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Relational Modalities in the History of Body Psychotherapy

Relational Modalities in the History of Body Psychotherapy

(from my chapter "Transference, Countertransference and Supervision in the Body Psychotherapy tradition" in: The Handbook of Body Psychotherapy and Somatic Psychology)
I have been asked a few times for a brief summary regarding relationality in Body Psychotherapy - here's a very condensed paragraph from the above chapter:

A Multiplicity of Relational Modalities in Body Psychotherapy

Stretching from Freud’s original taken-for-granted ‘medical model’ stance, via various other manifestations of ‘one-person psychology’ (where an expert dispenses treatment, often in the form of mental insight, without considering the contribution of their own subjectivity, let alone pathology to the relationship – and this would largely include Reich and, to some extent, Lowen), to the more modern humanistic and psychoanalytic forms of ‘one-and-a-half person psychology’ (where the therapist monitors and occasionally makes explicit use of their countertransference responses in the service of the client’s experiential process), to even more modern and explicit forms of ‘two-person’ psychology, variously called ‘I-Thou’ relating by the humanistic tradition (Buber, 1937/1970), ‘intersubjectivity’ by Stolorow and Atwood (1992) and ‘mutual recognition’ by relational psychoanalysts (see Aron & Harris, 2011), the psychotherapeutic fields comprises a wide range of relational stances. Each of these stances can be practiced within a predominantly verbal-cognitive or also from within a holistic bodymind orientation. Inevitably, the more Body Psychotherapy has cross-fertilized with the ongoing development of psychoanalysis, many mixtures and hybrid forms are conceivable and exist (Sletvold, 2014).
Generally speaking, though, we can say that the bulk of Body Psychotherapy history has been characterized by Reich’s quite authoritative, quasi-medical stance. The humanistic revolution then countered these ‘one-person psychology’ influences, and established more egalitarian modes of relating, being more open, authentic and realistic about the therapist’s own wounds and their impact on the therapeutic relationship. However, remnants of Reich’s objectifying stance are implicit in both theory and practice and can be found throughout the field to this day, often in hidden and disavowed forms alongside an insistence on dialogical relating, or an explicit philosophical commitment to ‘two-person’ psychology.
In practice, the relational confusion manifests in therapists shifting their relational stance back and forth, often in the course of one session, without being aware of this (e.g. from an expert stance, providing a diagnostic interpretation or body-reading; towards a reparative, nurturing stance of encouragement; towards a self-disclosure of the therapist’s own experience, in a spirit of mutuality). Often, this may be precisely what the client’s process needs, and the therapist’s fluidity between relational stances is then an asset. However, more often than not, on investigation in supervision we find that these shifts by the therapist turn out to be reactions against the disturbing heat of the transference, and not at all in the service of the process, but defenses against it (what Strean (1993) calls ‘counter-resistances, or what psychoanalysis might label ‘acting in’).
By |2017-03-07T19:53:45+00:00February 24th, 2016|Michael's Psychotherapy CPD Blog|0 Comments

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