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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.
A 1-day CPD workshop with Michael Soth
exploring differentiated bodymind awareness of client, therapist and the relationship between them
This workshop will be an opportunity to explore how your embodied experience and perception contribute to your way of working as a therapist.
- How much of your awareness - when you are engaged in the relationship with a client – is attentive to the process between the two bodies (or better: the two bodyminds)?
- From your moment-to-moment perceptions of the two bodyminds, how do you extract meaningful information relevant to the therapeutic process?
- How can this information help us to deepen the relationship and the process and make it more effective?
- How can it give us a context for making therapeutic decisions about whether or not to touch or be touched, and if so, how?
The neglected bodies in the ‘talking therapies’
Over the last 20 years, a variety of influences from infant research, trauma studies and neuroscience have given us hints and ideas that all cognition is embodied and embedded, and relies on non-verbal and implicit processes. This has major implications for the therapeutic relationship and the talking therapies. There has been an increasing recognition in principle that the bias towards the left-brain verbal-reflective mind is to the detriment of the connection and coherence, the depth and effectiveness of whatever therapy we practice.
How to work with the body in practice?
However, it is one thing to appreciate and validate ideas like implicit relational knowing, right-brain-to-right-brain attunement and the embodied dance of primary intersubjectivity between infant and caregiver. It is quite another thing to apply these ideas in the nitty-gritty of everyday practice, with a complex, contradictory, inhibited and inhibiting client sitting right in front of us, who is nothing like a spontaneous, cuddly infant. In the heat of the moment, we are likely to retreat from the confusing and overwhelming mixture of the client’s and the therapist’s multitude of bodymind signals, and resort to the supposed safety of received wisdom: in our profession that predominantly still means a disembodied therapeutic presence and disembodying contact.
Embodied Relating - the ground of psychotherapy
However, whether we are aware of it or not, pre-reflexive and non-verbal bodymind processes shape and structure our consciousness and our presence and behaviour as therapists. For better or worse, it is largely these processes neglected in the ‘talking therapies’ which determine the atmosphere of the relational container we are co-creating a whole lot more than our thoughts and intentions. The therapeutic space we offer is only minimally affected by our models and theories and our left-brain cognitive rationales and reflections. Although in principle embodied relating is now recognised the ground of psychotherapy (see: Nick Totton’s 2018 book “Embodied Relating”), the return of the repressed body is not a smooth affair (see: Soth, M. (2010) The Return of the Repressed Body - Not a Smooth Affair. UKCP Journal 'The Psychotherapist', Autumn 2010).
Our ambivalent relationship to the body
The idea of embodiment is largely misunderstood, and in conscientious therapists’ minds often becomes another ideal or requirement to live up to or another stick to beat oneself with. This professional pressure occurs on top of whatever ambivalent relationship we may personally have with our own body. After all, therapists themselves are not free from the cultural struggles around the ‘hard problem’ of the mind versus the body, each of us identifying with as well as against our bodies in degrees, generating a wide variety of suffering in relation to our body, including fears, compulsions, entitlements, shame and hatred.
It is not the idea or any philosophy of the body, but attention to the complexity and paradoxical nature of actual embodiment and disembodiment as process that can become liberating, expansive and creative for therapists, lending our work depth, impact, joy and authority as well as sustainability. Whilst ideas from neuroscience may awaken and validate our interest in bottom-up embodied process, they do little to help us access our own ‘implicit relational knowing’ or translate such knowledge and insight into everyday practice.
The idealised body - a healthy mind in a healthy body?
The only way of effectively investigating, evolving and stretching our bodymind sensitivities, perceptions and awareness – as people and as therapists - is in the here & now through experiential engagement. This is not an enticing prospect for everybody, although experiential learning is generally accepted as an important principle when it comes to the bodymind.
Historically, body-‘experts’ have a habit of taking their embodiment agenda for granted and as a result often take a somewhat missionary position in dispensing their wisdom. The body-oriented traditions have had a tendency to pursue an idealised image of the body, along the lines of the Roman saying: ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’, which easily becomes a dangerously normative imposition (in fact, the European, and especially German, origins of these therapeutic traditions are uncomfortably mixed up with Fascist ideas of racial supremacy).
However, embodiment does not necessarily imply a perfectly fit or manicured or gym-trained body. We also want to be embodied in our pain and desire, in our limitations and vulnerability – something often neglected in a dominantly narcissistic culture, where the celebrity appearance of the body becomes an objectified fashion accessory or an advertisement for the self. Embodiment in psychotherapy is not meant to be a branding exercise by which the mind in top-down hubris imposes its goals (however noble they may be in the therapeutic realm) onto the body – embodiment is not only about having a body, but being and inhabiting the body we are.
Format of the workshop
So for the purposes of therapists’ CPD learning, to clarify the safety and parameters of the relational space we are entering into for such a workshop becomes as important an issue as for a client entering into therapy.
For this 1-day workshop we will focus on a simple distinction between spontaneous versus reflective processes throughout the bodymind, and how the tension between the two plays out in the relational dynamic between client and therapist moment-to-moment. We will use the diamond model of diverse relational modalities (Michael’s further evolution of Petruska Clarkson’s ideas) to bring a neglected relational perspective to the question of touch between client and therapist, i.e. different kinds of touch corresponding to different relational spaces in therapy.
Lunch: As usual we will arrange a bring and share lunch in the week before the event.
This group is for experienced therapists only (practising for 10 years or more), and has had a consistent core group of participants for the last few years, meeting 4 - 5 days per year, usually for a whole weekend (10.00 - 17.00 both Saturday & Sunday). There is a pool of 18 participants, and 1 more place may be available from 2019.
The group consists mainly of integrative psychotherapists with a relational orientation, many of whom had a humanistic training initially, many years ago. Over the years the culture of the group has evolved, from an emphasis on CPD and supervision to include increasingly personal and group process. The format over a typical weekend varies creatively between working in the whole group, sessions in the middle of the group, small group work, with Michael facilitating in collaboration with the emergent processes in the group. Occasionally, Michael will give some theoretical input relevant to the process, or summarise the emerging themes.
“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.
This semi-closed group has been running for several years now, since 2015, 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.
Exeter: The Embodiment of Relational Stances, Spaces & Modalities (Weekend 2 of 3)
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 2019.
It is likely that the group will continue in 2020 with another series of four weekends.