Taunton Racecourse on a glorious spring day was the venue for TAP’s 2018 Spring Conference on 14th April. This eagerly awaited and anticipated event featured therapist, trainer and author Nick Totton who had left his beloved Cornwall to present ` We are all Body Psychotherapists` to TAP Conference delegates.
Welcomed by vice chair Andrew Wilcox, Nick started his presentation by inviting the audience to get comfortable by stretching and relaxing their bodies and said that he would endeavour to speak with the audience rather than at them.
Referring to the title of his presentation, Nick shared his view that Body Psychotherapy is an unfortunate name but one that is around at the moment. He felt it sounded like he only worked with people’s bodies whereas Body Psychotherapy is about working with the whole of the person, therefore he believes `Embodiment Therapy` would be a better title.
Outlining what `embodiment` actually is, Nick spoke of how the mind and body are interlinked and how we need to get to know and make friends with the huge number of things going on in our bodies like twitches, gurgles and sighs and also with all the emotions and impulses. When we connect with ourselves and recognise our own rhythms of embodiment we can begin to observe how they are influenced by being in association with another embodied person.
Nick went on to explain how Embodiment and Relationship are inseparable both in human existence and in psychotherapy. When investigating embodiment we meet relationship; if we investigate relationship we find embodiment. For the practitioner who recognises the interaction of these two aspects of being human, the gift will be therapy that is far more powerful.
Challenging the assumption held by some that Mind and Body are somehow separate, Nick declared himself a `Bodymind`. Offering examples of how some might view the supposed divide between Mind and Body, Nick asked as a sick person might ask his body - `Why are you doing this to me?`. Then again as an Insomniac `I want to go to sleep, why won’t my mind stop? `
In therapy Nick’s goal is to follow the client wherever the process takes them but the nature of the embodied relationship between client and therapist is central.
As the conference progressed Nick invited delegates to participate in some experiential work. The first exercise was with someone that was unknown to them. Standing close in silence, delegates examined their feelings; what was it like to be near the stranger? Was their body opening up to them? Was their body moving towards them or pulling away? Most delegates engaged with the exercise, some standing some sitting. Some in perfect stillness, while others wiggled, rocked or moved their arms as to a silent cadence.
A second exercise followed a similar pattern but with someone new, followed by another change of partner for a third exercise but this time with eyes closed as well as in silence. On being invited to speak, participants visibly relaxed and laughter was heard. Examining this fascinating experience the audience was asked to consider once again their feelings; was it mine or was it theirs and how hard was it staying in the here and now?
After such an interesting and absorbing morning the conference broke for lunch and what a sumptuous affair it was. Feasting on the tasty fare provided, delegates took the opportunity to network; making new acquaintances and renewing old ones.
Nick launched into the afternoon session by speaking of trauma, a subject that many therapists will encounter in their work almost daily. If the person is traumatised, they can’t relax. They are waiting for something bad to happen. We see trauma in everyday life, ordinary forms of trauma showing itself before we learn how to relax. The more traumatised we are, the more we are stuck with one foot in the past and one foot in the present. It’s believed that feelings are held in the body and that the body has memory.
Nick mentioned Peter Lavine who has spent most of his working life working with trauma and traumatised clients. Peter has developed an approach to trauma called Somatic Experience which focuses on the physiological aspects of the condition.
With much interaction from delegates, the widely debated question of `touch` between therapist and client arose. This topic appears to have surfaced at many of Nick’s Workshops and Talks as he quickly embraced the subject calling the taboo of touch within the counselling relationship a `19th Century Fossil. Different kinds of touch were discussed, from a simple handshake or hug at the end of a session to a more intimate holding of someone when they are sobbing. Reflecting that it’s all about what we are comfortable with, Nick added that the more embodied we are, the more that we can find a way.
With the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client often extremely close, it was unsurprising to hear that in the instance of a client suppressing an emotion the likelihood of this being picked up by the therapist is very high. Nick added that the messages might be subliminal and to him the idea of telepathy made perfect sense, however in everyday situations the signals are likely to be swamped by hundreds and hundreds of other people.
Moving into the last 45 minutes of the conference, delegates discussed what had resonated for them in the morning and also what hadn’t. All too soon the conference drew to a close but Nick had one more gem to leave with us; ``The body always knows the right thing to do``.
A warm round of applause followed a vote of thanks by TAP Chair Helena Trump.
The TAP Spring Conference 2018 takes place in just a month's time, on 14th April. Nick Totton will be addressing the delegates on the theme 'We are all body psychotherapists'.
To clarify what 'body psychotherapy' is for those interested but not expert, we have asked long-time TAP Council member Ian Stevenson to interpret and summarise the key points. If you have not yet booked for the conference, then see our 'Conference' page for full details. You can download the booking form direct from that page or contact us on email@example.com.
It promises to be an absorbing, interactive and positive day, offering insights to the way body therapy can influence practice.
Shakespeare wrote of ‘the heartache and the thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to’.
We are afflicted by both the frailties of our physical being and by the suffering which is the common lot of Humankind.
Counsellors and Psychotherapists hear and respond to those experiences mainly through the medium of speech. What they do is often referred to as talking therapies.
The body can can also speak but in a different language. If we can but listen and interpret, the body can tell therapists things which might otherwise be overlooked.
We exist in a physical body and experience things within that body. Body psychotherapy (BP) does not see a split between mind and body. Both influence each other and can’t always be accessed by words.
We are all aware from our earliest days how we are affected by our gender, relative size-height, weight-and health. Later in life sexual orientation and more subjective aspects such as ‘race’ or ‘looks’ can be of tremendous impact. They not only affect how others relate to us but how we feel about ourselves.
Those who come to TAP evening talks will remember Matthew Appleton’s inspiring talks on the experience of the baby in the womb and the lasting effects. Psychosomatic illness or illness resulting from emotional / physical causes- is a large, if unquantified, proportion of the cases presented to the medical profession.
The experience of trauma, prolonged and deep anxiety, physical, mental and sexual abuse, neglect, hate and childbirth, can all have effects which are not always acknowledged but do affect us. The memories of these events is stored in our bodies.
One example is a deep defensiveness which can be reflected in muscle tension or rigidity, called ‘armouring’ by one of the pioneers of BP, Wilhelm Reich.
Things like energy flow and release, muscle pulsation and contraction, and energy charge and discharge are all things body psychotherapists pay attention to throughout treatment.
Those who have studied yoga or had acupuncture will know that similar concepts of energy flow have been part of Asian civilisations for several thousand years at least.
Some of these effects can be inferred by an alert therapist and give some insight into the issues that clients or patients come with. A wide varieties of techniques have been used by BP practitioners. Many of them are found in other schools of therapy and so BP can link with what other practitioners do. One of the differences is in the use of physical contact which is an area where therapists have, rightly, to be cautious. However, having a clearer understanding of uses -and misuses- can provide more safety for those who might wish to implement it.
Nick Totton argues that embodied relating is the soil from which all therapy grows, and that conscious understanding of this makes our work more powerful and accurate.
He says, “Embodied relating is embedded in our everyday life: we can all 'do' embodied relating, though some do it better than others. Like many other important aspects of life, it generally happens of its own accord, but sometimes benefits from the sort of close examination which tends to happen in therapy. However, psychotherapy has a history of keeping embodiment out of its field of awareness, and of preferring language-based relating to all other kinds - indeed, until quite recently, of downplaying here-and-now relationship altogether. All these things are now changing.
Embodiment and relationship are inseparable, both in human existence and in psychotherapy. If we explore embodiment, we encounter relationship; if we explore relationship, we encounter embodiment. Therapy is more powerful when the practitioner is able to recognise the constant interplay between these two aspects of being human, and to follow and support the shifts of change from one to the other.”
Nick Totton’s Embodied-Relational approach involves not just the ‘heartache and thousand natural shocks that can affect us’, but the concept of a dynamic force within us which can heal and make whole.
Ian Stevenson March 2018
This was one of TAP’s best attended talks - so many came along that extra chairs had to be put out.
Dr. Freeth is a psychiatrist and a counsellor, so she is able to look at the issues from both points of view. She has published a book and contributes to Therapy Today, the journal of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
In her talk she posed some broad questions. What is the nature of mental distress? How does it arise and what is the most efficient response to it?
There are two approaches. One sees mental illness as arising from physical causes such as a chemical imbalance in the brain. The other view is as a response to life events and that medication can relieve symptoms and alter the emotional experience of the client. Neither can be conclusively proven and there is some overlap. It is not a precise science, although probably most psychiatrists are more in the first school. But things are changing.
Some clients/patients feel that having both medication and therapy is the best of both worlds, whereas others may wish to avoid any drugs. Some will accept a prescription and stop taking them. A few will prefer just the medication so it is important for psychiatrists and doctors to talk to the client/patient about the medication: what it is hoped to achieve and possible side effects.
Dr. Freeth presented two cases studies which explored the issues.
Coming off a medication is as important as the original prescription and she emphasised that just stopping can, sometimes, lead to crisis and needs to managed. It emphasises the importance of having a relationship in which the patient can discuss their situation with the psychiatrist and GP. She also went through the main categories of medication and left some hand outs with links to further research. Her handouts are available to download HERE, HERE and HERE
TAP attracts both students and experienced practitioners (as well as those who have an interest in the subject) and there was a good discussion followed by tea/coffee and biscuits.
The vote of thanks also gave notice of the forthcoming conference on body psychotherapy given by Nick Totton who has a national reputation for his work in this area. Some of the committee have seen him in conference and decided he had to speak to us. Details on the website ( www.taplimited.org.uk )
On the 19th January TAP members and guests welcomed Ounkar Kaur with her presentation ‘Changing Times and Evolving Cultures’ a course that evolved from her MSc research. As an Asian psychotherapist, Ounkar has extensive experience of working with patients from Black and Minority Ethnic communities for various agencies. Ounkar is a Member of the Severnside Institute for psychotherapy and an Accredited Race Equality Trainer as well as having a private practice in Bristol.
In a change to the usual TAP practice. Ounkar invited the audience to sit in an intimate circle and then share with everyone their first names. This close relationship continued later when the audience worked in pairs to discuss experiences connected with differences and cultures.
Speaking quite candidly, Ounkar recounted how she became aware of the variety of differences in her life when she was younger, especially her days at secondary school and the distress she felt when her name was deliberately mispronounced by her classmates and sometimes also by a teacher. This cruel act by the teacher, Ounkar felt, gave mandate to other students to do the same.
The basis of Ounkar’s TAP presentation is the course that she runs in Bristol which is an opportunity for learning about and processing difference. It allows the attendee to deepen their awareness of difference through one’s own internal responses to it. It also includes ongoing explorations and discussions about the dynamics in intercultural relationships and situations, especially where there is a lack of understanding which can easily hinder communication.
It is hoped that at some point in the future the course will be brought to Taunton. In the meantime, see HERE and HERE for details of Ounkar's 8 week course and taster sessions, with further information from Ounkar HERE.
Ounkar received a very warm round of applause and many personal expressions of thanks from a clearly delighted TAP members at the conclusion of her talk.
The next TAP Talk will take place on 16 February when Dr Rachel Freeth will talk on `Clients taking psychiatric medication`. All are welcome.
This year saw the first of , hopefully, many TAP Christmas get-togethers combining festivities with a talk of general interest.
Write-up by Sarah Kay-Hawker
‘Death, Disease and Dissection’: The working life of surgeon-apothecaries – our earliest GPs
This short talk gave a mulled punch wielding festive audience a change of genre in the TAP talk programme. Suzie Grogan, the TAP administrator revealed herself as a talented, knowledgeable author and diligent researcher with a thought provoking presentation on early medical practice. Suzie has been a keen professional writer for the past nine or ten years. Hot off the back of her appearance at a literary festival, Suzie was ready to guide us through a fascinating, if uncomfortable at times, journey through some (probably) well intentioned gory bits of history. She was inspired to write the book by her love for the life and works of the poet John Keats, who trained as a doctor in the early 19th century.
We learned that during the 1750s and 1850s, there was still much to learn; anaesthetic and antiseptic were yet to be discovered in a way that we would recognise.
During this period there existed a definite social hierarchy in the medical profession. There was an absence of women in the field. They were actively discouraged and their interventions were restricted to ‘wise women and witches’. Broadly speaking practitioners were split into three groups:
The physician, dealing mainly with external presentation of ailments and were unlikely to actually touch the patient, other than hand holding…
The surgeon, the next social class down, concentrated on the internal (messy).
The Apothecary, the least socially successful, described as the ‘doctor to the poor’, able to mix potions and prescriptions to treat a variety of discomforts.
Medical progress took the times from animal dissection toward human dissection. This created greater demand for bodies, an increase in body snatching, grave robbery and on to practicing on the poor and criminal with the additional benefit of being a crime deterrent.
Details and description of practices through history are well documented in Suzie Grogan’s book.
The talk was followed by a lively social gathering over some excellent and diverse festive refreshments.
TAP also announced first details of the Spring Conference, to take place at Taunton Racecourse on 14th April 2014, when Nick Totton will speak on the theme ‘We are all body psychotherapists’. See our Conference page for full details.
Suzie has three published books to her name:
1. Dandelions and bad hair days
2. Shell Shocked Britain:The First World War's legacy for Britain's mental health
3. Death, Disease and Dissection: The working life of a surgeon-apothecary 1750-1850
She has now been commissioned to write two more - one on the poet John Keats...
A capacity audience gathered together at the Friends Meeting House on 17th November to welcome back Paul Sunderland, a very popular speaker for TAP members and guests.
Paul treated us to some thought provoking insights into ‘Boarding School Syndrome and Recovery – When Privilege is Trauma for the Early Boarder.'
Paul originally trained as an addictions counsellor, moving to senior positions in residential treatment settings and then into private practice.
As the evening’s talk progressed it became apparent that there was a theme running that also ran through a Saturday workshop that Paul put on for TAP in October. The theme was one of ‘self-soothing’ behaviours which may bring survivors into therapy.
For the young child the moment of leaving home for boarding school is the beginning of an episode of adaption. There may be tension between the idea of privilege – ‘aren’t you lucky’ and the reality of life in ‘captivity’ with no care giver present and little privacy. Being unhappy and not feeling fortunate are a good mix to promote feelings of shame in the child. Guilt and shame make up some of the foundation for self-soothing (addictive?) behaviours to take hold as the child finds an often arid environment in which to share feelings.
Boarders and adoptees are over-represented in treatment and recovery services. Do we recognise PTSD in early boarders?
Neuroscience tells us that early experiences shape the brain. Experience is the architect of the brain. If the 7 year old learns to keep themselves to themselves, the pattern will stick.
Boarding schools began around 500 years ago preparation for empire. Graduates would be less likely to miss home.
There exists an ambiguity; socially we may consider it a tragedy when a child is taken into care, but not into boarding school.
A grateful vote of thanks and applause brought the talk to a close, but not the evening. The discussion continued over fresh coffee, various teas and some very lovely biscuits.
The next talk will be on 8th December, alongside a Christmas social event to which everyone is invited! £5 on the door, free to TAP members. Hear Suzie Grogan (a sell-out at the recent Taunton Literary Festival) give a 30 minute talk about Death Disease & Dissection – a Horrible History of medicine for grown-ups.
A full audience of TAP members and guests attended to Paul Sunderland’s most engaging presentation ‘Introduction to modern addictions’; held in the contemplative setting of the Friends Meeting House in Taunton.
With 30 years’ experience of working, researching and managing in the field of addictions, Paul provided many thought provoking insights into addiction; possible origins, treatment process and the place of the therapist.
He provided an introduction to conditions of substance misuse, finance, couple relationships, romance, love and sex addiction. It was fascinating to learn of the basic criteria that define and describe addiction as a disease and how these symptoms are shared with a wide range of compulsion processes.
There is a preoccupation, a loss of control; abstinence, tolerance, withdrawal and impact of functioning, possibly leading to symptoms of depression and anxiety, relational and legal issues – all amounting to a ‘full time job’.
Addition can be described as a ‘migrating disease’, often showing up as a dis-ease in other areas of life.
Treatment approaches begin with addictions of ingestion, abstinence, the disease process and the underlying trauma, or dis-ease. Group therapy as well as individual has been found to be effective in treatment and we heard how ‘people get well in counter-transference’.
Therapists may remind themselves that in order to be effective and compassionate require three basic elements: learning. Supervision and work on themselves.
Paul referred to addictive experience as ‘a thing’. Individuals are not bad, or weak, but primarily unwell. Behind it all tend to lay negative cognitions and un-thought knowns. The limbic brain stores trauma. There is a suggestion that we have many brains and that in the case of addictive conditions, the limbic brain acts before the frontal cortex has a chance.
‘You can’t change what you don’t know’.
Psychotherapy and counselling aid and support the knowing.
A vote of thanks on behalf of the TAP Council, members and guests was followed by copious applause and no doubt, plenty to think about.
Feedback showed that over 90% of attendees thought both the workshop and Paul Sunderland as speaker were 'Excellent'.
On 15 September the greatly anticipated presentation by Cathy Towers entitled `Filthy Lucre – Therapists Relationship with Money` took place at the Friends Meeting House, Taunton and as expected attracted a large audience. Cathy is a Workshop Leader and Speaker and Mind and Body Therapist with over 30 years experience and is based in the Exmouth area.
Cathy began her talk with a classic pop song extolling the virtues of money and with the distribution of chocolate coins. This quickly moved into Freud’s obsession with his poorhouse neurosis and his strict viewpoint on charging for his services. The audience heard how in modern times, the therapist’s relationship with money is often fraught and so requires the therapist to make decisions on charging based on a clear, coherent and consistent rational.
Cathy explained how she used to rent out rooms to therapists, only to find that they would put in their leaflets and just wait for something to happen. Because they had not addressed the issue of marketing or constructed a viable business plan, many of these enterprises were doomed to failure. With quite a brave change of policy, Cathy began to turn down many of the applications for rooms and instead started to have people that she felt had thoroughly researched their venture. However this initially resulted in a drastic plummeting of her income.
The question of a free counselling service was addressed and the audience heard how at one point Cathy worked for such an agency. Even though there was no charge, attendance was poor with only 70% of clients actually keeping their appointments. This changed significantly however, when a fee was introduced and attendance increased to 90%. This shift appears to indicate the lack of accountability attached to pro bona work.
Interacting with the audience, Cathy explored attitudes to money and found it can represent success, freedom and can enhance self esteem. The downside was seen as shame, either at having too much or too little. The talk concluded with the audience dividing themselves into three groups – those who regard themselves as charging averagely, higher than average and those below the average. This exercise, although light-hearted, focused many on their own charging structure.
Tea and coffee was served following a vote of thanks by TAP Council member David Trott and a warm round of applause acknowledged an enjoyable and educational presentation by Cathy.
The next TAP Talk takes place on Friday 20 October when Lisa Foote speaks on the subject of `Looking Beyond labels – Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder. However, before then TAP has a Saturday workshop on 7 October when Paul Sunderland presents `An Introduction to Modern Addictions: The Financial, Work, Sex and Love Addictions. How do they work and how can we treat them? To book a place at this rare event, please phone 01823 661601
TAP Talk 16/8/17 - A new approach to healing the past. An introduction to Pesso Boyden psychotherapy by Matthew Harwood
TAP members and guests gathered at the Friends Meeting House in Taunton on Friday 16th June 2017 to hear a thoroughly engaging presentation: ‘A new approach to healing the past. An introduction to Pesso Boyden psychotherapy.’
The presenter was Matthew Harwood, a Jungian psychotherapist in private practice in Bath and Bristol. He enviably trained at the CG Jung Institute in Zurich. More recently he has undertaken training on Pesso Boyden Psychotherapy and Internal Family Systems (IFS).
Matthew described having a healing experience during a CPD Pesso Boyden workshop and was inspired to develop his knowledge and application.
Pesso Boyden therapy began life thanks to Albert Pesso and Diane Boyden, a married couple from the USA, now sadly deceased. Interestingly they were originally both dancers and then dance teachers. It became apparent to them that some dancers appeared blocked from performing a full range of movements, hampered by past trauma.
The approach is not well known in the UK, but the couple developed and evolved the approach over 50 years, together and then just Albert after his wife died.
So, what is the aim of Pesso Boyden Psychotherapy? In keeping with other approaches; ‘to help us become who we really are.’
Mainly a group work approach differing significantly from other therapy group processes, it concentrates on an individual in the group, with other members role playing and bearing witness to the evolution of healing the individual’s past.
The approach can be used in a one to one setting too, although slightly less common, with the facilitator assuming the witness roles.
The audience was fascinated by a series of chronological video clips charting the process in action.
It is generally accepted that the roots of trauma lie in early life and we are born with a genetic expectation that our basic needs will be met by loving care givers. The Peso Boyden approach works towards supplementing memory experiences, not cancellations. It is the protagonist that does the work.
The speaker emphasised to the audience that the best way to understand Pesso Boyden, is to have the experience.
An engaged and enthusiastic audience was represented by a vote of thanks on behalf of the TAP Committee.
The next TAP Talk takes place after our summer break, on 15th September 2017, when psychotherapist Cathy Towers will speak on the subject 'Filthy Lucre - Therapists' Relationship with Money'.
TAP Council member
An eager audience of TAP members and colleagues welcomed Mark Conway this month to his talk entitled ‘Fostering resilience: An opportunity for improving outcomes’ Mark is a specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) team manager, who is highly qualified and equipped with many years’ experience working with young people.
The audience heard of the importance of building resilience in children and young people to provide the foundation for good mental health. In terms of academic resilience we heard that young people can achieve good educational outcomes, despite adversity and will often perform better than expected.
The CAMHS and schools link project pilot commissioned by the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) yielded some very positive outcomes and a basis for action. The project promoted good mental health and early intervention within schools and including teaching emotional intelligence for teachers.
It was acknowledged that during the school years children really have very little control over their situations, both in compulsory education and domestic home life. Focussing on resilience examines how children learn to cope well and manage within these constraints.
The audience was introduced to a ‘resilience framework’ which provides a guide to the elements to consider in building healthy resilience, likened in some ways to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Conditions need to meet basic and progressive criteria in order for the child to have the opportunity become the best that they can be.
Mark pointed out clearly that adults who experience difficulties with their mental health have the origins rooted in childhood, increasing the necessity for early intervention.
You can download Mark's presentation HERE.
An enthusiastic vote of thanks from the TAP council preceded a sociable time over tea and coffee.
The next TAP Talk takes place on June 16th entitled ‘A new approach to healing the past. An introduction to Pesso Boyden Psychotherapy’. Matthew Harwood will be the guest speaker. He is a Jungian Analyst, trained in Pesso Boyden psychotherapy and internal family systems.