142-144 Oxford Road, Temple Cowley, Oxford OX4 2EA
First sessions and initial assessments are different and in some ways more difficult than regular sessions within an established process. In a first session we do not yet have a shared understanding nor an agreed therapeutic frame. It is one of the main tasks of a first session to develop such a frame, but not just routinely or as an arbitrary or standard given, but in service of the specific work required and therefore appropriate and maybe adjusted to each individual client.
A first session, especially if it includes an assessment, therefore comprises some quite contradictory modalities of engagement (all of which have matter-of-fact, practical implications as well as therapeutic and relational ones): a meeting of two humans / strangers, some quasi-medical interactions, a business negotiation, as well as therapeutic considerations throughout (including transference considerations), plus the tensions between the four, manifesting to some extent as contradictory pulls between the therapist's presence as a person and their presence within the role. Hopefully at the end of the hour all of that will culminate in a sufficiently solid and mutually understood and negotiated working alliance (another relational modality).
The special dilemmas of such initial sessions arise because, after all, these are quite contradictory relational modes, and thus they reveal more clearly just what a confusing mix of relational modalities the therapeutic relationship consists of generally (Petruska Clarkson 1994).
So that means that a workshop on this topic is of interest and has benefits for a wide range of therapists, including specifically beginners as well as experienced practitioners.
What will you get out of this workshop?
As a beginner trying to build up your practice, the topic is immediately relevant to how you approach initial meetings with clients and whether or not these lead to ongoing work. The way most of us handle this to begin with relies mainly on imitating and copying our own therapists and tutors. However, that may not suit you and your style. Being clear about the conflicts and dilemmas that are inherent in first sessions is helpful in you working out your own way of conducting these.
These questions are not only relevant for beginners, obviously, but we can all continue learning and reflecting on the habits we have developed in our practice. We can all usefully spend some time investigating what happened with clients who did not choose to continue after initial meetings, and what was the dynamic that got in the way of a working alliance.
For experienced practitioners focusing on the complexities of first sessions helps us sharpen our awareness of the tensions between the various relational modalities that are inherent in the therapeutic relationship all the time. Based on an integration of contributions by Lavinia Gomez, Martha Stark and Petruska Clarkson, Michael has developed some formulations that bring out the inherent tensions more clearly than each of these models by itself.
Format of the day:
So in order to provide a foundation and framework, Michael will give some background teaching and briefly touch upon his ‘diamond model’. But apart from that more general and abstract input, we will stick closely to the topic of the day and its practical applications.
In preparation, it will be useful for you to remember difficult first sessions and bring these as examples to the group, for us to work on experientially (using imaginative exercises, roleplays, two-chair work, etc).
You can find some background reading to the topic, which Michael has put together on the basis of running this kind of workshop before, here.
Lunch: As usual we will arrange a bring and share lunch in the week before the event.
As this training is part of a series, a training package has been compiled and is available on booking. The material is in numbered order to support any limitations on study time you may have prior to the workshop, but please note that those material indicated are essential study.
The training package includes:
A revised and edited transcription of the first half of a previous training day (7th May 2017)
A 2hr40m YouTube video of that training day
OTS Members - £40 (tbc)
OTS Affiliates - £50 (tbc)
OTS Applicants - £60 (tbc)
Non-members - £75 (tbc)
If you live in the area and want to join, contact the director of OTS, Justin Smith via the website.