Events for ALL Counsellors & Psychotherapists

Events for ALL Counsellors & Psychotherapists2014-08-28T16:24:06+00:00

Oct
23
Tue
2018
Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups @ Fulcrum House
Oct 23 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups

Integrative, experiential supervision groups with Michael Soth

These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis (Tuesdays) at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45).

For further information, see the dedicated page or download the leaflet

Nov
17
Sat
2018
Athens: Embodied perspectives on couples and couple work @ Vasilisis Sofia 51
Nov 17 @ 10:00 – Nov 18 @ 18:00
Athens: Embodied perspectives on couples and couple work @ Vasilisis Sofia 51 | Athens | Greece

A weekend workshop in Athens with Michael Soth (17 & 18 November 2018)

on extending your practice from individuals to couples

suitable for all counsellors and therapists from across all therapeutic approaches

Couple work presents many additional challenges beyond individual therapy, but this weekend will condense the essentials into accessible form, focusing especially on the advantages which an embodied and integrative therapeutic perspective can bring to couple work.

An embodied perspective can significantly enhance couple work, in all aspects of the process: in terms of the therapist’s perceptive skills, our understanding of the dynamic as well as powerful opportunities for intervention. The habitual patterns and vicious circles which couples struggle with are mainly triggered, communicated and perpetuated on non-verbal and pre-reflexive levels (as interpersonal neurobiology shows – see references).

For most couples, mutual projective identifications occur subliminally and are difficult to notice and bring into awareness, especially when the couple therapist traditionally relies on ‘talking therapy’ methods and interpretations.

An integrative approach allows the therapist a creative range of interventions – using techniques from Gestalt, constellations, process-oriented psychology to help the couple discover experientially both the roots of their patterns as well as new ways of relating.

Michael will propose a distinction of the field into 8 kinds of couple therapy, drawing on a wide variety of humanistic, interpersonal, neuro-biological, systemic, and psychoanalytic approaches, all of which can be useful and contribute to a more comprehensive integration.

Some of the topics we may address:

  • “Can Love Last?” (after the book by Stephen Mitchell) – the vulnerability of attachment and commitment
  • the promise of falling in love: the other will provide protection against woundedness
  • embodied awareness of each partner’s internal object relations
  • complex vicious cycles of child – idealised parent – bad parent - child
  • mutual projective identifications (how the partners ‘dream each other up’)
  • the systemic fit: who the partners represent in each other’s family system
  • the Jungian and transpersonal perspective: each partner can become the other’s guide towards individuation (which involves as a side-effect of the relationship the destroying of each other’s defences)
  • Esther Perel’s contributions to our understanding of infidelity and erotic desire

Michael Soth has been developing his version of Embodied Integrative Couple Work over the last 12 years, and has worked with a wide variety of couples. He is an integral-relational Body Psychotherapist, trainer and supervisor (UKCP), living in Oxford, UK. Over the last 32 years he has been teaching on a range of counselling and therapy training courses, alongside working as Training Director at the Chiron Centre for Body Psychotherapy.

Inheriting concepts, values and ways of working from both psychoanalytic and humanistic traditions, he is interested in the therapeutic relationship as a bodymind process between two people who are both wounded and whole.

In his work and teaching, he integrates an unusually wide range of psychotherapeutic approaches, working towards a broad-spectrum integration of all therapeutic modalities and approaches, each with their gifts, wisdoms and expertise as well as their shadow aspects, fallacies and areas of obliviousness.

Extracts from his published writing as well as hand-outs, blogs and summaries of presentations are available through his website for INTEGRA CPD: www.integra-cpd.co.uk.

Interview on couple work

In preparation for the CPD workshop on couple work in Athens, Michael is interviewed by a Greek colleague:

  • Michael, why do we need companionship? Is it an innate need or just something we learned from society and we are trying to reproduce it?
  • Are there some distinct stages that interpersonal relationships go through? If so, can you summarize them?
  • In the description of your seminar I read with surprise that “one of the purposes / side-effects of the relationship is to destroy each other’s defences”. Can you elaborate?
  • Michael, according to your experience, what are the reasons why many people prefer to stay in a existing relationship that doesn’t offer anything any more, rather than set a new course and go for a better relationship?
  • Many times I have wondered in my life: am I falling in love with the person that I see in front of me or the longings and expectations that this person is producing in me? Am I falling in love with the other or an imaginary part of myself? Is there a way to distinguish one case from the other?
  • Is love enough by itself to keep a relationship going?
  • In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake that therapists and mental health professionals make when approaching couple therapy?
  • You talk about embodied couple therapy - what is that and how does it work? What does an embodied approach have to offer in addition to the talking therapies for couples?
  • Is learning about couple work useful only to couple therapists?

You can access the PDF with the interview here.

References for Couple Therapy

Stephen Mitchell (Relational Psychoanalysis): Can Love Last?

Esther Perel:

Mating in Captivity

The State Of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

Esther Perel website

Esther Perel TED talk

James Hillman: see chapter ‘Abandonment in Marriage’ in Loose Ends: Primary Papers in Archetypal Psychology

A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy:

Stan Tatkin https://thepactinstitute.com

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy:

Sue Johnson: http://drsuejohnson.com/emotionally-focused-therapy-2/what-is-eft/

https://www.psychotherapy.net/article/couples-therapy-attachment

Imago Therapy:

Harville Hendrix, PhD: Getting The Love You Want: A Guide for Couples

http://imagorelationships.org/pub/

http://imagorelationships.org/pro/

Couples Therapist Hedy Schleifer:

“Couples Therapist Hedy Schleifer, along with her husband Yumi Schleifer, are expert relationship coaches who lead workshops for couples, and trainings for therapists and organizations, transforming relationships worldwide.”

Psychoanalytic (Tavistock) perspectives on relationships

Stanley Ruszczynski

Psychotherapy With Couples: Theory and Practice at the Tavistock Institute of Marital Studies

Jungian perspectives on love

Robert A. Johnson

She: Understanding Feminine Psychology

He: Understanding Masculine Psychology

We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love

The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding The Wounded Feeling Function In Masculine And Feminine Psychology

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Women Who Run With The Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman

Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul

Jean Shinoda Bolen

Goddesses in Everywoman: Thirtieth Anniversary Edition: Powerful Archetypes in Women's Lives

Nathan Schwartz-Salant

Schwartz-Salant, N. (1998) The Mystery of Human Relationship: Alchemy and the Transformation of the Self

Family Therapy

Virginia Satir:

(1991) The Satir Model: Family Therapy and Beyond (Science and Behavior Books)

(2008) Your Many Faces: The First Step to Being Loved (Celestial Arts)

Salvador Minuchin:

Mastering Family Therapy: Journeys of Growth and Transformation

The Craft of Family Therapy: Challenging Certainties

Family Constellations

Bert Hellinger:

Love's Hidden Symmetry: What Makes Love Work in Relationships - The Order of Love

Nov
24
Sat
2018
Oxford: Trauma-focussed Supervision Group @ OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre
Nov 24 @ 10:00 – 16:00

Small Supervision Group with Morit Heitzler

Date: Sat. 24 November 2018 - Times: 10.00 – 16.00

Venue: OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre: 1st Floor, 142-144 Oxford Road, Temple Cowley, Oxford OX4 2EA

Cost per session: £85.00

This 1-day Saturday supervision group is an opportunity for you to specifically bring trauma clients for supervision - the day will be a mixture of clinical supervision of actual cases presented by participants and CPD learning (including some role play of case vignettes). Alongside learning from your own and other participants' experience, Morit will also give trauma-related teaching input, relevant to the themes and issues emerging from the clinical/client work.

Possible ongoing group emerging from this supervision day

There is a core group of several therapists who want this day to develop into an ongoing, regular group. The sessions will take place every 2 - 3 months from 10 - 4pm in Oxford, to be arranged in advance according to everybody's availability. The cost per session will be £85.00. If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Morit.

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 @ The Wheelhouse
Dec 1 @ 10:00 – Dec 2 @ 17:00

Exeter: Relational Body-Focused Skills Practice Weekend

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 2020 with another series of four weekends.

Oxford: Integrative Trauma Therapy – 3 CPD Days with Morit Heitzler 2018 – Workshop 2 @ OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre
Dec 1 @ 10:00 – 17:00

For all the background information and a workshop description of all three CPD days

see the dedicated page
see the dedicated page

Download the leaflet

Download the booking form to email back

Download the booking form to print and post

Dec
4
Tue
2018
Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups @ Fulcrum House
Dec 4 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups

Integrative, experiential supervision groups with Michael Soth

These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis (Tuesdays) at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45).

For further information, see the dedicated page or download the leaflet

Jan
15
Tue
2019
Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups @ Fulcrum House
Jan 15 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups

Integrative, experiential supervision groups with Michael Soth

These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis (Tuesdays) at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45).

For further information, see the dedicated page or download the leaflet

Jan
19
Sat
2019
Proposed CPD workshop: Mastering the Technique of Two-chair Work @ OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre (tbc)
Jan 19 @ 10:00 – Jan 20 @ 17:00
Feb
2
Sat
2019
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group (currently closed) @ The Nebula
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.

Oxford: Integrative Trauma Therapy – 3 CPD Days with Morit Heitzler 2018 – Workshop 3 @ OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre
Feb 2 @ 10:00 – 17:00

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Download the leaflet

Download the booking form to email back

Download the booking form to print and post

Feb
12
Tue
2019
Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups @ Fulcrum House
Feb 12 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups

Integrative, experiential supervision groups with Michael Soth

These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis (Tuesdays) at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45).

For further information, see the dedicated page or download the leaflet

Mar
2
Sat
2019
How to Work when Therapy isn’t Working @ Brighton, East Sussex
Mar 2 @ 10:00 – 16:30

HelplessShakespearePerceiving and understanding 'enactment' in the therapeutic relationship

Over recent years the most exciting developments in our field have come via neuroscience, psychotherapy integration (i.e. cross-fertilisation between approaches) and the inclusion of the body. We now understand that whatever psychological wounds the client is bringing to us and into the consulting room, we will in some ways become involved and implicated with them in ways that go far beyond verbal interaction. The term ‘enactment’ is being used to describe the ways in which the therapist is - inevitably and necessarily - drawn into the client’s wounding, leading to impasses and breakdowns in the working alliance.
There is great therapeutic potential in these cycles of rupture and repair that occur in the client-therapist relationship, but much of it occurs subliminally. So if it occurs unconsciously, outside of awareness, how can we perceive and understand enactment and respond creatively from within it? Whilst there are a multitude of ways of ignoring, avoiding and counteracting enactment, there is also increasing understanding that it has deep transformative potential*.

This CPD workshop is dedicated to deepening our engagement with difficult dynamics in the therapeutic relationship, and to finding ways of accessing the therapeutic potential locked within them. It is open to all practising therapists, and suitable for practitioners from all modalities.

What you can expect to learn on the day …

  • perceive the ways in which the client’s wound enters the consulting room
  • register significant and charged moments in the relationship
  • understand these moments in the context of the ‘three kinds of contact'
  • collect in these moments bodymind information which would otherwise remain subliminal
  • collect in these moments images, fantasies, scenarios, narratives which deepen our engagement from within the enactment
  • link these moments to the client’s habitual relational patterns
  • process the charge and pressure impacting on the therapist
  • begin to consider interventions for relieving or intensifying the enactment pressure

* ‘Deep’ psychotherapy, according to Allan Schore, for example (i.e. therapy that addresses early developmental injury and attachment and character patterns) depends on apprehending, engaging in and transforming spontaneous enactments which occur in the interaction between client and therapist inspite of the client’s repressive and dissociative defences

Organisers: Brighton Therapy Partnership

This workshop is expertly organised by Shelley Holland from Brighton Therapy Partnership, who has been running an inspiring and well-attended CPD programme for many years now. You can find some feedback in response to previous workshops on Michael's tutor page there.

 

Mar
5
Tue
2019
Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups @ Fulcrum House
Mar 5 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups

Integrative, experiential supervision groups with Michael Soth

These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis (Tuesdays) at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45).

For further information, see the dedicated page or download the leaflet

Mar
30
Sat
2019
Exeter: The Embodiment of Relational Stances, Spaces & Modalities – Weekend 1 @ The Wheelhouse
Mar 30 @ 10:00 – Mar 31 @ 16:00
Apr
2
Tue
2019
Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups @ Fulcrum House
Apr 2 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups

Integrative, experiential supervision groups with Michael Soth

These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis (Tuesdays) at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45).

For further information, see the dedicated page or download the leaflet

Apr
6
Sat
2019
Athens: Integrative Embodied-Relational Trauma Work with Morit Heitzler (tbc) @ Athens (tbc)
Apr 6 @ 10:00 – Apr 7 @ 17:00
Apr
30
Tue
2019
Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups @ Fulcrum House
Apr 30 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups

Integrative, experiential supervision groups with Michael Soth

These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis (Tuesdays) at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45).

For further information, see the dedicated page or download the leaflet

May
28
Tue
2019
Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups @ Fulcrum House
May 28 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups

Integrative, experiential supervision groups with Michael Soth

These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis (Tuesdays) at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45).

For further information, see the dedicated page or download the leaflet

Jun
25
Tue
2019
Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups @ Fulcrum House
Jun 25 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Bristol Monthly Small Supervision Groups

Integrative, experiential supervision groups with Michael Soth

These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis (Tuesdays) at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45).

For further information, see the dedicated page or download the leaflet

Sep
14
Sat
2019
Exeter: The Embodiment of Relational Stances, Spaces & Modalities – Weekend 2
Sep 14 @ 10:00 – Sep 15 @ 16:00

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.

Sep
28
Sat
2019
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group (currently closed) @ The Nebula,
Sep 28 @ 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
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.

 

 

Dec
8
Sun
2019
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group (currently closed) @ The Nebula
Dec 8 @ 10:00 – 17:00

An ongoing, broad-spectrum integrative group

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.

Jan
31
Fri
2020
Proposed CPD workshop: 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.