Learning by doing and being - in relationship

Applying abstract theory to our practice tends to remain ‘academic’ - at INTEGRA we refuse to put the cart before the horse. There is too much CPD that borrows from outdated educational paradigms and takes participants 'back to school'. Theory-led clinicians tend to lose their connection with the client. We want to stay experience-near. For our work, theory needs to emerge from practice, and stay connected with felt, embodied experience. After all, we all bring a life-time of relational learning to our work - that is the foundation which theory can build on, connecting theory and practice in lived experience.

  • whole-person learning (rather than only theoretical or academic)
  • absorbing new learning not mainly via talking and applying thinking
  • learning by doing and being and relating, rooted in self and own process
  • allowing for different learning styles
  • letting theoretical reflection emerge from practice
  • providing many action - reflection cycles
  • drawing on action research and enquiry
  • valuing both explicit and implicit learning
  • digesting and assimilating rather than introjecting

Integrating left- and right-brain modes

The ‘talking therapies’ traditionally focus on the 7% of human interaction that is verbal. Therapy is taught as a quasi-scientific quasi-medical set of theories to be applied to each particular case in front of us through the selection of supposedly appropriate techniques, supposedly selected by the therapist's trained mind. But this paradigm relies predominantly on the 'wrong' half of the mind (left-brain): according to neuropsychoanalyst Allan Schore, therapy and the therapeutic relationship/alliance depend mainly on right-brain to right-brain attunement between client and therapist.
How do we do justice to this in our learning as practitioners?
How do we train our right-brain and its co-operation with the left (because ultimately they need to work together for creative, optimum functioning)?

Engaging all your faculties and senses

The body-psyche-mind connection has been a neglected aspect of the therapeutic relationship in the 'talking therapies' for 100 years, but it is not just crucial for a subjective sense of wholeness and intersubjective sense of intimacy in therapy, but also in all learning: creative and effective learning engages all our faculties and senses. It is the synergy between our multiple intelligences - what the recent developments of embodied intersubjectivity (Shaun Gallagher) call "intermodal communication" - that is essential for evolution:

  • multiple intelligences: body - emotion - imagination - mind - intuition
  • including pre-verbal and non-verbal communication, rooted in your 'felt sense'
  • accessing otherwise subliminal messages via deeper embodiment
  • consistent with neuroscience’s 21st-century understanding of the body-mind relationship
  • finding your own congruent embodied therapeutic style rather than imitating

Working with psyche via the bodymind

Paying attention to the mind-psyche-body connection does not necessarily need to turn counselling and psychotherapy into one more complementary therapy - including the body in psychotherapy does not have to reduce it to bodywork or to treatment. On the contrary: we can see the whole bodymind as an expression and a vehicle of the psyche, and do not need to abandon relational depth for complementary treatment. We can make full use of all communicational channels across the bodymind spectrum within the relational, psychological domain.

As within, so between - exploring the parallels between intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics

Although many people are not aware of their internal relationship to themselves (as they take it for granted as ‘normal’), it’s one of the essential recognitions of our profession that we tend to relate to others as we relate to ourselves. The depth of our psyche has our significant others in it, and identity is shaped and relationships develop through internalising others, and externalising in relationship our internal dynamics. For better or worse, these processes of internalisation and externalisation inevitably go on in training groups, and provide all the raw material we need to deepen and enhance our understanding and our practice.

  • connecting own process and skills practice
  • interweaving of perception - understanding - intervention
  • developing embodied awareness of relational dynamics
  • refining your grasp of transference and countertransference, so they become more useful in everyday practice
  • understanding object relations and projective identification from within
  • reflecting on your habitual stances and positions in relationship
  • finding your own integration and style
Humans are social animals - all relationships are embedded in social/cultural webs

If we are going to organise CPD training in groups, we might as well maximise the profound learning available in a group setting. Rather than focus on the trainer as the only source of learning (usually via the ‘funnel method’), by including attention to the group dynamic a much wider variety of social and relational processes can feed into the learning process.

When we present difficult client dynamics from our practice, the group tends to pick up and identify with the different parts and people involved in the dynamics - when these are replicated by the group, alive and in-the-moment learning becomes available. Our habitual roles, schemas and scripts are evoked and brought out in a group. And the diversity of the group allows a spectrum of supportive and challenging interactions.

  • your roles and patterns within the group process
  • taking support and inspiration from the diversity of the group
  • learning to recognise and make use of parallel processes