May 2018: Allan Schore Report Part 2
& INTEGRA CPD Events for 2018

Part 2: Report & Review on Allan Schore (towards 2-person neuroscience):

"The growth-promoting role of mutual regressions in deep psychotherapy"

Dear <<First Name>>,

here is our summer newsletter, with ...
  • the second part of my report and review of Allan Schore's latest thinking (including an audio recording and a PDF of the presentation slides from an evening talk on the topic)
  • updates on forthcoming CPD workshops and events in 2018, including a new 3-day Integrative Trauma Therapy series with Morit (based upon our recent article in the BACP Journal 'Therapy Today' "Relational complications in trauma therapy")
  • an interview "Sustainable practice in the impossible profession", in preparation for a CPD workshop on the same topic

Report and review of Allan Schore's recent presentation - PART 2

Following on from the first part published in the last newsletter, here is the second part of this detailed report and review of Allan Schore's presentation, entitled "The growth-promoting role of mutual regressions in deep psychotherapy" (September 2017). I put some energy into this, because Allan had offered to present his latest thinking, and I think he fulfilled his promise.

Schore is beginning to develop a model for two-person psychology at the mind-brain-body interface (as he calls it). Most of you know that I have been busy with developing a systemic-holistic bodymind phenomenology of the therapeutic relationship, and Schore's model is converging towards that (especially around the notion of spontaneity, rather than deliberate therapeutic strategising).  He is now systematically combining two paradigm shifts, to lay the theoretical foundations for a 'deep' psychotherapy of the future:
1. the neuroscience-inspired reversal from left-hemisphere (LH) cognitive dominance to the valuation of right-hemisphere affective supremacy (RH) and the mind-brain-body interface
2. the consequent re-vision of all one-person psychology notions and their re-conceptualisation into two-person psychology formulations (e.g. the classical notion of 'regression', as in the title of his presentation).  

CPD Events coming up

As usual, there are a variety of CPD events planned, in London, Exeter and Oxford - you can find a complete listing on the INTEGRA website.

I would like to draw your attention to four particular events, coming up soon:

BOOK NOW - 17 June: Bristol CPD Workshop: Relational dynamics in body-oriented psychotherapy
This 1-day workshop is an ideal opportunity for an introduction to Michael’s work, and specifically how he approaches the integration of the paradigm clash between the humanistic and psychodynamic traditions. It is an affordable workshop on a crucial topic, as many integrative therapists struggle to integrate these paradigms rather than oscillating between them, both in their work and in supervision. There will be input on Lavinia Gomez's challenge regarding the problems of humanistic-psychodynamic integration, and a way of working with the integrative therapist's conflict as it arises between the paradigms.

BOOK NOW - 23 & 24 June: Exeter CPD Weekend: Embodied Perspectives on Attachment, Character and Relational Modalities
This weekend is part of the ongoing series of embodied-relational CPD weekends in Exeter, organised by transactional analyst and trainer Judy Shaw, and co-run by Nick Totton and Michael. These have been running for some years now, but we have just decided to give it a new structure, focusing on specific topics interspersed with practice weekends.
Nick will be offering a series of three connected weekends on character - he will be sharing his two-person psychology 21st-century updated version of character structure theory, originated by Wilhelm Reich and presented in an integrative model by Stephen Johnson during the 1990s. Running alternatingly, I will present an equivalent 3-weekend series presenting an embodied perspective on relationality and relational modalities.
In preparation for these combined two series, this weekend on 23/24 June will be a unique introduction to the interlinked topics of attachment and character structure theory as well as relational modalities. I will send out a dedicated newsletter about this soon, but you can book already with Judy:

BOOK NOW - 23 June: Oxford: Trauma-focussed Supervision Group - with Morit Heitzler
This 1-day Saturday supervision group is an opportunity for you to specifically bring trauma clients for supervision - the day will be a mixture of clinical supervision of actual cases presented by participants and CPD learning (including some role-play of case vignettes, focussing on significant moments in the interaction). Alongside learning from your own and other participants' experience, Morit will also give trauma-related teaching input, relevant to the themes and issues emerging from the clinical/client work.

BOOK NOW - 30 June: Integrative Embodied-Relational Trauma Work - 3 CPD days in Oxford with Morit Heitzler
These workshops are designed for practising counsellors and therapists who have some previous training and experience with trauma work. They might best be described as 'intermediate' workshops, for therapists who have completed basic training in one of the modern trauma therapies: Somatic Trauma Therapy (Babette Rothschild), Somatic Experiencing (Peter Levine), Sensorimotor Therapy (Pat Ogden), EMDR, EFT etc. Morit will take you beyond the basics into the often unaddressed relational complications that are bound to arise between client and therapist especially in working with developmental trauma.

As usual, your questions and comments are welcome.

We look forward to hearing from you.
You can contact us on:

In this Newsletter:

NB: apparently, the links in this Table of Contents do not work in all email programmes - just use link in the top right corner of the email to open it in your browser (or click here)  

Forthcoming CPD Events:

  1. 17 Jun: Bristol: Relational dynamics in body-oriented psychotherapy

  2. 23 Jun: Oxford: Trauma-focussed Supervision Groups - with Morit Heitzler

  3. 23 & 24 Jun: Exeter: Attachment & character structure theory - relational modalities

  4. 30 Jun: Oxford: Integrative Trauma Therapy - new series of 3 CPD Workshops - with Morit Heitzler

  5. 17 & 18 Nov: Athens: Working with illness in psychotherapy

  6. 7 Dec 2019 (!): Wimbledon: Sustainable practice in the ‘impossible profession’

Places available in Ongoing Groups:

  1. from Apr '18: Bristol: Small Supervision Group - monthly Tuesdays 13:30 - 15:30

  2. from May '18: Oxford: Advanced Prof. Development Group - bi-monthly Tuesdays 10:00 - 16:30

  3. from May '18: London: Advanced Prof. Development Group - bi-monthly Tuesdays 10:15 - 16:45

News and other topics:

  1. Report & Review:: Allan Schore: "Mutual regressions in deep psychotherapy" - Part 2

  2. Interview with Michael:: Sustainable practice in the impossible profession

  3. Survey Report by Dr Elizabeth Cotton: The Future of Therapy

  4. INTEGRA News: Training for Group Therapists, Group Facilitators & Organisational Leaders

Email to frined

Calendar of INTEGRA CPD Courses and Events 2018/2019

Find calendar with listing of all planned courses and events online.

Download all events as iCal-file
(for importing into your own calendar application)

or subscribe to the calendar online
(it will be automatically updated in that case)

Forthcoming CPD Events

Relational dynamics in body-oriented psychotherapy
Bristol: 17 June 2018

Association of Core Process Psychotherapy presents:
An experiential CPD Day with Michael Soth

Venue: Windmill Hill City Farm,
Philip Street, Bedminster, Bristol BS3 4EA
Times: 9.30 - 16.30

This workshop is an ideal opportunity for an introduction to Michael’s work, and specifically how he approaches the integration of the paradigm clash between the humanistic and psychodynamic traditions. It is an affordable workshop on a crucial topic, as many integrative therapists struggle to integrate these paradigms rather than oscillating between them, both in their work and in supervision.

There are still places available on this workshop, which was initiated by the Association for Core Process Psychotherapy. Most participants, therefore, will be Core Process therapists, which will give the day an emphasis on the body-mind and psychosomatic connection, and how attention to the two bodies in the therapeutic relationship (or better: the two ‘bodyminds’) can provide the experiential foundation for the integration of paradigms. In the lineage of Body Psychotherapy, we come across a set of diverse and to some extent confusing and contradictory assumptions as to what we mean by therapeutic relating and the therapeutic relationship. On the whole, the whole range of body-oriented work as practised today clearly belongs to the humanistic tradition, with its emphasis on authentic/dialogical and empathic/reparative relating. This sits alongside influences from the psychoanalytic tradition, notably the work of Reich and his ideas about working with transference, as well as his quasi-medical and scientific attitude to treatment (which he shared with Freud). These different paradigms of relating are quite difficult to integrate and bring together, as they are based on polarised attitudes and stances in terms of one-person and two-person psychologies.

That raises the question as to what we mean by being ‘relational', especially in recent years, when that notion has become increasingly fashionable, and is in danger of becoming diluted. As psychotherapists working in the body-oriented traditions, we have the potential to bring a more substantial, embodied and complex notion of relating to the talking therapies.

This workshop is an opportunity to explore your own experience of the tensions between the polarised humanistic and psychoanalytic traditions, and how you integrate them. This tension hinges around the essential conflict between ‘authentic relating’ and 'working with the transference' - two principles which many of us find equally valid and want to equally do justice to in our work.

It has been understood and acknowledged for decades that any direct and directive work with the body, especially if it includes touch, intensifies the transference. However, psychoanalysts have contested that by using directive body-oriented interventions, body-oriented therapists are minimising and sidestepping the transference. In fact, all therapies that are relying exclusively on an empathic, attuned, heartfelt connection are open to that psychoanalytic challenge (keeping things too cosy, encouraging regression or over-dependency, avoiding the negative transference) and to the question of whether this is in the client's best interests.

When our intention is to work with the client’s ‘character’, i.e. with all the embodied levels of developmental injury, across the whole bodymind, how do these different traditions and paradigms of relating get in each other's way or complement each other and how might they create an integrative synergy?

Trauma-focussed Supervision Groups
Oxford next date: Saturday, 23 June 2018

with Morit Heitzler

suitable for psychotherapists & counsellors from across the various approaches and modalities

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

Times: 10.00 – 16.00

Cost per session: £85.00

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

Possible ongoing group emerging from this supervision day

There is a core group of several therapists who want these two days to develop into an ongoing, regular group. Once formed, the group meetings will take place every 2 - 3 months from 10.00 - 16.00 in Oxford, to be arranged in advance according to everybody's availability. The cost per session will be £85.00. If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Morit.

Relational modalities in the context of attachment & character structure theory

Exeter: 23 & 24 June 2018

An experiential-theoretical CPD Weekend with Michael Soth
Grounding different therapeutic approaches to
habitual patterns of relating in bodymind process

Venue: Exeter - tbc
Times: 10.00 - 17.00

There are significant philosophical and theoretical differences between the various traditional models which we use as therapists to name, describe and conceptualise the intersubjective field in the therapeutic relationship, and the client's early developmental blueprint for the relational patterns we co-create with them.

The diverse traditions (psychoanalytic developmental theory, attachment theory, character structure theory,  intersubjectivity,  relationality) each have their assumptions, conceptual frame, jargon terms, and particular gifts and shadow aspects in disclosing or occluding certain areas of the complex field.

How these aspects of the field do or do not enter the therapist's stream of consciousness depends to some extent on the theoretical lenses we use.

To widen our awareness and make it as unbiased and inclusive as possible, we can ground our observations of the relational dynamic in the detail of bodymind process, much of it non-verbal, some of it subliminal.

This weekend is dedicated to clarifying both theoretically and practically the differences, contradictions  and overlaps between the various traditional languages and models, by attending to their fundamental ideas (e.g. attachment styles, working models, co-creation, character styles, mutual recognition, habitual patterns, etc) as bodymind processes.

This may allow us to build an integration that creates a productive synergy between these  different traditions and diverse theoretical frames. Although theoretical principles will be involved, we will stick to the basic ideas rather than go into abstract or historical detail - the overall aim of the weekend is to keep it practical and applicable.

Learning Objectives

We will compare & contrast:
  • attachment theory (Bowlby, Ainsworth, Holmes)
  • character structure theory (Reich, Lowen, Kurtz & Johnson)
  • intersubjectivity (Atwood & Stolorow, Orange)
  • psychoanalytic developmental theory (including Kleinian and object relations)
We will attempt to ground the key notions of these theories in embodied, experience-near terms. And we will explore how these different ideas both help and hinder us in apprehending the fullness and systemic wholeness of the relational dynamic between client and therapist.

Integrative Trauma Therapy


A new series of 3 CPD Workshops in Oxford
with Morit Heitzler


Workshop 1: 30 June 2018
Workshop 2: 22 September 2018
Workshop 3: 1 December 2018

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

Times: 10.00 – 17.00

Cost per workshop: £100 (£90 if booked by 18/4/2017)
£270 for all three days

Are these workshops for me?

These workshops are designed for practising counsellors and therapists who have some previous training and experience with trauma work. They might best be described as ‘intermediate’ workshops, for therapists who have completed basic training in one of the modern trauma therapies (like Somatic Trauma Therapy (Babette Rothschild), Somatic Experiencing (Peter Levine), Sensorimotor Therapy (Pat Ogden), EMDR, NARM or similar integrative hybrid or combinations of approaches). If you have been practising such trauma therapies for a while, you will have found a mixture of results and outcomes.

These CPD workshops will support you in taking the next step and help you to deepen, diversify and enhance your existing practice. Morit has been developing an integrative approach to trauma work that draws on all the various trauma approaches within an overall relational perspective.

Detailed background information:

For background information about these workshops and Morit's approach to integrative trauma therapy, read this updated blog post, covering the following topics:

• The relational subtleties underpinning the working alliance
• Why do we need an integration of trauma therapies?
• Are the new somatic trauma and energy therapies suitable for complex and developmental trauma?
• Integrating somatic-embodied and psychodynamic perspectives
• Treatment and the Relational Container
• The subjective and relational foundations of ‘treatment’
• Vicarious traumatisation and the therapist’s own bodymind

Workshop 1: Trauma Therapy - Treatment and Relationship

In this workshop we will attend to your current models, understanding and tecniques which you are using to address trauma in your clients’ process. We will establish the neuroscientific and bodymind basis for PTSD and trauma symptoms, as a basis for somatic interventions, and develop a shared overview over the various trauma therapies available. We will then attend to the various relational stances therapists are drawn to take when working with trauma and there will be space for you to reflect on your own relational stances as they manifest in your practice.

Workshop 2: Relational Complications in Trauma Therapy

Through case examples and role-plays we will investigate the interweaving of past and current trauma and how this complicates the therapeutic process. Focussing on difficult cases and relational dynamics, we will enquire into the developmental roots of transference issues and how they affect the working alliance. We will try to understand the drama triangle (or the 'trauma rectangle, including the 'bystander') in terms of internal object relations, to help us focus on the client’s inner manifestations of vicious cycles which tend to slow down recovery from trauma. Both the client’s demands for treatment and ‘cure’ as well as their scepticism and resistance to the process and their apparent ‘refusal’ to get better will be explored. By attending to enactments as they occur in the presented case examples, we will deepen our theoretical and practical understanding of how they create impasses and dilemmas for the therapist.

Workshop 3: Towards Integrative Trauma Therapy

In this final workshop in the series, you will have opportunities to integrate your learning into your own therapeutic style, by experimenting with different relational positions and responses, on the basis of a deeper appreciation that both ‘one-person’ and ‘two-person’ stances have their respective dangers as well as potentials. We will explore relationality as inherently conflicted, and how you manage the tension in your own practice. This will enable you to apply the same principles to your work on an ongoing basis, helping you reflect upon and anticipate potential enactments emerging within the therapeutic dynamic. This will give you a comprehensive foundation for understanding the potentially productive as well as counterproductive effects of a variety of therapeutic interventions, regardless of particular method and approach.

Cost, booking and further information:

Cost per workshop: £100 (£90 if booked by 18/4/2017)
£270 for all three days


Contact: Michael Soth +44 7929 208 217

Visit the website for further information.

Download the leaflet

Download the booking form, to email back to us

Download the booking form, to print and post

Working with Illness in Psychotherapy
Athens: 17 & 18 November 2018

The bodymind connection in working with psychosomatic and physical symptoms
An experiential CPD Weekend with Michael Soth

Venue: Athens, tbc
Times: 10.00 - 18.00

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.
Places available in Ongoing Groups

Small Supervision Groups (4 participants)
Bristol: monthly Tuesdays

2-hour integrative supervision groups
for therapists from across the modalities

Maximum 4 participants - 1 or 2 places available from Jun. 2018
Venue: Fulcrum House in Bristol
Times: meeting monthly on Tuesdays 13.30-15.30

Purpose and scope of group
These groups have been running for the last 6 years, and there is a consistent core of participants, but some re-arrangements have meant that 3 places are now becoming available (in Group 2) from January 2018. These small supervision groups run on a regular monthly basis at Fulcrum House in Bristol. There are three groups with 4 participants each during each Tuesday (11.20-13.20; 13.30-15.30; 15.45-17.45). From January 2018 there are 3 places available in the second group (13.30-15.30) - please contact Michael for details. The cost is £55 for each 2-hour group. The monthly frequency of these groups means they are not really a replacement for ongoing regular supervision, but are being used by participants as part of their continuing professional development, to deepen and enhance their practice. The diversity of modalities, orientations and styles provides a rich learning environment.

Format and ways of working
Michael's supervision style is integrative, so therapists from all modalities and orientations are welcome, and will find plenty of opportunities to learn from the diversity within the group. Michael pays attention to parallel process on all levels (see his presentation on 'Fractal Self' at CONFER for how he has extended the notion of 'parallel process', for the purposes of supervision, as well as an organising principle for therapy generally), including how the client-therapist dynamic is picked up by the group and reflected within it. He is welcoming of experiential exploration of 'charged moments', via roleplay, within participants' need and willingness for exposure in the group.
He will focus on speaking in the language of each supervisee's approach, but an exploration of transference-countertransference dynamics is likely to be included, unless a supervisee explicitly declines this. In his approach to supervision, Michael pays attention to the embodied, non-verbal communications and unconscious processes, how they oscillate between working alliance and enactment, and how the therapist's habitual stance/position becomes involved in these conflicts and tensions. Whilst the exploration of the therapist's relational entanglement is an important aspect of the supervision, the focus is on the deepening of the client's process, and the therapist's continuing learning process. Michael believes that by embracing whole-heartedly the difficulties, paradoxes, shadow aspects and complexities of the therapeutic process, therapists stand the best chance of doing justice to their clients, as well as their own authority, effectiveness and satisfaction as a practitioner.  

With 4 participants the fee per 2-hour group is £60.
The scheduled dates for the remainder of the academic year 2017/2018 are:
19 Jun 2018; 17 Jul 2018
If you are interested in joining this group, an interview with Michael is required. You can contact him on: or 07929208217. Please enquire soon if you are interested in joining.

Advanced Personal-Professional Development Group for Experienced Therapists
Oxford: bi-monthly Tuesdays

An integrative, experiential supervision-based CPD group for experienced therapists (10+ years)

Maximum 7 participants - one place available from July 2018
Venue: 14 Hawthorn Close, Oxford OX2 9DY
Times: Meeting bi-monthly on Tuesdays in West Oxford - 10:00 - 16:30

Purpose and scope of group
This advanced group is open to experienced counsellors and psychotherapists from different therapeutic approaches, orientations and trainings. It is an ongoing integrative group, meeting 6 times per year, and it has been running since 2012 in varying configurations and with various members.

There is an established group dynamic and cohesion, and as new participants you, me and the existing group would have to work with how you would fit into that to develop a new shape and a new group.
Three participants have been with the group since the beginning (all three are experienced TA therapists). Two embodied-relational therapists joined a couple of years ago. Other members have been from various modalities, including Gestalt, transpersonal, Core Process. We are looking for one or two more participants. Currently we have one man and four women, so new male participants are especially welcome.
Format and ways of working
The idea is for the work of the group to be grounded in clinical experience and to have a solid supervision element, but to include additional reflections and theoretical input arising from the process - this will be from an integral-relational perspective, but always stay relevant and applicable to your own style and modality. Working with the general notion of the 'reflective practitioner', we will try to integrate individual and group process as well as experiential and theoretical learning and clinical reflection.

I will attempt to make explicit and accessible some of my internal process and working models as a supervisor and group facilitator, including handouts and references, depending on your individual learning needs and development goals as a person and as a therapist.
The times are established and fixed (bi-monthly Tuesdays 10.00 – 16.30 in West Oxford), but apart from that the group is open to the needs and interests of further participants. Depending on the final number of participants, the cost will be between £90 and a maximum £110.

The scheduled dates for the remainder of the academic year 2017/2018 are:
6 Mar 2018; 17 Apr 2018; 22 May 2018; 3 Jul 2018

Advanced Integrative Small Supervision Group for Experienced Therapists
London: bi-monthly Tuesdays

An integrative, experiential supervision group for therapists with considerable post-qualification experience (12+ years)

Maximum 7 participants - one place available from July 2018
Venue: Terapia Centre, The Bothy, 17A East End Road, London N3 3QE
Times: meeting bi-monthly on Tuesdays 10:15 - 16:45

This is an ongoing integrative group, which has been running since 2014, meeting 6 times per year, in varying configurations and with various members. One or two places are available from January 2018
There is obviously an established group dynamic and cohesion, and new participants would have to work with how they fit into that to develop a new shape and group.
This group is open to experienced therapists from across the modalities who have been working for at least 12 years. It currently has 5 members; the maximum group size is 7 participants, so from 2018 there are one or two more places available in this group. Currently we have one man and four women, so new male participants are especially welcome.
Format and ways of working
All of the current participants also work as supervisors, tutors or teachers alongside their private practice and share a perspective that draws from both humanistic and psychoanalytic traditions. The group has an integrative cross- and multi-modality framework and has developed a supervision style that emphasises reflections on the manifestations of transference and countertransference via enactments.
If you are an experienced practitioner and have a curiosity and interest in relational ways of working as well as psychotherapy integration, stretching beyond the therapeutic approach you originally trained in, then this may be a good group for your further development.
As with all supervisory/learning work, there is an overlap between personal and professional development, and Michael and the group have been working to find a good balance between the two. The group has evolved a culture of sharing our work in an experiential way, through role play and two-chair work alongside traditional presentation and discussion. You would need to be comfortable in sharing yourself in such a group supervision format with an emphasis on experiential learning, which naturally opens up the opportunity to discuss therapeutic perspectives, theory and practice across the modalities.
Several participants, as well as Michael, have an interest in embodied ways of working and are bringing that to the group.
With 6 participants the fee per day is £110, plus £16 per person for the room we are renting.
With 7 participants the fee per day is £100, plus £15 per person for the room we are renting.
The scheduled dates for the remainder of the academic year 2017/2018 are:
30 Jan 2018; 13 Mar 2018; 8 May 2018; 26 Jun 2018
If you are interested in joining this group, an interview with Michael is required. You can contact him on: or 07929208217. Please enquire soon if you are interested in joining.

News and other topics

The paradigm shift in neuroscience towards '2-person psychology'

The most recent advances in interpersonal neurobiology

Report and Review on Allan Schore's recent presentation:
'The growth-promoting role of mutual regressionsin deep psychotherapy'


A two-person psychology at the spontaneous mind-brain-body interface

In a nutshell, Schore is systematically combining two paradigm shifts, to lay the theoretical foundations for a 'deep' psychotherapy of the future:
1. the neuroscience-inspired reversal from left-hemisphere (LH) cognitive dominance to the valuation of right-hemisphere affective supremacy (RH) and - as he calls it: the mind-brain-body interface
2. the consequent re-vision of all one-person psychology ideas and their re-conceptualisation into two-person psychology formulations

Once a towering interdisciplinary and scientifically-oriented mind like Schore’s has got hold of a new paradigm, it is well capable of consequently applying and transferring its principles across the whole domain. There are any number of therapeutic ideas and concepts which go back to the days of classical psychoanalysis, and which therefore originated within a taken-for-granted ‘one-person psychology’ paradigm. All of these ideas, with the kernels of wisdom and validity they contain, are candidates for wholesale re-visioning and reformulation.
What intersubjectivists call the Cartesian 'myth of the isolated mind' has spawned countless foundational ideas in psychology, all of which need revisiting through a two-person perspective – a project which on an abstract level is well underway, and Schore’s new thinking represents another leap in that direction. As we will see, it’s the application to practice that requires a lot more attention still.

The double-edged sword of regression and its possible therapeutic action

The classical key idea being revisited for this particular day with Schore was regression. In the olden days, this was clearly a one-person psychology notion, and indeed a pejorative one because regression was classified as a defence. But even then, from the beginning it was understood as containing both dangers and therapeutic potential. Freud already used the phrase "reculer pour mieux sauter" (to draw back in order to make a better jump), recognising that regression could serve therapeutic progression (or in Kris's later, but better-known phrase "regression in the service of the ego" which is a questionable conception in my opinion).

In the full blog post, the above summary of the day continues, setting out Schore's new model which integrates repressive and dissociative defences and the therapist's role in confronting and working with these. All of this was covered already in the first part of this report, in January's newsletter.
In the second part  now, I have included an audio recording and a PDF of my presentation slides from an evening seminar in February, which also contains my 10-point critique of Schore's contribution. You can find the second part at the bottom of the blog post ...


Interview with Michael in preparation for Wimbledon Guild
CPD Workshop (scheduled for 7 Dec. 2019!):
"Sustainable practice in the impossible profession"

Your workshop on the 'Impossible Profession’ is quite unique in its concept, what led you to its creation?

There are two separate but linked recognitions which inspired the workshop, and the 2017 article which it is based upon:

1) the essential impossibility at the heart of the therapeutic profession, and

2) the consequent difficulty in sustaining its practice.

Practising therapy has its inherent strains, but what links the two issues is how so much more exhausting and unsustainable the task becomes unless we accept that underlying impossibility.

How can we relax into the impossibility and stay rooted and grounded in it, rather than implicitly fighting against it or trying to escape the feelings of shame, failure and helplessness that are necessarily part and parcel of the impossibility?

After working for about 15 years following my qualification, I came to a point where I questioned a key underlying assumption of my training that I had taken for granted as self-evident: that if only I thoroughly understood and followed the theories and technique I had been taught, and applied them diligently with good intention, warmth and compassion, therapy could be made to work in the majority of cases. My assumption had been that therapy was do-able through applying ‘correct’ theory and technique.

I began to realise that - in spite of my humanistic principles of authentic relating - the application of theories and techniques to the person in front of me implied a 'treatment' paradigm, not unlike the stance that a doctor would take. Although I was using humanistic theories and techniques, and favouring existential values, implicitly I was taking a medical model stance alongside - and confusingly: in conflict with - my humanistic-authentic-dialogical stance.

On the one hand I was trying to create a space for human intersubjective encounter, on the other hand I wanted the therapy to be effective in taking the client - in fairly linear treatment fashion - from an undesirable dysfunctional state towards what I implicitly assumed was a better, more functional state, of wholeness or self-actualisation.

All the precious knowledge, understanding and skills that I had acquired were meant to enable me to effect that desired treatment outcome, but supposedly without taking a superior or objectifying or pathologising doctor position and without having an agenda. That ongoing conflict not only did my head in, it was exhausting and wearing.

In any case, this idea of the competent practitioner, fairly nonchalantly applying theories and techniques, did not match at all my internal reality within the therapeutic position: I was constantly feeling conflicted, torn between different therapeutic impulses, ideas and agendas; I felt caught in endless dilemmas, between conflicting perceptions, contradictory models and sometimes mutually exclusive interventions. I was torn between pressure to make things happen, often quite desperately, on the one hand and on the other hand equally strong inclinations to let things be, based on a reluctance to impose things or force change. The idea that nothing had to happen seemed equally valid, strengthened by the paradoxical principle of change: change happens when we accept what is.

Much of my experience within the therapeutic position was conflicted and uncertain, but I was equally convinced that a competent practitioner would surely be conflict-free – that that was the criterion for competence. I was assuming that with increasing experience I would increasingly become single-minded, certain, and sure of my impact and effectiveness. I was judging myself harshly for failing to live up to that competent doctor position which was spooking around as an ideal in the back of my mind.

Over time, though, I realised that each and every of the linear assumptions I was judging myself by, every notion of what I should do as a therapist, was in conflict with an equally valid opposite truth, and that I was trying to do justice to both of them at the same time. No wonder being a therapist was a fairly effortful, exhausting vocation – like driving a car with one foot each simultaneously on the break and the accelerator.

During those years, the movement towards psychotherapy integration was immensely valuable to me, helping me embrace the profound and often irreconcilable contradictions pervading the therapeutic field. There did not seem to be unquestionable and self-evident ‘truths’, as I had initially assumed – on the contrary: there did not seem to be any principle that was not contradicted by some other therapist or some other approach. The more I could accept the paradoxical nature of my most cherished therapeutic principles, the less compelled and haunted I felt by ideas of the linear do-ability of therapy.

I had heard people quip about therapy as the 'impossible profession', and I found that Freud had made reference to it already in 1937. But eventually I began to take that notion seriously, as an essential feature of the therapeutic endeavour, and wrote a blog on the topic. It then became apparent to me that most counselling and psychotherapy training, especially with its increasingly academic focus, was implicitly fighting against the paradoxical essence of the profession, rather than helping students embrace and relax into the impossibility of the profession.

This also had a big impact on my stance as a supervisor, and what I considered helpful to my supervisees. Rather than adding to their shame for experiencing the impossibility of the profession, for failing to achieve its idealised linear promises, for succumbing to the 'intersubjective mess' (the technical term I started using in order to call a spade a spade), I started to validate their feelings and intuitions of failure (due to therapeutic stuckness and impasse, getting entangled in supposedly countertherapeutic enactments, etc, etc), as accurate manifestations of the underlying impossibility. Rather than redoubling their professional efforts to overcome their sense of failure - through more reading, more CPD, further training, more work on their own process - by embracing and inhabiting the impossibility of their position, paradoxically their work deepened and became more effective and more transformational, as well as more enjoyable and satisfying (at least some of the time).

It was through many years of practicing as a supervisor from this perspective, supporting supervisees in deconstructing the persecutory ideas of their traditions and trainings, that I began to link the impossibility of the profession with the sustainability of therapeutic practice.

The more we have recognised the dangers of vicarious traumatisation, the more prevalent advice has become how therapists should protect themselves, should take responsibility for their self-care, strengthen their boundaries and counteract the damaging effects of the therapeutic position.

In contrast to that kind of advice, I'm trying to find ways of processing the experience of the impossibility more deeply, more effectively and in a more embodied way (as most of the sense of impossibility is communicated and engendered nonverbally and pre-reflexively). Rather than closing ourselves off more deliberately, or strengthening our professional boundaries more impenetrably, or creating professional distance more coherently, I have found that therapists can learn to sustain their practice the more they can succumb to the impossibility, and then get curious about that experience in a way that benefits the deepening of the therapeutic process and therefore the client.

Apart from the practical and business aspects of making a living from working as a therapist, I have suggested that there are three underlying psychological issues which affect how many clients a therapist can 'hold' in their practice:

  1. the therapist’s capacity to digest and compost the emotional impact of the therapeutic relationship as bodymind process;
  2. the therapist’s capacity to embrace/inhabit ‘enactment’ as the central paradox of therapy;
  3. how entrenched or flexible the therapist can be in their ‘habitual position’, i.e. their own unconscious relational ‘construction of therapeutic space’;

Each of these is a one-line condensed formulation of what I consider a complex neglected and under-theorised issue in the profession.

The first one relates to the neglected bodymind process of client and therapist in the 'talking therapies' - this imposes limitations on therapy's effectiveness (which - as Allan Schore has insisted - depends mainly on right-brain-to-right-brain attunement). But it also leads to obliviousness and underestimation of how much emotional load the therapist's body ends up carrying and somatising. Without attention to the relational bodymind process we are sitting ducks for overwhelm, vicarious traumatisation and burn-out, or we succumb to implicit distancing manoeuvres which help reduce the impact on the therapist, but at the expense of engagement and effectiveness.

The second issue relates to the decades-old denial of the aforementioned impossibility of the therapeutic profession. Traditionally psychotherapy as a discipline, both in practice and in the training of its students, has been importing an objectifying, linear and academic paradigm from the sciences and particularly the medical model, as I described above for myself. As long as we are not aware of and do not embrace the impossibility we should be experiencing in the therapeutic position, we are adding a whole other unmanageable surplus load of stress and distress into our practice.

The third issue relates to the notion of the 'wounded healer', and how our own wounded subjectivity is necessarily the instrument we are working with. Since the 1950s, the 'countertransference revolution' has given us the basic principles for understanding how the therapist's experience contains information about the client's inner world and unconscious dynamics. However, unless we manage to translate those principles into an everyday application to practice, we are left with an unprocessed and unmetabolised double whammy: both absorbing the client's conflict and on top of that necessarily triggering and exacerbating our own conflicts.

In your workshop synopsis you discuss the therapist’s ‘habitual position’ - could you explain more about this and how this impacts the work with clients?

The idea of the ‘habitual position’ is just a consequent application to ourselves as therapists of the kind of ideas, concepts and models which we use to understand any client's habitual patterns.

Whatever therapeutic language we use, there is some concept or term we have to describe fixed patterns of experiencing, feeling, thinking and behaving - what we call 'schemas' in CBT, or scripts in TA. A model of such fixed patterns and defensive structures that includes awareness of bodymind processes is Wilhelm Reich's 'character structures', updated into a comprehensive modern integrative developmental theory by Stephen Johnson through his work on 'character styles', integrating humanistic and psychoanalytic traditions.

A character style is like a protective shield which we have developed as children in response to developmental injury or wounding, designed to protect us both externally from being injured again by others, and internally from experiencing the unresolved left-overs from childhood.

If we apply that kind of thinking to ourselves as therapists, the question is how all the precious knowledge and skills we have gained in therapy training may be feeding into and exacerbating our defensive structures? To what extent has our training challenged and helped us work through our habitual position; and to what extent has it fortified and entrenched it further?

Our habitual position as a therapist is therefore an amalgamation of our original character style as a person which we bring to therapy training in the first place, and whatever habits we have acquired through training in terms of our stance as a therapist and our default thinking and behaving as a therapist, i.e. our preferred theories and techniques.

Just as any habitual structure offers protective advantages whilst limiting our responsiveness and engagement with life, our habitual position as a therapist offers both the advantages of a reliable structure and therapeutic identity as well as generating taken-for-granted autopilot limitations to the kind of therapeutic space we are able to offer.

On an abstract level, our habitual position manifests as certain theoretical dogmatisms, or as an avoidance of contradictory theories; or as an attachment to linear ideas which protect us from paradoxical experience. On a relational level, it manifests as a habitual stance or fixed therapeutic position we take, rather than experiencing fluidly and flexibly a variety of relational modalities, which we are able to inhabit in response to a particular client and the resulting dynamic we are engaged with.

These are the disadvantages of a too partial, limiting and fixed habitual position for the client and their process. But on a deeper level, our habitual position as a therapist has detrimental effects on ourselves, too. Our habitual position is, of course, rooted in our own childhood wounds, which are being triggered – by each client in their own idiosyncratic ways - regardless whether our reflective awareness takes care of them or not.

For many of us, training and working as a therapist replicates our position in our original family, where we were the sensitive receptacles of the unacknowledged or repressed emotional dynamics in the family system. For many of us, whatever counselling or therapy training we engage in as adults constitutes our second training - our first occurred in our original families, and we carry both the skills as well as the scars of that training into adulthood.

Working as therapists we then find ourselves back in the position of being exquisitely attuned and susceptible to unconscious and unspoken dynamics, often without being given the permission or power to name them, address them or challenge them. Within the therapeutic position, we find ourselves experiencing helplessness and uncertainty, alongside all the client’s unwanted feelings. In deep psychotherapy, the client’s regression evokes and triggers our own. Many therapists suffer from being willing sponges for toxic material which clients evacuate into them, whilst exhorting themselves and redoubling their efforts to be empathically present for their clients.

So should being a therapist carry a health warning?

It goes without saying that these dynamics are not conducive to the therapist well-being as a professional, nor as a person. So, yes, the therapeutic position should carry a health warning.

Nearly all therapists I meet as students or supervisees are well-intentioned, dedicated practitioners - but sometimes I am reminded of soldiers being sent into the battlefield with insufficient equipment.

Corresponding to the three issues I mentioned above, across the profession we could make efforts to strengthen and update the equipment:

- bringing more awareness to the bodymind process of inhabiting the therapeutic position

- formulating the therapeutic position as inherently conflicted and paradoxical, by embracing the sense of its underlying impossibility, rather than chasing our tail with linear expectations which are inimical to our discipline

- learning to pay attention to how the client's conflicts become the therapist's, and how to process the countertransference experience of the impossibility, in the service of the deepening process

What do you hope that delegates will be able to take away from your CPD day with us?

From past experience, I find that most practising therapists experience relief from understanding that deep engagement with the client inevitably takes us into conflicted unconscious realms of the psyche - most therapists know this in their bones, anyway, but the feedback I often receive is that people leave with more clarity around the 'inevitable' bit.

To appreciate our internal experience of conflict, uncertainty, failure and helplessness in the therapeutic position as a parallel process which carries profound information about the client and the co-created process between us, opens the door to embracing the impossibility at the heart of our work. Many therapists find that a permission-giving and liberating experience, which puts their practice on its paradoxical feet, rather than puts their heads in the idealised clouds. That does not immediately make things easier, but at least it offers a graspable end of that string which is the tangled ball of our confused and fragmented profession, full of transgenerational conflicts we have inherited all the way down from Freud.

In bullet-point summary, here are some of the things that participants might take away:

  • a cross-modality formulation of the client's internal conflict as the starting point for the therapeutic relationship and how that impacts the therapist
  • a generic formulation and appreciation of how the client's conflict necessarily becomes the therapist's conflict
  • some consequent articulation and embracing of the impossibility of the therapeutic position
  • some reflection on the many ways in which we deny, defend ourselves and react against that impossibility
  • some glimpse of our habitual positions as therapists and communities of practitioners and some curiosity about them
  • the beginnings of a bodymind procedure of processing our individual experience of the impossibility in the service of the client's process
  • a sense of the kind of fluidity and flexibility between relational modalities, as well as between theories and techniques, which is required as one foundation of a sustainable practice




On the horizon: Training for Group Therapists, Group Facilitators & Organisational Leaders

In the last newsletter I had announced that this time I would be giving further detailed information about plans for an integrative, integral group facilitation training. We have a number of people interested, from Oxfordshire, but also from other parts of the UK and even abroad.

I will not be able to run this kind of training by myself, so it will take me some more time to get other tutors involved and put a programme together. But as I indicated last time, there will probably be some taster workshops to begin with, probably in the autumn of 2018. But ultimately we are aiming at a substantial training, maybe with a certificate and a later diploma stage, to keep it manageable in terms of the commitment and investment required.

I'm hoping that we can start that kind of training in 2019 - it will probably end up being a weekend in Oxford on a roughly monthly basis (if that's the case then the venue will definitely be the new Oxford Therapy Centre). More about this later in the spring or early summer.


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