants joining the 'pool' of members as places become available. Led by one of the most experienced integrative trainers in the UK, this group will provide an ideal relational container for your ongoing development as a therapist. By immersing yourself in a diverse group of colleagues from different schools and orientations, you will widen your perspective, deepen your practice, draw both inspiration and challenge from the co-created wide-ranging experiential work and have a reference point as well as resources and teaching to support your further development.

You can find a detailed description of the format and objectives of this group on the dedicated page.

Jun
17
Sun
2018
Bristol CPD Workshop: Relational dynamics in body-oriented psychotherapy @ Windmill Hill City Farm
Jun 17 @ 10:00 – 16:30

Organised by the Association for Core Process Psychotherapy:

This follow-up workshop is another ideal opportunity for an introduction to Michael’s work, and specifically how he approaches the integration of the paradigm clash between the humanistic and psychodynamic traditions. It is an affordable workshop on a crucial topic, as many integrative therapists struggle to integrate these paradigms rather than oscillate between them, both in their work and in supervision.

Following on from a first workshop on the topic in June 2017, the Association for Core Process Psychotherapy is organising a second workshop, to continue and deepen the theme. It will be possible for you to join this day without having attended the first workshop - in preparation you will have access to the teaching materials from the June workshop. Most participants will be a Core Process therapists, which will give the day an emphasis on the body-mind and psychosomatic connection, and how attention to the two bodies in the therapeutic relationship (or better: the two ‘bodyminds’) can provide the experiential foundation for the integration of paradigms.

Exploring the tension between ‘authentic’ and ‘transference’ relating

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?

Recommended preparatory reading:

Relating To and With the Objectified Body: This was my first public attempt at spelling out some of the difficulties and pitfalls of Body Psychotherapy, as I had increasingly become aware of them in the late 1980's and the early 1990's. From being securely ensconced in the body-oriented subculture, it took years to recognise and formulate the hidden 'medical model' assumptions, the implicit idealisation of the body, the simple reversal of mind-over-body into body-over-mind and how I was in the habit of turning my therapeutic position into an "enemy of the client's ego". Here I state for the first time how it is perfectly possible for Body Psychotherapy to exacerbate the body/mind split whilst intending to 'heal' it.

Humanistic or psychodynamic - what is the difference and do we have to make a choice ? by Lavinia Gomez: This brilliant and helpfully clarifying article by Lavinia Gomez tackles the difficult theme 'humanistic or psychodynamic' in a non-dogmatic and fairly comprehensive fashion. Lavinia poses some challenging questions, especially for integrative therapists: how free and fluid can we allow ourselves to be in terms of combining, mixing and matching different therapeutic traditions, and what are the possible negative effects of switching approaches, especially in terms of the client's sense of containment? - This paper is essential reading for this workshop, as is my response at the time:

Is it Possible to Integrate Humanistic Techniques into a Transference-Countertransference Perspective? (2004): Whilst agreeing with Lavinia's challenges to the integrative project and the mixing of humanistic and psychodynamic paradigms, 
I argue against one of Lavinia's central conclusions, based on a different interpretation of what we might mean by 'containment' and 'enactment'.

What therapeutic hope for a subjective mind in an objectified body? This is my first attempt at formulating the 'relational turn' in Body Psychotherapy, and taking the integration of humanistic and psychodynamic paradigms further. This is the abstract: Our modern attempt to re-include the body in psychotherapy – as necessary and promising as it is – brings with it the inevitable danger that we import the culturally dominant objectifying construction of the body into a field which may represent one of the last bastions of subjectivity, authenticity and intimacy in an increasingly virtual world. Edited from my presentation to the UKCP conference 'About A Body’, this paper addresses the question how embodied subjectivity – Winnicott’s “indwelling of the psyche in the soma” - can be found within a relational matrix pervaded by disembodiment and self-objectification.

 

Jun
23
Sat
2018
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Michael Soth
Jun 23 @ 10:00 – Jun 24 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2018 (Weekend 3 of 5 with Michael)

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain's Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2018.

It is likely that the group will continue in 2019 with another series of four weekends.

Jun
30
Sat
2018
London, Ealing – Ongoing Professional Development Group for Experienced Therapists
Jun 30 @ 10:00 – 17:00

This group is for experienced therapists only (practising for 8 years or more), and has had a consistent core group of participants for the last 6 few years, meeting 4 - 5 days per year. There is a pool of 18 participants, and 2 more places are available from 2018. See the dedicated page for detailed info.

Sep
8
Sat
2018
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Nick Totton
Sep 8 @ 10:00 – Sep 9 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2018 (Weekend 4 of 5 with Nick)

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain's Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2018.

It is likely that the group will continue in 2019 with another series of four weekends.

Sep
23
Sun
2018
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group (currently closed)
Sep 23 @ 10:00 – 17:00

An ongoing, broad-spectrum integrative group

This semi-closed group has been running for several years now, with new participants joining the 'pool' of members as places become available. Led by one of the most experienced integrative trainers in the UK, this group will provide an ideal relational container for your ongoing development as a therapist. By immersing yourself in a diverse group of colleagues from different schools and orientations, you will widen your perspective, deepen your practice, draw both inspiration and challenge from the co-created wide-ranging experiential work and have a reference point as well as resources and teaching to support your further development.

You can find a detailed description of the format and objectives of this group on the dedicated page.

Nov
3
Sat
2018
London, Ealing – Ongoing Professional Development Group for Experienced Therapists
Nov 3 @ 10:00 – 17:00

This group is for experienced therapists only (practising for 8 years or more), and has had a consistent core group of participants for the last 6 few years, meeting 4 - 5 days per year. There is a pool of 18 participants, and 2 more places are available from 2018. See the dedicated page for detailed info.

Nov
17
Sat
2018
Athens: Working with Illness in Psychotherapy
Nov 17 @ 10:00 – Nov 18 @ 18:00

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.

 

Nov
25
Sun
2018
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group (currently closed)
Nov 25 @ 10:00 – 17:00

An ongoing, broad-spectrum integrative group

This semi-closed group has been running for several years now, with new participants joining the 'pool' of members as places become available. Led by one of the most experienced integrative trainers in the UK, this group will provide an ideal relational container for your ongoing development as a therapist. By immersing yourself in a diverse group of colleagues from different schools and orientations, you will widen your perspective, deepen your practice, draw both inspiration and challenge from the co-created wide-ranging experiential work and have a reference point as well as resources and teaching to support your further development.

You can find a detailed description of the format and objectives of this group on the dedicated page.

Dec
1
Sat
2018
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Michael Soth
Dec 1 @ 10:00 – Dec 2 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2018 (Weekend 5 of 5 with Michael)

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain's Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2018.

It is likely that the group will continue in 2019 with another series of four weekends.

Feb
2
Sat
2019
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group (currently closed)
Feb 2 @ 10:00 – Feb 3 @ 17:00

An ongoing, broad-spectrum integrative group

This semi-closed group has been running for several years now, with new participants joining the 'pool' of members as places become available. Led by one of the most experienced integrative trainers in the UK, this group will provide an ideal relational container for your ongoing development as a therapist. By immersing yourself in a diverse group of colleagues from different schools and orientations, you will widen your perspective, deepen your practice, draw both inspiration and challenge from the co-created wide-ranging experiential work and have a reference point as well as resources and teaching to support your further development.

You can find a detailed description of the format and objectives of this group on the dedicated page.

Feb
16
Sat
2019
London, Ealing – Ongoing Professional Development Group for Experienced Therapists
Feb 16 @ 10:00 – 17:00

This group is for experienced therapists only (practising for 8 years or more), and has had a consistent core group of participants for the last 6 few years, meeting 4 - 5 days per year. There is a pool of 18 participants, and 2 more places are available from 2018. See the dedicated page for detailed info.

Dec
7
Sat
2019
London (Wimbledon): Sustainable practice in the ‘impossible profession’ @ Drake House
Dec 7 @ 10:00 – 17:00

It almost looks like analysis [therapy] were the third of those impossible professions in which one can be quite sure of unsatisfying results. The other two, much older established, are the bringing up of children and the governance of nations.” Freud, Sigmund (1937) Analysis Terminable and Interminable. p.248

Should practising as a therapist carry a health warning?

What is the emotional cost of the therapeutic position, and what do we need to make it sustainable?

How do relational dilemmas, as they manifest in the intricacy of each client-therapist relationship, affect the therapist’s well-being and how does this hook into the therapist’s ‘habitual position’, creating emotional exhaustion, burn-out, or vicarious traumatisation?

Is there a way to make a sustainable living as a therapist or is it best practiced part-time?

Is therapy a vocation dedicated to compassion, love and healing?

Or is it a job, revolving around business and money?

In practice, the answer for most of us could be that we operate comfortably in some middle zone of ambiguity, but in fact many counsellors and therapists struggle to do that. We all know that - unless we charge silly rates - we will not get rich in this profession, but we might achieve a comfortable degree of income and security, without selling our soul in the marketplace.

Most workshops for therapists on the topic of  setting up a practice focus on the actual business skills needed, or your own ambivalence about charging money which is seen as connected to your own sense of self-worth. And most workshops regarding vicarious traumatisation and the strains of practice focus on self-care for therapists and restorative  disciplines,

This workshop will focus instead on the vastly underestimated inherent contradictions of therapy as the ‘impossible profession’ and the emotional stress of dealing with these dilemmas on an everyday basis.

Especially for recently qualified therapists who are slowly building up their practice, many find certain thresholds of client numbers which they seem to get stuck at. This is to do with your own self-regulation within the – inherently conflicted - therapeutic position.

Most training does not sufficiently prepare therapists for the day-to-day reality of the vicissitudes, paradoxes and complexities involved, including the psychological ‘load’ that derives from this, and how to process the emotional aftermath of a day’s work.

Over the years, Michael has helped many supervisees increase the client ‘load’ they are able to sustain, and thus make a sustainable living from being a therapist. In this workshop he will help you explore what he has concluded are the main factors and obstacles which hold the key to making the business of therapy viable, comfortable and satisfying.

 

 

Jan
31
Fri
2020
Proposed: Working with the Breath and on the Mattress (dates tbc) @ Fulcrum House
Jan 31 @ 10:00 – 17:00

A comprehensive course for experienced counsellors and psychotherapists
A series of 8 one-day CPD-workshops at Fulcrum House, Bristol, with Michael Soth

The significance of the breath for any kind of psychotherapy which does not exclude the body

WeidnerMelanie_Deep_BreathIn recent attempts to include the body in psychotherapy, the importance of breathing and the breath as one main regulator of the intensity of feeling has been increasingly recognised. If we want to bring the two bodies into the consulting room, we need to not only understand, but learn to actively work with the breath, the client’s and our own, and the connection between them, as part of the emotional, psychological and intersubjective encounter.

In this learning, we can draw from a wide range of different traditions, both Eastern and Western, many explicitly holistic, some psychological and a wide range of complementary therapies and practices, which have been exploring and using the breath, some of them for several decades, some of them for millennia.

Diverse traditions, contradictory principles, a multitude of techniques

One problem with the recent fashion of drawing body-oriented traditions into psychotherapy and appropriating them, is that the differences and contradictions between these traditions get ignored.

We then end up with a smorgasbord of techniques which are all presumed to work towards a common goal, but are actually profoundly contradictory, and end up pulling the process into different directions. The client’s bodymind then feels uncontained, confused, not sure whether it is coming or going.

All the different traditions, of course, each have their wisdoms and gifts, but we cannot arbitrarily mix and match them, even if it is for the valid purpose of including the body.

What are some of the key tensions and contradictions between the different orientations and principles?

Centering versus expression (charge/discharge)

Generally speaking, the Eastern traditions including yoga, meditation and the martial arts focus on belly breathing, and mindful centeredness in the ‘hara’ (the centre of the body, just below the navel) and are therefore oriented towards a calming, steadying effect. They were never designed to deal with the degree of disembodiment, traumatised dissociation, repressed feelings, neurosis or the vicissitudes of the modern psyche.

Lung_BlueNeonIn contrast, the more recent Western traditions of working with the breath, starting with Reich's vegeto-therapy in the 1930’s, were focused precisely on addressing disembodiment, repressive character armour and primarily emphasised catharsis in order to counteract chronic inhibition. There has been a host of humanistic approaches descending from that origin (or at least pulling in the same direction, e.g. primal therapy, rebirthing, Grof’s holotropic breathing and many other cathartic techniques.)

The tensions between these two kinds of traditions continue, although these days of course many hybrid forms have developed. But this dichotomy (charging, ‘mind’-less expressive catharsis versus mindful, calming centering) is not the only contradiction.

Changing the breathing pattern through the mind versus attending to it as it is

When we recognise somebody's restricted, flawed, incomplete, ‘pathological’ way of breathing, different approaches have different aims and corrective techniques, and all of these have their purpose. But in the context of psychotherapy, what are we trying to do? Are we trying to educate the client to change their way of breathing towards a ‘healthier’ breathing pattern? There may be good arguments for that. Or are we trying to understand how this breathing is part of their characterological bodymind condition? In which case there is a rationale for attending mindfully to the ‘unhealthy’ breath pattern without trying to change it.

AborigineArt1One essential feature of the breath is that it is mostly automatic or at most semi-conscious. But if we want to, we can be very deliberate with it and conscious of it. Can we use our minds and mindfulness to change our spontaneous breath pattern? Yes, in the present moment we can, but how does this impact on the breath the rest of the time when we do not make an effort to attend to it?

The psychological limitations of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the breath

Many guidelines and systems advocating supposedly correct breathing, whether it is belly or chest or diaphragm, in- or outbreath, energetic or calming, fail to take into account individual psychology. Frequently, they advocate a ‘one-size-fits-all’ notion of healthy breathing which the client is then expected to consciously, deliberately approximate.

Many clients have at some time in their lives been involved with activities or situations (quite apart from complementary therapies and breathwork techniques e.g. singing lessons, swimming or diving, illness, children holding their breath) where they learnt or were explicitly taught how to breathe. These methods have become automatic or become injunctions or ‘rules’ in people’s minds, affecting the way they organise themselves when they start paying attention to their breath.

In practices such as Tai Chi or Yoga, this may be fine. But in psychotherapy, this often becomes another ‘super ego’ injunction, usually exacerbating the contortions that are already present.

CatHoldingBreathCalm, controlled breathing can be a very good idea when somebody is in an overwhelmed, traumatised state. It can also be a symptom of freezing and dissociation. It may exacerbate a depressed condition. At the other end of the scale, many people are scared of ‘hyperventilation’ which can indeed be a symptom of a habit of hyper-arousal, constantly leading to emotional overwhelm. On the other hand, it can be argued that most of the population systematically and chronically under-breathe – they are hypo-ventilating. So an experiment in deliberately breathing more deeply might be needed in order to balance this, or to just get an experience of the edge of their comfort zone or ‘window of tolerance’.

Sustained mindfulness of breath can constellate fears of regression

Lying on the mattress to breathe conjures up a host of associations. Experimenting with how the breath affects the intensity of one’s felt sense and experience can draw attention to implicit control mechanisms. If these mechanisms are challenged – not necessarily by the therapist, but more often by internal forces – regression can occur. This can have both damaging and transformative elements, and the history of psychotherapy provides ideas and reference points for both.

Fuseli_nightmareIn our culture - dominated as it is by metaphors of development which emphasise progress, growth and ascent – any hint of regression constellates primitive and for many people catastrophic fears. The client’s ego scans vitality affects and the energetic weather in the body for signs that threaten regression, and anticipates, counterbalances and manages – in some sort of approximation of self-regulation – regressive tendencies as they arise. In order to do that, the ego needs to monitor the breath as the main regulator of intensity and charge in the system, usually automatically and outside awareness. Bringing awareness to the breath can reveal the presence of this monitoring and control process in action. It is only when the smooth operation of this pre-conscious mechanism is attended to, that the underlying body-mind split – in whatever idiosyncratic way it manifests in the client’s system – becomes more apparent. This split or battle between mind and body, reflection versus spontaneity tends to be experienced as an either-or, all-or-nothing battle around control. Within the split, surrender to the somatic processes and letting go into the body is equated with loss of control and regression (which mythologically corresponds to a descent into the underworld). Inbreath and outbreath are intimately linked to these movements of consciousness and the habitual conflicts which are structured into the client’s bodymind system.

How to recognise and engage with the complex matrix of the client’s bodymind via attention to the breath and the relational dilemmas which then arise for the therapist, especially when fears of regression are evoked, will constitute key questions throughout the course. For each participant, these fears and reactions need to be attended to and processed in the context of their own history of control versus regression.

Depth of intra-psychic bodymind focus at the expense of interpersonal awareness

Traditionally, the profound potential of breath work in terms of spontaneous and regressive experience was - generally speaking – achieved by focussing on the client’s intra-psychic and bodymind dynamic. This focus on the client’s internal experience – their body awareness including sensations, internal movements and impulses, their emotions and stream-of-consciousness - can move into the foreground at the expense of attention to the relational dynamic between client and therapist. Traditionally, body-oriented therapists working with the breath paid no attention at all to transferential dynamics. This is ironic, as our theory tells us that during states of regression early experience tends to come to the fore and then maybe even outweighs ego consciousness, thus intensifying transferential projections, often reaching back into pre-verbal and primitive states. The consequent conclusion from the theory is that when we invite regressive experience, we should be more alert than ever to unconscious processes.

Therefore, providing a relational container for regressive states, primarily by the therapist recognizing and attending to transferential pressures and countertransferential reactions and responses whilst engaged in the breath work, is one of the key integrations which are generally lacking and which we want to develop.

Traditional concepts and models of transference and countertransference tend to not be very helpful in the immediacy of breath work because of their implicit paradigm bias towards the mind and mental representations, privileging reflection over spontaneity.
ReichHowever, following in Reich’s footsteps, we can consider transference and countertransference not just as having somatic aspects or being reflected in right-brain-to-right-brain interactions, but engage in them as intersubjective bodymind processes. In this perspective, psychology and biology become inseparable polarities - differentiated, but mutually related: body, emotion, psyche and mind as fractal parts of a dynamic, integral whole in relationship.

During the course, we will aim to work in such a way that these abstract notions remain alive and experience-near, through attending to the detail of the charged bodymind dynamics occurring in the therapeutic relationship and how these are reflected holographically between the various sub-systems, levels, parts and the whole via parallel process.

In the highly charged, potentially regressive context of lying down on the mattress, spontaneous and reflective, somatic and mental, habitual and emergent processes become tangibly constellated, and open into a way of working that can range across all the bodymind levels of subjective experience.

This places high demands on the therapist’s own capacity to be present between such intimate and existential extremes as wholeness and fragmentation, integration and conflict, authority and woundedness and a unified sense of self versus multiplicity. This course aims to deepen, widen and enhance therapists’ perception, understanding and creativity in these areas of intersubjective intensity and vicissitudes.

An integrative, broad-spectrum approach to the breath

These are just some brief examples to illustrate that this whole area is a minefield. It is a minefield that we cannot afford to ignore or sidestep, but we want to approach it with an understanding of the contradictions, tensions and the opposing as well as complementary principles, theories and practices.

Content of the Course

This course aims to work towards a comprehensive understanding and practice of breath work, which draws from the diverse traditions , trying to integrate them on the basis of a holistic bodymind psychological understanding. Specifically, it will include mindfulness, meditative and yoga breathing, Grof's holotropic breathing, rebirthing, vegeto therapy, and an integrative relational form of breathwork developed at the Chiron Centre focussing on bodymind and relational ‘charge’.

with and without touch, with and without focus on the breath, with various stances from allowing (biodynamic ‘impinging from within’) to challenge (bioenergetic or vegetotherapy).

Format of the Course

As all of these techniques depend upon the moment to moment engagement with the body’s spontaneous processes, an important part of the learning will be live sessions which participants will have with each other, in pairs or triads, or in the middle of the group.

As a closed group for the duration of the course, we will together build the relational container necessary for such work to become possible in an authentic way. This course will probably be offered only once and is unlikely to be repeated in this form in the future. It provides an unusual context for intensive work over a period of 18 months.

Feb
1
Sat
2020
Proposed CPD workshop: Narcissism in Therapy
Feb 1 @ 10:00 – 17:00
Proposed CPD workshop: Narcissism in Therapy @ Bristol | United Kingdom

Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool
And when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled
Oh, man is opposed to fair play
He wants it all and he wants it his way.

Bob Dylan: License To Kill

 

Narcissism has a reputation for being notoriously difficult to engage with in therapy, for a variety of good reasons, not least because the very idea of ‘needing’ therapy is a humiliating insult to the grandiose self. As one of the key modern ‘disturbances of the self’, narcissism has replaced Victorian repression as the psychological disease of the age, which means that the original theories of our discipline from 100 years ago no longer quite apply. As a dominant collective issue, as exhibited by the celebrity culture all over the world and all over the media, the term ‘narcissism’ has entered pop psychology and lost all precision and meaning. In order to be clinically useful, we need to have a clear, circumscribed definition of narcissism, and its origins and manifestations.

Beyond commonplace over-simplifications, the various therapeutic traditions have widely divergent ideas and theories about narcissism, leading to quite contradictory recommendations for therapists. More than many other issues, therefore, narcissism requires an integrative stance, that can draw insights and understanding from the various approaches and combine them, to provide a comprehensive understanding and therapeutic response.

Because the narcissist tries to approximate an image of perfection (attempting to manifest a grandiose self), this leads to a chameleon-like disconnection from the body, and an objectifying, ‘perfecting’ treatment of it. For many celebrities, the body becomes an advertisement of the False Self, treated like one more fashion accessory. More than many other issues, therefore, narcissism calls for an embodied therapy, reconnecting the person to pleasurable, ordinary human reality, rather than pursuing the delusions of a disembodied virtual self.

Because the narcissist was emotionally ‘used’ by their parent(s), their individuality was never fully seen and mirrored. Therefore, in the moment where we apply a generic diagnostic label and put the narcissist into the same category with many others, we are re-inflicting a lack of individual mirroring. More than any other issue, narcissism reveals some of the shadow aspects and weaknesses of our discipline. In order to make therapy possible, we cannot afford to rely on a reasonable and supposedly realistic ego-ego alliance: we need a working alliance both with the wounded, insignificant self as well as the inflated grandiose self.

This course will provide condensed understanding extracted from the various therapeutic approaches, specifically drawing from and integrating the various psychoanalytic, the humanistic-embodied and the Jungian traditions. We will combine the theoretical input with practical, experiential work, based upon vignettes and case illustrations volunteered by participants, to explore how these ideas may be applied in practice.

We will be drawing on the following literature:

  • Jacoby, Mario (2013, Reprint edition) Individuation and Narcissism: The Psychology of Self in Jung and Kohut. Routledge.
  • Johnson, S. M. (1987) Humanizing the Narcissistic Style. W.W. Norton.
  • Johnson, S. M. (1994) Character Styles. W.W. Norton.
  • Kohut, H. (2009) The Analysis of the Self: A Systematic Approach to the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders.
  • Kohut, H. (2009) The Restoration of the Self.
  • Kernberg, O. (1984) Severe Personality Disorders: Psychotherapeutic Strategies. Yale University Press.
  • Kernberg, O. (1996) Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. Jason Aronson.
  • Otto Kernberg, On Narcissism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyP92WLLqIU ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeVMtZns5Pw
  • Lowen, A. (2004) Narcissism: Denial of the True Self. Touchstone.
  • Schwartz-Salant, N. (1982) Narcissism and Character Transformation. Inner City Books.
  • Shaw, D. (2013) Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation. Routledge.
  • Twenge, J.M. & Campbell, W.K. (2010) The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. Free Press.