Events for ALL Counsellors & Psychotherapists

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

Nov
16
Sat
2019
Athens: Trauma, Psychoanalysis & Gestalt @ Galateias 12, Thissio, Athens
Nov 16 @ 10:00 – Nov 17 @ 17:00
Athens: Trauma, Psychoanalysis & Gestalt @ Galateias 12, Thissio, Athens | Athina | Greece

CPD Weekend in Athens (in English with Greek translation)

Since the origins of the psychotherapeutic field in the late 19th century and Freud’s discoveries, the notion of trauma has gone in and out of fashion repeatedly as a central explanatory mechanisms for the work that therapists do. Over the last 20 years, recovering from trauma has once again gained a dominant position, supported by new neurobiological understandings of the effect of trauma on the brain and the mind.

However, this focus on trauma, as helpful and necessary as it has been and continues to be, also has brought with it a great sense of urgency to ‘fix’ things and an emphasis on therapy as treatment by an expert.

Most recent advances by the modern trauma therapies, including the various somatic trauma therapies, have nudged therapy …

- away from spacious, patient being towards urgent doing,

- from exploration of the unknown towards focused goal-oriented treatment of problems

- from existential questioning towards technical answers

- and from two-person relationship towards one-person psychology treatment and the medical model

These shifts in emphasis have been counteracted, confused and concealed by a simultaneous turn towards the ‘relational’, without an understanding of the fundamental tensions between these contradictory movements.

Gestalt and field theory are capable of providing a framework that can embrace and integrate these contradictory tendencies if we combine them with modern psychoanalytic understandings of unconscious processes and intersubjectivity. However, across the diverse field of psychotherapy, Gestalt and psychoanalysis currently seems as far apart and segregated from each other as ever.

In this workshop, we will work towards an integration that can do justice to one-person psychology trauma treatment, one-and-a-half-person reparative affect regulation and countertransference interpretation as well as two-person dialogical exploration and intersubjectivity - the doing and the being of therapy integrated through a paradoxical understanding of the diverse modalities of therapeutic relating.

Workshop format

Michael has been working on re-integrating the Reichian and psychoanalytic traditions since the 1980’s and is an internationally recognised trainer in this field.

In this workshop, we will use participants’ own personal-professional experience and client material to learn experientially and theoretically, using role-plays to work through supervision vignettes in an embodied and experiential way. Michael will interweave the group process with the learning as well as skills practice, to demonstrate and teach, drawing on our shared experience in the group.

Learning Objectives

  • understand the fundamental paradigm clash between the Gestalt approach and the psychoanalytic tradition
  • understand the philosophical, theoretical and practical contradictions and differences between these two traditions
  • appreciate Martha Stark’s distinction between one-person, one-and-a-half-person and two-person psychology stances across the field of psychotherapy
  • identify and distinguish which of these stances are underpinning specific interventions
  • identify and distinguish how these stances affect pervasive underlying tensions present in all psychotherapy, between being and doing, exploration of the unknown versus focused goal-oriented treatment of problems, and betwee existential questioning versus technical answers
  • begin to reflect on the various stances in terms of their meaning for the client’s unconscious and how therapeutic interventions may be enacting wounding dynamics
  • develop relational flexibility between the various relational modalities and stances

 

Από την Ψυχανάλυση μέχρι την Gestalt

2ήμερο βιωματικό και εκπαιδευτικό σεμινάριο

με τον Michael Soth, διεθνώς Αναγνωρισμένο Συνθετικό-Σχεσιακό Σωματικό Ψυχοθεραπευτή, Εκπαιδευτή και Επόπτη, με 30 χρόνια εμπειρίας

Από τις απαρχές της ψυχοθεραπείας και τις ανακαλύψεις του Φρόυντ στο τέλος του 19ου αιώνα, η έννοια του τραύματος έρχεται στη μόδα και βγαίνει εκτός κατ’ επανάληψη, ως το κεντρικό θεωρητικό πλαίσιο της εργασίας των ψυχοθεραπευτών. Τα τελευταία 20 χρόνια, η ανάρρωση από το τραύμα έχει αποκτήσει ξανά μια κυρίαρχη θέση, υποστηριζόμενη από τα νέα νευροβιολογικά ευρύματα σχετικά με τις συνέπειες του τραύματος στον εγκέφαλο.
Ωστόσο αυτή η έμφαση στο τραύμα, όσο βοηθητική και απαραίτητη κι αν έχει υπάρξει και συνεχίζει να υπάρχει, έχει επιπλέον φέρει μαζί της την έντονη αίσθηση να φτιάξουμε επειγόντως τα πράγματα και την αντίληψη της ψυχοθεραπείας ως μια αγωγή από κάποιον ειδικό.
Οι τελευταίες ανακαλύψεις από τις σύγχρονες θεραπείες τραύματος, που περιλαμβάνουν και τις διάφορες σωματικές προσεγγίσεις έχουν ωθήσει την ψυχοθεραπεία και τους ψυχοθεραπευτές:
• από το να υπάρχω υπομονετικά δίνοντας χώρο προς το να κάνω επειγόντως κάτι
• από την εξερεύνηση του αγνώστου προς τη στοχοπροσηλωμένη αντιμετώπιση προβλημάτων
• από την υπαρξιακή διερώτηση προς τις τεχνικές απαντήσεις
• από τη σχέση δύο ανθρώπων προς την προσέγγιση της ψυχολογίας του ενός ατόμου και το ιατρικό μοντέλο.
Η στροφή προς τη σχεσιασκή ψυχοθεραπεία είχε ως αποτέλεσμα να προκαλέσει σύγχυση και να συγκαλύψει χωρίς να φέρει ούτε επίλυση ούτε ουσιαστική κατανόηση των θεμελιωδών διαφορών ανάμεσα στα παραπάνω αντιθετικά κινήματα.
Η θεραπεία Gestalt και η θεωρία πεδίου παρέχουν ένα πλαίσιο που μπορεί να αγκαλιάσει και να ενοποιήσει αυτές τις αντιθετικές τάσεις αν τις συνδυάσουμε με τον σύγχρονο ψυχαναλυτικό τρόπο κατανόησης των ασυνείδητων διαδικασιών και της διυποκειμενικότητας. Ωστόσο, στο ευρύ πεδίο της ψυχοθεραπείας, η Gestalt και η ψυχανάλυση προς το παρόν φαίνονται περισσότερο απομακρυσμένες και διαχωρισμένες όσο ποτέ.
Στόχοι του Σεμιναρίου
Σε αυτό το σεμινάριο, θα εργαστούμε πάνω στη θεραπεία τραύματος ενοποιώντας την προσέγγιση της ψυχολογίας του ενός ατόμου, τη διορθωτική ρύθμιση συναισθήματος και την ερμηνεία της αντιμεταβίβασης με τη διαλογική εξερεύνηση δύο ατόμων και της διυποκειμενικότητας. Στόχος είναι ένα ενοποιημένο μοντέλο θεραπείας που να εμπεριέχει τις στάσεις του να κάνω και το να είμαι μέσα στη θεραπεία χρησιμοποιώντας -έστω και φαινομενικά με παράδοξο τρόπο- διάφορα αντίθετα μοντέλα του θεραπευτικού σχετίζεσθαι.
Πιο συγκεκριμένα οι συμμετέχοντες θα:
• Κατανοήσουν τη βασική διαφορά/σύγκρουση ανάμεσα στην ψχαναλυτική παράδοση και την προσέγγιση της Gestalt
• Κατανοήσουν τις φιλοσοφικές, θεωρητικές και πρακτικές διαφορές και αντιθέσεις ανάμεσα στις δύο παραπάνω παραδόσεις
• Εμπεδώσουν τη διάκριση της Martha Stark ανάμεσα στην ψυχολογική στάση του «ενός ατόμου», «ενάμιση ατόμου» και «δύο ατόμων»
• Αναγνωρίσουν και διακρίνουν ποια από αυτές τις στάσεις βρίσκεται πίσω από συγκεκριμένες θεραπευτικές παρεμβάσεις
• Αναγνωρίσουν και διακρίνουν πώς αυτές οι στάσεις επηρεάζουν τις βασικές υποβόσκουσες εντάσεις παρούσες σε κάθε είδους ψυχοθεραπείας, δηλ. ανάμεσα στο να είμαι και στο να κάνω, στο να εξερευνώ το άγνωστο και να ακολουθώ συγκεκριμένους θεραπευτικούς στόχους και στο να διερωτώμαι υπαρξιακά και στο να δίνω τεχνικές απαντήσεις
• Ξεκινήσουν να αναλογίζονται πάνω στις διάφορες θεραπευτικές στάσεις σε σχέση με το νόημα του ασυνειδήτου του θεραπευόμενου και πώς οι θεραπευτικές παρεμβάσεις μπορεί να εκδραματίζουν τραυματικές δυναμικές του παρελθόντος
• Αναπτύξουν σχεσιακή ευελιξία ανάμεσα στις διάφορα θεραπευτικά μοντέλα και στάσεις

Απευθύνεται σε
• Επαγγελματίες και εκπαιδευόμενους ψυχικής υγείας
(ψυχολόγους, συμβούλους ψυχικής υγείας, ψυχοθεραπευτές κλπ.)

Ημερομηνία Σεμιναρίου:
Σάββατο 16 & Κυριακή 17 Νοεμβρίου 2019 (10.00 – 18.00)
Τόπος Διεξαγωγής:   Γαλάτειας 12, Αθήνα (μετρό Θησείο)
Κόστος Συμμετοχής: €180 + ΦΠΑ  [€160 Προεγγραφή μέχρι 8 Νοεμβρίου]

Το σεμινάριο γίνεται στα αγγλικά με μετάφραση στα ελληνικά.
Θέσεις περιορισμένες, θα τηρηθεί σειρά προτεραιότητας.

Nov
24
Sun
2019
OTS: The Client’s Conflict becomes the Therapist’s Conflict @ OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre
Nov 24 @ 10:00 – 17:00

OTS_header

The Therapist's Conflict: how to spot it and what to do next - a step-by-step recipe book (for processing the therapist’s dilemmas)

After previous training days ('How To Work When Therapy Isn’t Working?' as well as ‘Relational Dilemmas of First Sessions and Initial Assessments' ) we have had several enquiries and requests to take the topics further and deeper. There was a clear sense that we needed further workshops, and it was understood that Michael’s principle that “the client’s conflict becomes the therapist’s conflict” is just the first step in exploring the connection between the client’s and the therapist’s inner world in the context of the working alliance.

Three things stood out from the work we did in the small groups, as borne out by some of the feedback:

  1. as therapists we don’t always know when we are in conflict;
  2. when we do know, we often hit a blank wall - what to do or how to understand what’s going on;
  3. in order to avoid the discomfort of the conflict, we take refuge in default therapeutic interventions, routine manoeuvres and habitual stances, i.e. mechanisms which dilute the necessary charge and tension in the relationship - in doing so, we unwittingly abort the therapeutic process or precipitate ruptures in the alliance

Some of the feedback was: ‘It is scary to feel like you don’t know what to do as a therapist, so it can be a relief to not know you are in conflict.’ (this is rather reminiscent of Bion’s statement: “In every consulting room there ought to be two rather frightened people.”)

Being aware of and acknowledging our internal (countertransference) conflict as therapists feels like we’re losing our therapeutic position, and a sense that we are failing. In order to avoid the inherent sense of feeling powerless and vulnerable, we resort to our ‘habitual position’ as therapists, trying to shore up our shaky therapeutic position. One of the most common manoeuvres is to ask more questions of the client in the hope of ‘getting somewhere else’, where we can feel on safer ground. However, in doing so we then manage to fall into two further pitfalls:

- by trying to ‘move on’ or ‘hold on’ to our therapeutic position, we give the implicit message to the client that we can’t bear their pain, and can’t sit in it with them;

- because we are doing so defensively, prematurely and without awareness or preparation, our interventions precipitate us further into enactment: we fall down on one or the other side of our conflict, and fail to ‘hold’ the conflict, or to catch the rupture we are entangled in.

This training day will develop your capacity to be aware of your conflict as a therapist and learn to ‘sit in it’ without dissociating or going unconscious through overwhelmed by pressure, fear or shame. It then becomes more possible to extract the precious information which the therapist’s conflict contains about the relational dynamic and the client’s inner world.

What you can expect to learn on the day …

  • register significant and charged moments in the relationship
  • understand these moments in the context of the three kinds of contact
  • attend to your internal process and sense of conflict in moments of intensifying charge
  • collect in these moments bodymind information which would otherwise remain subliminal
  • link these moments to the client’s habitual relational patterns
  • perceive the ways in which the client’s wounding enters the consulting room
  • process the charge and pressure impacting on the therapist
  • begin to consider interventions for relieving or intensifying the enactment pressure

Format of the day:

Lunch: As usual we will arrange a bring and share lunch in the week before the event.

Dec
7
Sat
2019
London (Wimbledon): Sustainable practice in the ‘impossible profession’? @ Drake House
Dec 7 @ 10:00 – 16:00

This 1-day CPD workshop, organised by the Wimbledon Guild, is open to all counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches and modalities.

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 @ 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.

Feb
8
Sat
2020
Exeter: The Embodiment of Relational Stances, Spaces & Modalities – Weekend 3
Feb 8 @ 10:00 – Feb 9 @ 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.

Mar
21
Sat
2020
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group @ The Nebula
Mar 21 @ 10:00 – Mar 22 @ 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.

May
2
Sat
2020
Oxford: Mastering the Creative Therapeutic Technique of Two-chair Work @ OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre
May 2 @ 10:00 – May 3 @ 17:00

Solutions to the 2-chair technique's recurring pitfalls

Anticipating and understanding the obstacles and problems inherent in the technique and making therapeutic and transformational use of them

When it comes to shifting the focus of therapeutic interaction from 'talking about' to 'exploring the experience', there are few techniques more useful than 'empty-chair' or 'two-chair' work (this applies to supervision as well as therapy).
However, when therapists risk using the technique, it often does not produce the intended or intuited results. Having started with what seemed like a burning, vibrant issue, the spark gets lost, and the interaction ‘goes flat’ or starts going round in circles.

"From many years of using the technique myself, as well as teaching and supervising it, I have concluded there are some built-in recurring pitfalls which are inherent in it. When we understand why these obstacles and pitfalls are necessarily bound to occur, we can anticipate and prepare for them and address them as they arise. This can actually enhance our use of the technique and make it more elegant and effective."

"I am expecting that in terms of the micro-detail of therapeutic technique (what you actually do and say as a therapist and how and in what sequence and with what timing), these days will be amongst the most specific and useful you will ever do. In terms of this particular technique, it's as close to a 'recipe book' or ‘manual’ of therapeutic intervention as is feasible when what we are really interested in is the aliveness and spontaneity of the client-therapist interaction."

This unique series of 5 CPD days with Michael Soth, starting with an in-depth weekend workshop (2 & 3 May 2020), followed by three further days, is designed to engender both detailed knowledge and skill as well as confidence and authority, whatever level of experience you are currently bringing to this type of work. The follow-on days are spaced out in such a way that participants can apply their learning in practice during the weeks in between, and then bring their experience back for deeper reflection and further learning.

The 'empty-chair' technique or 'two-chair work' is one of the best-known and widely-used humanistic methods. The technique invites/allows the client to embody the felt reality of particular relationship difficulties they feel caught in and bring them to life (rather than ‘talking about’ them), by spatially - and therefore emotionally - separating out the protagonists of otherwise diffuse internal conversations and ruminations. This can take the shape of psychodrama or role-play of the dialogue with actual others, or it can simply be an externalising and enacting of internal, fantasised or dreamt dynamics.

One of the advantages of the technique is that it can be applied fluidly to both external and internal relationships, often helping the client not only to see, but to feel the parallels and connections between internal and external ways of relating which are at the root of what perpetuates unsatisfying, polarised or destructive relationships.

Undoubtedly, the technique has many therapeutic uses and benefits, and can facilitate powerful, transformative experiences. But when therapists attempt to use it, they frequently report in supervision that it did not work, that it 'went flat', or that the client self-consciously refused to 'perform'.

How can we anticipate and deal with these recurring obstacles?

Rather than setting ourselves (and the client) up for the pressure of the technique having to produce a 'good' outcome, let's understand the inherent principles of the technique and how the dialogue is actually bound to 'go flat'. Based on that understanding, we can then pay attention to how it does go flat when it does and make that awareness useful for the particular dialogue we have set up in the first place. This kind of stance takes care of the usual ‘self-consciousness’ or 'performance anxiety' associated with the use of the technique (for both client and therapist), and helps therapists maintain the exploratory intention inherent in the approach.

Although the technique arises from within a Gestalt paradigm and fits and belongs with the principles of that holistic approach and its underlying field theory, it has been taken up and is being used by a wide variety of other therapeutic schools, often without practitioners even knowing about its origins in Gestalt. But in order to address the inherent pitfalls and difficulties of the technique, the perspectives and paradigms of other approaches are very useful, especially body-oriented and psychoanalytic perspectives, but also, for example, NLP and CBT. Because I bring this broad-spectrum perspective to the technique, the workshop should be suitable for practitioners from across the modalities and orientations.

For more detailed information about the background, format and content of the weekend workshop, download the leaflet.

 

May
9
Sat
2020
Exeter: Working with the Breath in Psychotherapy @ The Blackdown Healthy Living & Activity Centre
May 9 @ 10:00 – May 10 @ 17:00

Experiential weekend for everybody interested in breathwork, including counsellors and psychotherapists from across all the approaches: Bank Holiday Saturday & Sunday: 9 & 10 May 2020 (Exeter)

Download detailed leaflet

Introduction

There are a multitude of techniques instructing us how to breathe correctly, derived from a multitude of traditions, Eastern and Western. Many of these instructions are contradictory, being either oriented towards calming us down and helping us centre (generally Eastern), or targeting emotional blocks by provoking primal regressive and cathartic experience (generally Western).
These experiential weekends are based on the assumption that ALL types of breathwork technique have some validity with some of the people some of the time, and can be helpfully and powerfully integrated into the psychotherapeutic process.
But all of them can also become counter-productive and can be used in counter-therapeutic ways. So whilst in principle we want to be familiar with ALL kinds of techniques and competent in using them, the most important question is HOW TO SELECT from within the contradictory multitude of approaches a way of working that fits a particular client’s process at a particular point in time.
What criteria can help us with that selection process?
That selection process cannot just be based on simplistic one-person psychology treatment considerations of theory and technique. A fundamental assumption of these weekends is that such considerations of theory and technique - and the selection of the ‘correct' technique - are always embedded in relational dynamics and should be guided by an understanding of these dynamics. Rather than using breathwork as an instructional technique, in psychotherapy we want to be able to use attention to the breath as an aspect of embodied relating between client and therapist which is always already present, whether we are aware of it or not.

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

In recent attempts to include the body in psychotherapy, partly inspired by modern neuroscience, 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 constituting the therapeutic relationship fully 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 – and quite contradictory - traditions, both Eastern and Western, many explicitly holistic, some psychological as well as 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 re-including the previously neglected body in the ‘talking therapies’ by drawing on body-oriented traditions and integrating them into psychotherapy, is that in our eagerness to validate somatic experience the inherent 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 and fragmented, not sure whether it is coming or going. All the different traditions, of course, each have their wisdoms and gifts, but we cannot just arbitrarily mix and match them, even if it is for the valid purpose of supposedly including the body or achieving bodymind integration.

What are some of the key tensions and contradictory principles between the diverse traditions of different kinds of breath work?

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, unifying, steadying effect. They were never designed to deal with the degree of disembodiment, traumatised dissociation, repressed feelings, and general neurosis of the modern psyche and its fragmentation and relational vicissitudes. But as holistic practices affecting not only our body, but also our state of mind, they can have profoundly beneficial and therefore therapeutic effects.

In 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 and repressive ‘character armour’ and primarily emphasised catharsis in order to counteract chronic tensions, inhibitions and restrictions of the breath. 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 ‘mind’-ful, calming centering) is not the only contradiction.

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

When recognising somebody's restricted or flawed, incomplete, hypo– or hyperventilating or otherwise unwholesome breathing pattern (with some bodyworkers having no hesitation calling it ‘pathological’), different approaches have quite different assumptions, aims and corrective techniques. All of these approaches can have their valid purpose and application and can be used at different times. 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. In that case we would give specific instructions to the client which will require top-down mind-over-body deliberate application and discipline. Often, however, this leads to a forced and consciously controlled breathing pattern which adds further layers of contortion on what is already a tense and contorted situation.

Or are we trying to understand and bring awareness to how this breathing is part of their characterological bodymind habit and condition? In which case there is a rationale for attending mindfully to the ‘unhealthy’ breathing pattern without trying to change it, letting it be and continue as it habitually is.

One essential feature of the breath is that it mostly happens automatically or semi-consciously. 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 (and that can be profoundly helpful), but how does this impact on the breath the rest of the time when we do not make an effort to consciously 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 make a disciplined effort to approximate. But will this transform the life-long roots of the breathing pattern and engender a sustained satisfying spontaneous breath?

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 learning to hold their breath) where they learnt or were explicitly taught how to breathe. These methods have become automatic or turned into 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 top-down ‘super ego’ imposition, usually exacerbating the contortions that are already present.

Calm, 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 an entrenched 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

Changing from talking in chairs to lying on the mattress in order 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, theories and reference points for both.

In 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 defensive ego scans vitality affects and the energetic ‘weather’ in the bodymind for signs that threaten intensity, regression and potential overwhelm. It anticipates, counterbalances, manages and controls – in some sort of approximation of self-regulation – regressive tendencies as they arise. In order to do that, the ego needs to monitor the charge in the system, and therefore the breath as the main regulator of intensity – this usually happens 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 some of key questions throughout the weekend. 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

Generally speaking, the profound potential of breath work in terms of spontaneous and regressive experience was traditionally 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 of the interaction at the expense of attention to the inter-personal 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 to the extent that it then outweighs or overwhelms 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 and transferential and enactment dynamics.

Therefore, providing a relational container for regressive states, primarily by the therapist recognising 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 be limited in their helpfulness in the immediacy of breathwork because of their implicit paradigm bias towards the mind and mental representations, privileging reflection over spontaneity. The spontaneity of breathwork inherently relies on an embodied two-person psychology, and a holistic – or non-dualistic – framework not only philosophically, but with the therapist ‘walking their talk’ as an embodied intersubjective presence.

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. The way the two subjects organise themselves in relation to each other as two bodymind systems is the matrix of conscious versus unconscious processes. In this perspective, envisaged by Reich, 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 CPD weekend, 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 (inter-)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, merger and separateness, authority and woundedness and a unified sense of self versus multiplicity. This weekend 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

The issues described above are just some brief examples to illustrate that this whole area 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 which exist across the field, both of psychotherapy and of Eastern practices which many of our clients are involved with.

Content of the weekend

This weekend is the first in a series which aims to work towards a comprehensive understanding and practice of breathwork, drawing from the diverse traditions and trying to integrate them on the basis of a holistic bodymind psychological understanding. Specifically, it will include to some extent mindfulness, meditative and yoga breathing, but focus on the lesser known approaches like 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’.

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

Format of the weekend

As all of these techniques depend upon the moment-to-moment engagement with the body’s spontaneous and involuntary processes and subliminal communications, role-play and simulations (which are usually a regular feature of experiential CPD learning) are of limited usefulness in this context. Therefore, 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. For the duration of the course, we will together build the safety and relational container necessary for such work to become possible in an authentic way.

Several assistants to support the group

As traditional breathwork tends to ignore and neglect the intersubjective aspects and unconscious processes occurring between client and therapist, in order to maximise relational awareness, we will invite a significant number of assistants to support the group and learning process at every level. We are expecting a group of about 20 to 25 participants and between 5 and 10 assistants.

About the Tutor:

Michael Soth 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 variety 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 full-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. He has written numerous articles and is a frequent presenter at conferences. Extracts from his published writing as well as hand-outs, blogs and summaries of presentations are available through his website for INTEGRA CPD: integra-cpd.co.uk, or find him on Facebook and Twitter (INTEGRA_CPD). He is co-editor of the Handbook of Body Psychotherapy and Somatic Psychology, published in 2015.

A broad-spectrum integration of a wide variety of therapeutic approaches:

Here is a list of approaches I draw from and include, vaguely in sequence of my own training and exposure to them over the last 30 years:

  • drawing on all the schools of the Body Psychotherapy tradition (Reichian, vegeto, bioenergetics, biosynthesis, biodynamic, somatic psychology, somatic trauma therapy, etc)
  • wide range of humanistic-integrative approaches, incl. Gestalt, Process-Oriented Psychology, breathwork & rebirthing, Transactional Analysis, Psychodrama, and others; also existential perspectives
  • psychoanalytic: object relations, self psychology, intersubjectivity & relational perspectives
  • systemic: both in terms of Bert Hellinger's family constellations and the systemic approach, as well as systems theory, complexity theory and integral and fractal perspectives
  • transpersonal: Jungian and archetypal psychology, psychosynthesis, Wilber, mindfulness
  • constructivist, including NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) and hypnotherapy (Erickson)
  • cognitive-behavioural models and techniques
  • somatic trauma therapies, including Rothschild, Levine (Somatic Experiencing), Ogden (sensori-motor) and EMDR

Many of the above are being combined these days into new hybrid forms, so I aim to keep updated with these ongoing developments.

Venue

The Blackdown Healthy Living & Activity Centre

Riverside, Hemyock, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 3SH

Dates & Times

Bank Holiday Saturday & Sunday: 9 & 10 May 2020

10.00 – 17.00

Course content enquiries - Judy Shaw:

e: judyshawuk@icloud.com T: 01404 831007

w: http://indianlilac.co.uk

Administration enquiries - Clare Brook:

For booking, accommodation information and all other practicalities

e: clare_brook@yahoo.co.uk

Jun
14
Sun
2020
Oxford: Mastering the Creative Therapeutic Technique of Two-chair Work @ OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre
Jun 14 @ 10:00 – Jun 15 @ 17:00

Solutions to the 2-chair technique's recurring pitfalls

Anticipating and understanding the obstacles and problems inherent in the technique and making therapeutic and transformational use of them

When it comes to shifting the focus of therapeutic interaction from 'talking about' to 'exploring the experience', there are few techniques more useful than 'empty-chair' or 'two-chair' work (this applies to supervision as well as therapy).
However, when therapists risk using the technique, it often does not produce the intended or intuited results. Having started with what seemed like a burning, vibrant issue, the spark gets lost, and the interaction ‘goes flat’ or starts going round in circles.

"From many years of using the technique myself, as well as teaching and supervising it, I have concluded there are some built-in recurring pitfalls which are inherent in it. When we understand why these obstacles and pitfalls are necessarily bound to occur, we can anticipate and prepare for them and address them as they arise. This can actually enhance our use of the technique and make it more elegant and effective."

"I am expecting that in terms of the micro-detail of therapeutic technique (what you actually do and say as a therapist and how and in what sequence and with what timing), these days will be amongst the most specific and useful you will ever do. In terms of this particular technique, it's as close to a 'recipe book' or ‘manual’ of therapeutic intervention as is feasible when what we are really interested in is the aliveness and spontaneity of the client-therapist interaction."

This unique series of 5 CPD days with Michael Soth, starting with an in-depth weekend workshop (2 & 3 May 2020), followed by three further days, is designed to engender both detailed knowledge and skill as well as confidence and authority, whatever level of experience you are currently bringing to this type of work. The follow-on days are spaced out in such a way that participants can apply their learning in practice during the weeks in between, and then bring their experience back for deeper reflection and further learning.

The 'empty-chair' technique or 'two-chair work' is one of the best-known and widely-used humanistic methods. The technique invites/allows the client to embody the felt reality of particular relationship difficulties they feel caught in and bring them to life (rather than ‘talking about’ them), by spatially - and therefore emotionally - separating out the protagonists of otherwise diffuse internal conversations and ruminations. This can take the shape of psychodrama or role-play of the dialogue with actual others, or it can simply be an externalising and enacting of internal, fantasised or dreamt dynamics.

One of the advantages of the technique is that it can be applied fluidly to both external and internal relationships, often helping the client not only to see, but to feel the parallels and connections between internal and external ways of relating which are at the root of what perpetuates unsatisfying, polarised or destructive relationships.

Undoubtedly, the technique has many therapeutic uses and benefits, and can facilitate powerful, transformative experiences. But when therapists attempt to use it, they frequently report in supervision that it did not work, that it 'went flat', or that the client self-consciously refused to 'perform'.

How can we anticipate and deal with these recurring obstacles?

Rather than setting ourselves (and the client) up for the pressure of the technique having to produce a 'good' outcome, let's understand the inherent principles of the technique and how the dialogue is actually bound to 'go flat'. Based on that understanding, we can then pay attention to how it does go flat when it does and make that awareness useful for the particular dialogue we have set up in the first place. This kind of stance takes care of the usual ‘self-consciousness’ or 'performance anxiety' associated with the use of the technique (for both client and therapist), and helps therapists maintain the exploratory intention inherent in the approach.

Although the technique arises from within a Gestalt paradigm and fits and belongs with the principles of that holistic approach and its underlying field theory, it has been taken up and is being used by a wide variety of other therapeutic schools, often without practitioners even knowing about its origins in Gestalt. But in order to address the inherent pitfalls and difficulties of the technique, the perspectives and paradigms of other approaches are very useful, especially body-oriented and psychoanalytic perspectives, but also, for example, NLP and CBT. Because I bring this broad-spectrum perspective to the technique, the workshop should be suitable for practitioners from across the modalities and orientations.

For more detailed information about the background, format and content of the weekend workshop, download the leaflet.

 

Jul
11
Sat
2020
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group @ The Nebula
Jul 11 @ 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.

Jul
12
Sun
2020
Oxford: Mastering the Creative Therapeutic Technique of Two-chair Work @ OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre
Jul 12 @ 10:00 – Jul 13 @ 17:00

Solutions to the 2-chair technique's recurring pitfalls

Anticipating and understanding the obstacles and problems inherent in the technique and making therapeutic and transformational use of them

When it comes to shifting the focus of therapeutic interaction from 'talking about' to 'exploring the experience', there are few techniques more useful than 'empty-chair' or 'two-chair' work (this applies to supervision as well as therapy).
However, when therapists risk using the technique, it often does not produce the intended or intuited results. Having started with what seemed like a burning, vibrant issue, the spark gets lost, and the interaction ‘goes flat’ or starts going round in circles.

"From many years of using the technique myself, as well as teaching and supervising it, I have concluded there are some built-in recurring pitfalls which are inherent in it. When we understand why these obstacles and pitfalls are necessarily bound to occur, we can anticipate and prepare for them and address them as they arise. This can actually enhance our use of the technique and make it more elegant and effective."

"I am expecting that in terms of the micro-detail of therapeutic technique (what you actually do and say as a therapist and how and in what sequence and with what timing), these days will be amongst the most specific and useful you will ever do. In terms of this particular technique, it's as close to a 'recipe book' or ‘manual’ of therapeutic intervention as is feasible when what we are really interested in is the aliveness and spontaneity of the client-therapist interaction."

This unique series of 5 CPD days with Michael Soth, starting with an in-depth weekend workshop (2 & 3 May 2020), followed by three further days, is designed to engender both detailed knowledge and skill as well as confidence and authority, whatever level of experience you are currently bringing to this type of work. The follow-on days are spaced out in such a way that participants can apply their learning in practice during the weeks in between, and then bring their experience back for deeper reflection and further learning.

The 'empty-chair' technique or 'two-chair work' is one of the best-known and widely-used humanistic methods. The technique invites/allows the client to embody the felt reality of particular relationship difficulties they feel caught in and bring them to life (rather than ‘talking about’ them), by spatially - and therefore emotionally - separating out the protagonists of otherwise diffuse internal conversations and ruminations. This can take the shape of psychodrama or role-play of the dialogue with actual others, or it can simply be an externalising and enacting of internal, fantasised or dreamt dynamics.

One of the advantages of the technique is that it can be applied fluidly to both external and internal relationships, often helping the client not only to see, but to feel the parallels and connections between internal and external ways of relating which are at the root of what perpetuates unsatisfying, polarised or destructive relationships.

Undoubtedly, the technique has many therapeutic uses and benefits, and can facilitate powerful, transformative experiences. But when therapists attempt to use it, they frequently report in supervision that it did not work, that it 'went flat', or that the client self-consciously refused to 'perform'.

How can we anticipate and deal with these recurring obstacles?

Rather than setting ourselves (and the client) up for the pressure of the technique having to produce a 'good' outcome, let's understand the inherent principles of the technique and how the dialogue is actually bound to 'go flat'. Based on that understanding, we can then pay attention to how it does go flat when it does and make that awareness useful for the particular dialogue we have set up in the first place. This kind of stance takes care of the usual ‘self-consciousness’ or 'performance anxiety' associated with the use of the technique (for both client and therapist), and helps therapists maintain the exploratory intention inherent in the approach.

Although the technique arises from within a Gestalt paradigm and fits and belongs with the principles of that holistic approach and its underlying field theory, it has been taken up and is being used by a wide variety of other therapeutic schools, often without practitioners even knowing about its origins in Gestalt. But in order to address the inherent pitfalls and difficulties of the technique, the perspectives and paradigms of other approaches are very useful, especially body-oriented and psychoanalytic perspectives, but also, for example, NLP and CBT. Because I bring this broad-spectrum perspective to the technique, the workshop should be suitable for practitioners from across the modalities and orientations.

For more detailed information about the background, format and content of the weekend workshop, download the leaflet.

 

Sep
19
Sat
2020
Exeter: Working with the Breath in Psychotherapy @ The Blackdown Healthy Living & Activity Centre
Sep 19 @ 10:00 – Sep 20 @ 17:00

Experiential weekend for everybody interested in breathwork, including counsellors and psychotherapists from across all the approaches: Saturday & Sunday: 19 & 20 September 2020 (Exeter)

Download detailed leaflet

Introduction

There are a multitude of techniques instructing us how to breathe correctly, derived from a multitude of traditions, Eastern and Western. Many of these instructions are contradictory, being either oriented towards calming us down and helping us centre (generally Eastern), or targeting emotional blocks by provoking primal regressive and cathartic experience (generally Western).
These experiential weekends are based on the assumption that ALL types of breathwork technique have some validity with some of the people some of the time, and can be helpfully and powerfully integrated into the psychotherapeutic process.
But all of them can also become counter-productive and can be used in counter-therapeutic ways. So whilst in principle we want to be familiar with ALL kinds of techniques and competent in using them, the most important question is HOW TO SELECT from within the contradictory multitude of approaches a way of working that fits a particular client’s process at a particular point in time.
What criteria can help us with that selection process?
That selection process cannot just be based on simplistic one-person psychology treatment considerations of theory and technique. A fundamental assumption of these weekends is that such considerations of theory and technique - and the selection of the ‘correct' technique - are always embedded in relational dynamics and should be guided by an understanding of these dynamics. Rather than using breathwork as an instructional technique, in psychotherapy we want to be able to use attention to the breath as an aspect of embodied relating between client and therapist which is always already present, whether we are aware of it or not.

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

In recent attempts to include the body in psychotherapy, partly inspired by modern neuroscience, 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 constituting the therapeutic relationship fully 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 – and quite contradictory - traditions, both Eastern and Western, many explicitly holistic, some psychological as well as 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 re-including the previously neglected body in the ‘talking therapies’ by drawing on body-oriented traditions and integrating them into psychotherapy, is that in our eagerness to validate somatic experience the inherent 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 and fragmented, not sure whether it is coming or going. All the different traditions, of course, each have their wisdoms and gifts, but we cannot just arbitrarily mix and match them, even if it is for the valid purpose of supposedly including the body or achieving bodymind integration.

What are some of the key tensions and contradictory principles between the diverse traditions of different kinds of breath work?

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, unifying, steadying effect. They were never designed to deal with the degree of disembodiment, traumatised dissociation, repressed feelings, and general neurosis of the modern psyche and its fragmentation and relational vicissitudes. But as holistic practices affecting not only our body, but also our state of mind, they can have profoundly beneficial and therefore therapeutic effects.

In 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 and repressive ‘character armour’ and primarily emphasised catharsis in order to counteract chronic tensions, inhibitions and restrictions of the breath. 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 ‘mind’-ful, calming centering) is not the only contradiction.

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

When recognising somebody's restricted or flawed, incomplete, hypo– or hyperventilating or otherwise unwholesome breathing pattern (with some bodyworkers having no hesitation calling it ‘pathological’), different approaches have quite different assumptions, aims and corrective techniques. All of these approaches can have their valid purpose and application and can be used at different times. 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. In that case we would give specific instructions to the client which will require top-down mind-over-body deliberate application and discipline. Often, however, this leads to a forced and consciously controlled breathing pattern which adds further layers of contortion on what is already a tense and contorted situation.

Or are we trying to understand and bring awareness to how this breathing is part of their characterological bodymind habit and condition? In which case there is a rationale for attending mindfully to the ‘unhealthy’ breathing pattern without trying to change it, letting it be and continue as it habitually is.

One essential feature of the breath is that it mostly happens automatically or semi-consciously. 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 (and that can be profoundly helpful), but how does this impact on the breath the rest of the time when we do not make an effort to consciously 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 make a disciplined effort to approximate. But will this transform the life-long roots of the breathing pattern and engender a sustained satisfying spontaneous breath?

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 learning to hold their breath) where they learnt or were explicitly taught how to breathe. These methods have become automatic or turned into 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 top-down ‘super ego’ imposition, usually exacerbating the contortions that are already present.

Calm, 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 an entrenched 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

Changing from talking in chairs to lying on the mattress in order 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, theories and reference points for both.

In 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 defensive ego scans vitality affects and the energetic ‘weather’ in the bodymind for signs that threaten intensity, regression and potential overwhelm. It anticipates, counterbalances, manages and controls – in some sort of approximation of self-regulation – regressive tendencies as they arise. In order to do that, the ego needs to monitor the charge in the system, and therefore the breath as the main regulator of intensity – this usually happens 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 some of key questions throughout the weekend. 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

Generally speaking, the profound potential of breath work in terms of spontaneous and regressive experience was traditionally 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 of the interaction at the expense of attention to the inter-personal 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 to the extent that it then outweighs or overwhelms 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 and transferential and enactment dynamics.

Therefore, providing a relational container for regressive states, primarily by the therapist recognising 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 be limited in their helpfulness in the immediacy of breathwork because of their implicit paradigm bias towards the mind and mental representations, privileging reflection over spontaneity. The spontaneity of breathwork inherently relies on an embodied two-person psychology, and a holistic – or non-dualistic – framework not only philosophically, but with the therapist ‘walking their talk’ as an embodied intersubjective presence.

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. The way the two subjects organise themselves in relation to each other as two bodymind systems is the matrix of conscious versus unconscious processes. In this perspective, envisaged by Reich, 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 CPD weekend, 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 (inter-)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, merger and separateness, authority and woundedness and a unified sense of self versus multiplicity. This weekend 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

The issues described above are just some brief examples to illustrate that this whole area 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 which exist across the field, both of psychotherapy and of Eastern practices which many of our clients are involved with.

Content of the weekend

This weekend is the first in a series which aims to work towards a comprehensive understanding and practice of breathwork, drawing from the diverse traditions and trying to integrate them on the basis of a holistic bodymind psychological understanding. Specifically, it will include to some extent mindfulness, meditative and yoga breathing, but focus on the lesser known approaches like 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’.

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

Format of the weekend

As all of these techniques depend upon the moment-to-moment engagement with the body’s spontaneous and involuntary processes and subliminal communications, role-play and simulations (which are usually a regular feature of experiential CPD learning) are of limited usefulness in this context. Therefore, 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. For the duration of the course, we will together build the safety and relational container necessary for such work to become possible in an authentic way.

Several assistants to support the group

As traditional breathwork tends to ignore and neglect the intersubjective aspects and unconscious processes occurring between client and therapist, in order to maximise relational awareness, we will invite a significant number of assistants to support the group and learning process at every level. We are expecting a group of about 20 to 25 participants and between 5 and 10 assistants.

About the Tutor:

Michael Soth 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 variety 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 full-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. He has written numerous articles and is a frequent presenter at conferences. Extracts from his published writing as well as hand-outs, blogs and summaries of presentations are available through his website for INTEGRA CPD: integra-cpd.co.uk, or find him on Facebook and Twitter (INTEGRA_CPD). He is co-editor of the Handbook of Body Psychotherapy and Somatic Psychology, published in 2015.

A broad-spectrum integration of a wide variety of therapeutic approaches:

Here is a list of approaches I draw from and include, vaguely in sequence of my own training and exposure to them over the last 30 years:

  • drawing on all the schools of the Body Psychotherapy tradition (Reichian, vegeto, bioenergetics, biosynthesis, biodynamic, somatic psychology, somatic trauma therapy, etc)
  • wide range of humanistic-integrative approaches, incl. Gestalt, Process-Oriented Psychology, breathwork & rebirthing, Transactional Analysis, Psychodrama, and others; also existential perspectives
  • psychoanalytic: object relations, self psychology, intersubjectivity & relational perspectives
  • systemic: both in terms of Bert Hellinger's family constellations and the systemic approach, as well as systems theory, complexity theory and integral and fractal perspectives
  • transpersonal: Jungian and archetypal psychology, psychosynthesis, Wilber, mindfulness
  • constructivist, including NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) and hypnotherapy (Erickson)
  • cognitive-behavioural models and techniques
  • somatic trauma therapies, including Rothschild, Levine (Somatic Experiencing), Ogden (sensori-motor) and EMDR

Many of the above are being combined these days into new hybrid forms, so I aim to keep updated with these ongoing developments.

Venue

The Blackdown Healthy Living & Activity Centre

Riverside, Hemyock, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 3SH

Dates & Times

Saturday & Sunday: 19 & 20 September 2020 (Exeter)

10.00 – 17.00

Course content enquiries - Judy Shaw:

e: judyshawuk@icloud.com T: 01404 831007

w: http://indianlilac.co.uk

Administration enquiries - Clare Brook:

For booking, accommodation information and all other practicalities

e: clare_brook@yahoo.co.uk

Oct
4
Sun
2020
Oxford: Mastering the Creative Therapeutic Technique of Two-chair Work @ OTS-Oxford Therapy Centre
Oct 4 @ 10:00 – Oct 5 @ 17:00

Solutions to the 2-chair technique's recurring pitfalls

Anticipating and understanding the obstacles and problems inherent in the technique and making therapeutic and transformational use of them

When it comes to shifting the focus of therapeutic interaction from 'talking about' to 'exploring the experience', there are few techniques more useful than 'empty-chair' or 'two-chair' work (this applies to supervision as well as therapy).
However, when therapists risk using the technique, it often does not produce the intended or intuited results. Having started with what seemed like a burning, vibrant issue, the spark gets lost, and the interaction ‘goes flat’ or starts going round in circles.

"From many years of using the technique myself, as well as teaching and supervising it, I have concluded there are some built-in recurring pitfalls which are inherent in it. When we understand why these obstacles and pitfalls are necessarily bound to occur, we can anticipate and prepare for them and address them as they arise. This can actually enhance our use of the technique and make it more elegant and effective."

"I am expecting that in terms of the micro-detail of therapeutic technique (what you actually do and say as a therapist and how and in what sequence and with what timing), these days will be amongst the most specific and useful you will ever do. In terms of this particular technique, it's as close to a 'recipe book' or ‘manual’ of therapeutic intervention as is feasible when what we are really interested in is the aliveness and spontaneity of the client-therapist interaction."

This unique series of 5 CPD days with Michael Soth, starting with an in-depth weekend workshop (2 & 3 May 2020), followed by three further days, is designed to engender both detailed knowledge and skill as well as confidence and authority, whatever level of experience you are currently bringing to this type of work. The follow-on days are spaced out in such a way that participants can apply their learning in practice during the weeks in between, and then bring their experience back for deeper reflection and further learning.

The 'empty-chair' technique or 'two-chair work' is one of the best-known and widely-used humanistic methods. The technique invites/allows the client to embody the felt reality of particular relationship difficulties they feel caught in and bring them to life (rather than ‘talking about’ them), by spatially - and therefore emotionally - separating out the protagonists of otherwise diffuse internal conversations and ruminations. This can take the shape of psychodrama or role-play of the dialogue with actual others, or it can simply be an externalising and enacting of internal, fantasised or dreamt dynamics.

One of the advantages of the technique is that it can be applied fluidly to both external and internal relationships, often helping the client not only to see, but to feel the parallels and connections between internal and external ways of relating which are at the root of what perpetuates unsatisfying, polarised or destructive relationships.

Undoubtedly, the technique has many therapeutic uses and benefits, and can facilitate powerful, transformative experiences. But when therapists attempt to use it, they frequently report in supervision that it did not work, that it 'went flat', or that the client self-consciously refused to 'perform'.

How can we anticipate and deal with these recurring obstacles?

Rather than setting ourselves (and the client) up for the pressure of the technique having to produce a 'good' outcome, let's understand the inherent principles of the technique and how the dialogue is actually bound to 'go flat'. Based on that understanding, we can then pay attention to how it does go flat when it does and make that awareness useful for the particular dialogue we have set up in the first place. This kind of stance takes care of the usual ‘self-consciousness’ or 'performance anxiety' associated with the use of the technique (for both client and therapist), and helps therapists maintain the exploratory intention inherent in the approach.

Although the technique arises from within a Gestalt paradigm and fits and belongs with the principles of that holistic approach and its underlying field theory, it has been taken up and is being used by a wide variety of other therapeutic schools, often without practitioners even knowing about its origins in Gestalt. But in order to address the inherent pitfalls and difficulties of the technique, the perspectives and paradigms of other approaches are very useful, especially body-oriented and psychoanalytic perspectives, but also, for example, NLP and CBT. Because I bring this broad-spectrum perspective to the technique, the workshop should be suitable for practitioners from across the modalities and orientations.

For more detailed information about the background, format and content of the weekend workshop, download the leaflet.

 

Nov
22
Sun
2020
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group @ The Nebula
Nov 22 @ 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
30
Sat
2021
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group @ The Nebula
Jan 30 @ 10:00 – Jan 31 @ 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.

Jun
13
Sun
2021
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group @ The Nebula
Jun 13 @ 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.

Sep
25
Sat
2021
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group @ The Nebula
Sep 25 @ 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
22
Sat
2022
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group @ The Nebula
Jan 22 @ 10:00 – Jan 23 @ 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.

Mar
5
Sat
2022
Proposed CPD workshop: Engaging beyond therapeutic approach
Mar 5 @ 10:00 – 17:00
Proposed CPD workshop: Engaging beyond therapeutic approach @ Bristol | United Kingdom

Finding your own style within the spectrum of 21st-century psychotherapy

 

“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,

there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.”

Rumi

In this session I will invite you to explore the therapeutic space beyond notions of right or wrong, beyond ideas of best theory, correct technique, practice by the book or manual.

I will invite you to use all your faculties, all your knowledge, all your woundedness and sensitivity to get a flavour of your own therapeutic style, that is free to draw fluidly and integratively from the wealth of therapeutic knowledge and expertise humans have accumulated.

As C.G. Jung said: “There should only be one Jungian therapist – me.”

Everybody else - including you and me - we need to find our own style, rooted in our own relational complexity and embodied in our own history, wounds and limitations as well as gifts and potential. As we can only find this in the moment, rather than through thinking or theory only, this session will weave between experience and reflection, between skills practice and discussion, engaging you with your next step at your growing edge.

 

We may draw from the following themes what seems most relevant and urgent.

Creating an open, inviting therapeutic space

‘Nothing human is foreign to me.’

What gets in the way of full engagement?

What limits the client’s experience of the therapeutic space?

Phenomenological enquiry into the therapist’s internal process: how is the therapist behaving habitually in ways that are, for example, fixed, limited, restrained, unresponsive or overly-giving?

Focussing on the therapist’s ‘construction’ of the therapeutic space.

Creating an effective transformative therapeutic space

‘Allowing the client’s unconscious to construct me as an object.’

What limits a full and deeply transformative process?

Phenomenological enquiry into the therapist’s external effects: how are the therapist’s responses/interventions countertherapeutic?

The doctor-friend polarity

therapy as treatment (‘medical model’) versus therapy as collusive friendship

objectifying/pathologising versus colluding/avoidant

therapy as relationship

objectifying – differentiating – identifying – colluding

The client’s conflict: habitual mode versus emergency

‘something desperately has to happen’ – ‘nothing has to happen/nothing to be imposed’

the client’s character conflicts / the ego-Self axis

A broad-spectrum integration of approaches

The shattered and fragmented postmodern wholeness

Drawing on the gifts and wisdom of the whole field (fragmentation of the field reflects the fragmented modern psyche – the integration of the client’s psyche into wholeness requires the integration of the whole field)

The history of schisms and conflicts in the psychotherapeutic field and how it affects us now

integration and dis-integration

cherry-picking approaches versus full-spectrum integration

therapeutic approach cannot be grasped by theory and technique – underlying implicit relational stance

The therapist’s habitual, wounded, fixed position

Moving beyond a one-dimensional therapeutic position

The wounded healer position

The therapist’s habitual position – inheriting the wounds of our family ancestors, our therapeutic ancestors, or cultural ancestors …

The therapist’s shadow

The dangers of integration

Shifting from therapeutic approaches to relational modalities

Gomez, Stark, Clarkson, Michael’s Diamond model: what kind of therapeutic relatedness?

Gomez: humanistic ‘alongside’ stance versus psychodynamic ‘opposite’ stance

Stark: ‘one-person psychology’, ‘one-and-a-half-person psychology’, ‘two-person psychology’

Clarkson: working alliance – authentic – reparative – transference/countertransference - transpersonal

Michael’s Diamond model: include ‘medical model’

understanding identifications - projective identification – transference and countertransference as systemic bodymind processes

Transcending dualisms and binaries into paradox

the relational paradox: transcending treatment versus relationship dualism = paradox of enactment

I-it and I-I relating

the bodymind paradox: transcending mind-over-body versus body-over-mind dualism = embodiment/disembodiment paradox

the central paradox of therapy: the healing of the client’s wounding is inseparable from the enactment of wounding in and through therapy.

The fractal self: a chain of nested matrices of parallel process

integrative/integral

relational

embodied

systemic

paradoxical

 

May
21
Sat
2022
Proposed CPD workshop: Working with Illness in Psychotherapy
May 21 @ 10:00 – May 22 @ 18:00

The bodymind connection in working with psychosomatic and physical symptoms

A weekend workshop in Athens with Michael Soth

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.

 

Proposed CPD workshop: Narcissism in Therapy
May 21 @ 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.