Taunton Association for Psychotherapy (TAP) held its annual conference on Saturday 30th March at the race course, which has splendid facilities.
TAP has been holding these conferences for more than 30 years, attracting audiences from around the south west. As usual, more than seventy-five attendees, mainly but not only counsellors and psychotherapists, enjoyed an interesting and informative day.
The subject this year was “De-mystifying Trauma’, and the speakers, John Hendon and Dr. Robert Sharpe, have both lectured and run workshops in the UK and around the world.
The conference was opened by Helena Trump, the TAP Chair.
John Hendon told TAP that many avoid working with survivors of severe trauma for the fear of making it worse; or of re-traumatising. His approach is one known as ‘Solution Focused’, which is described as ‘practical techniques, balanced with well documented scientific research’. He exemplified this by examples from his experience which includes extensive work with military veterans and survivors of motor accidents. John has written a very accessible ( and successful ) book aimed at ex-military personnel.
His aim is help people through three stages, that of ‘victim’ where the story can be told and the isolation broken down, ‘survivor’, involving the identification of personal strengths and resources, as well as external support and finally the ‘thriver’. This is about learning to live in a fulfilling way, exploring dreams and hopes for the future and strengthening relationships.
Some of his techniques were illustrated in practical ways in his second session. One example was the use of elastic band on the wrist, pulling and releasing it to recognise that ‘that was then and this is now.’ Some people might have intrusive thoughts up to eighty times a day and with this and other methods that number could be reduced significantly.
Dr Robert Sharpe has a humorous style which he has used to engage audiences such as top lawyers and bankers. He wrote some of the original books on stress management back in the 1970s when the field was still developing.
Both speakers believe ‘There is no one right way’, but their talks were entirely complementary.
Dr Sharpe started by getting the audience to think of their needs and wants and then to think of recent successes. The audience was encouraged to identify their core ‘bedrock skills’ and not be embarrassed, in an English way, to acknowledge them.
It is important to give attention to people’s successes rather than raking over failures, and Dr Sharpe used as his example Arsene Wenger and his period as manager of Arsenal Football Club.
Trauma can damage self-esteem and it is important to ensure that is dealt with. Dr Sharpe talked about turning ‘whys into hows’, stating that it is about finding the necessary resources within one’s self.
He then turned, briefly, to the neuro-science, explaining how therapeutic interventions can affect the functioning of the brain.
One entertaining example was a woman who had been involved in an armed bank robbery and had to lie on the floor, when she noticed one of the robbers had odd socks on. Robert was able to use this to interrupt the flow.
Trauma can lock people into a loop of re-occurring thoughts, but therapists can find ways of breaking into that circle and leading them out of the ‘misery go round’.
Both speakers left attendees with informative handout sheets.
Audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive and TAP is already planning for Conference 2020.
The conference was closed by the vice chair Andrew Wilcox.
TAP ended its current programme of evening talks with “Unlocking the secrets of dreams”.
The talk was due to be delivered by Matthew Harwood, who had to withdraw and his place was taken by Jane Renton, who gave a talk which thoroughly engaged the audience and promoted a lot of questions and discussion.
Jane introduced the topic with examples of dreams; one by the poet Coleridge and one from Anglo-Anglo-Saxon England 1400 years ago.
Freud said that dreams are ‘the royal road to the unconscious mind’. Jane used a more recent definition -‘the royal road to integration.’
Her work is informed by Internal Family Systems theory whose approach is that within all of us are sub-personalities which can consist of wounded and painful parts that might try to protect the person from them. These can be in conflict with each other and the core of the person which is confident and compassionate.
Jane explained , ‘what you put into a dream is within you.’ The job of the therapist is not to interpret but to bring the dream alive and work with the client for the deeper meaning to emerge and, one hopes, to be healing.
There are a number of steps to be followed for safe practice.
We start by narrating the dream in present tense to bring it more alive then check for any feelings it arouses and what parts might be important. Other things we might do is to look out for SQUIDS , what is strange, quirky, uninteresting, interesting and different. We may ask the client to speak as if they were a character or even a thing in the dream. Does any of this resonate with anything happening in your life at the moment or the time of the dream?
Jane offered several ways to illustrate the process and the one chosen was for a volunteer, one of the committee, to act as client. He was given a dream. It was the one from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
‘Last night I dreamed of Manderley.’
His interesting response was what arose for him and did show the power of the technique.
The audience was invited to do an exercise in groups and select one of four printed dreams form the table. In one group when the dream was read out, a member of it remarked ‘this is spooky. it is a dream I have.’
It was agreed that what it showed is that it can be a way of getting to the core of the person.
This was followed by a lively question and answer session. The vote of thanks given by Caroline Barrett (who new to this role and did it very well ) The evening ended with biscuits and tea or coffee.
The next TAP event is the annual conference on 30th March entitled ‘De-mystifying Trauma’ with two international speakers, John Hendon and Dr Robert Sharp. See our TAP Conference page for more details.
The evening talks resume on Friday 17th May 2019 with ‘Responding to our client’s metaphors’ by Matthew Cott at the Friend’s Meeting House.
At our November 2018 TAP Talk, one of the young people who came along to describe their personal experience shared a piece that the audience found so moving we asked their permission to share it with you on the website. The name has been changed but otherwise this is their vivid account of their mental health journey. We would like to thank Jane for allowing this to be shared.
Hello, my name is Jane and I am 19 years old. When being asked to talk about my mental health and the journey it took me on, I stumbled on where exactly I should start. Do I start with the little 8 year old girl and what she felt or more on what being ill has taken away from me. I decided on the latter.
When people talk about mental health, the information that is shared is often correlated with the symptoms presented and how mental health works. The understanding of this is of course very important, but this evening I would like to focus on the internal and external impacts of anorexia and the array of other labels that were thrown at me.
Starting at 8, my world was very small and complex. In my head you see, it all made sense. I won’t be able to explain the cognitive battle that was going on up there, because I am not really sure I understand it now. Never the less I could see me friends were not interested in my anxious temperament and shy ways. I didn’t like seeing them dwindle, because then they were gone.
After I moved up to the senior school, I was met with angry voices and hierarchical ways. My mental health took a dive in the deep end. This was when the world stopped spinning and came to a halt, my world at least. Gone.
Hospital became my home whilst the world stopped spinning. Hospitals that weren’t close to home. Hospitals that were dotted around the country like joining a dot-to-dot. Nottingham was were the furthest dot was placed and the Cotswolds was the closest. I had lost the comfort of my home. In physicality I wasn’t met with familiar faces and two very happy puppies in the morning. Another thing gone.
Everyone else’s world seemed to carry on spinning, I knew that because I would be told on the telephone about birthdays and Christmases. I would be told about new candles on the cakes and countries that had been travelled. I was happy they were living their lives, but I couldn’t bare what my life had come to. Sitting between the same four walls, knowing every door and window was locked. Gone.
My teenage years were spent being weighed and sedated by various concoction’s. My serotonin levels were fake. I saw my friends being happy; real happiness that is. But of course I didn’t get to see the few that were left, because 200 miles (pause) separated us. The simplicity of what I missed was almost forgotten.
A hug. A simple thing you see, but safeguarding rules and cameras understandably restricted staff to patient contact, but there were days when I couldn’t understand why. A hand to hold seemed so far away. Reassurance and comfort swiftly left.
Talks of periods and girly chats were non-existent as anorexia smiled. Gone.
A walk in the garden; gone. Going outside involved being well.
Having a bath by myself; gone. I now had two people awkwardly hoovering over me watching my every splash.
I didn’t have any choice over my care, my voice was not being heard. Gone.
Everything was going. Gone.
Although somehow everything that was going didn’t matter to me. I was okay with what my illnesses were giving me- it felt somewhat safe. I began to feel comfortable in the pain I was causing myself. It was what I knew, and it was who I was. I did not see myself as poorly. I was just myself.
So, for that exact reason I couldn’t see what I was missing. My world had paused. It became a rusty cassette that didn’t know how to play. Coming back into the real world felt near impossible. Rekindling friendships and greeting my two puppies in the morning felt strange. I didn’t have to wait for someone else to unlock three doors before I was met with a blast of fresh air. It was all so strange… I could now have clothes in my room and my blanket to sleep under. At the beginning I felt like a stranger in my own home- naturally waiting to be strip-searched before entering my room.
It did get easier. Sadly it took longer than I would have liked, but I began to like the new world I was living in. It became something I wanted to explore and cherish, the world became a warmer place. The little things in life became my very best friend.
The Jane that was poorly was shrinking. Gone.
Members and guests of TAP gathered once again at the Friend’s Meeting House in Bath Place on 16th November for the widely anticipated Talk by Johnny Scott entitled `Mental Health – A Young Person’s Perspective.
Co-Chair Andrew Wilcox introduced Johnny who is from the Somerset NHS Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). The organisation was created in 1995 and has seen a huge increase in demand for it’s services ever since, although the 2018 CAMHS is a very different service than the 1995 version. Johnny has worked for CAMHS for around three years and strives to develop the service using the experiences and feedback of it’s clients. His role is unique in as much as he doesn’t work clinically with the young people but helps them find their voice. Listening to his young client’s experiences he then feeds back to managers about ways in which the service can involve and change to best serve it’s clients. The organisation offers numerous types of therapy which includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Psychotherapy, Family Therapy and Art Therapy.
Johnny was accompanied by a group of young people who had been helped by CAMHS, within it’s `Participation` group scheme, some of which were now volunteering themselves as helpers. Participation groups build self esteem and confidence and give the young people something to get involved in and to look forward to as well as being a social outlet. The groups can be used until the age of eighteen.
As the presentation continued all the young people bravely took to the floor in turn and recounted their own personal stories which included anxiety, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, depression and self harm, to spellbound listeners. As well as their journey the young people spoke of where they are now with their issues and how they manage their lives. Interacting with the audience one young speaker was able to convey brilliantly how unpleasant and intrusive it feels to be asked the most personal of questions when entering therapy. Guided and occasionally prompted by Johnny the youngsters received an exceptionally warm and enthusiastic round of applause after their own individual account from a clearly moved and appreciative audience.
Following a vote of thanks by TAP council member Caroline Barrett, speakers, members and guests availed themselves of a hot beverage and the now legendary biscuits. The next TAP Talk takes place on Friday January 18th 2019 when Olivia Rowlatt presents ` Having conversations about sex`. All are welcome.
David Trott TAP Council Member
TAP Talk 19th October 2018 - Andrew Pritchard of MIND 'A local mental health charity, what it does, when, where and how'.
On 19 October members and guests of TAP welcomed Andrew Pritchard who is Chief Operations Officer of the Taunton and West Somerset branch of MIND, who presented his Talk entitled ` A local mental health charity, what it does, when, where and how.`
As a mental health charity MIND is there for anyone with a mental health problem and nationally delivers high quality services to hundreds of thousands of people each year. Taunton & West Somerset MIND is one of around 130 local MINDs around the country which are their own individual charities with their own trustees and are responsible for their own fund raising, although as a network, they share support, knowledge and ideas. Nationally MIND campaigns to improve services and strives to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Andrew reflected on the familiar statistic that 1 in 4 of us will suffer with mental illness at some point in our lives. It was surprising for many to hear that according to the World Health Organization, by 2020 depression will be the second most common cause of ill health after heart disease. Andrew added that this statement may have been revised and that mental illness will become the most common cause of ill health.
Taunton and West Somerset MIND supports 30+ projects mainly across Somerset but works in Devon, Dorset and other parts of the UK. Over 5000 contacts annually are made locally and these are handled by over 70 volunteers and just over 30 full and part time staff. As Andrew’s presentation continued more astonishing present day data and statistics emerged including the fact that in the UK this week 250,000 people will visit their doctor about a mental health problem and 750,000 prescriptions for antidepressants will be issued. During the same period 104 will have taken their own life.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people at any one time will be experiencing mental distress. Relating these figures to Somerset with it’s population of just over ½ million this means at any one time 50,000 people could be experiencing mental distress in this county alone.
The next TAP Talk takes place on Friday 16th November when Jonny Scott presents Mental health: a young person’s perspective. All are welcome.
After a break for summer, TAP opened it’s doors on 14 September for another eagerly awaited Talk. A large and enthusiastic audience of members and guests welcomed Corrina and Nick Wood for their presentation entitled `Working with clients on the autistic spectrum`.
Corrina has spent many years working with families where there is a child with Autism, is a licensed facilitator of the Cygnet Programme, a course for the parents and works within `Platypus Training and Consultancy` at Bristol. She and her husband Nick have four children who although are very different, are all on the Autistic Spectrum. Nick is an Accredited BACP counsellor and heads up the counselling team at Gloucestershire County Council and has a special interest in the field of Autism.
With the aid of a PowerPoint presentation (download available HERE), the audience was asked what Autism is? According to The National Autistic Society, `Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them` while Platypus sees it as a `neurodevelopmental condition that enables an individual to process, connect and experience the world differently.` It is believed that where Autism is present there is also an increased risk of developing mental health issues, suicide and co-occurring conditions. Currently there are more males being diagnosed with the condition than females. The audience also heard that girls present differently to boys and it is thought that the parents of children with Autism are more stressed than parents of children with other disabilities.
Corrina and Nick explained that it’s estimated that at least 90% of people with Autism also have some degree of sensory difference and that evidence has suggested a genetic link. It’s said that Autism can occur with or without intellectual impairment and that’s it’s different for everyone.
Moving on to patterns of social interaction, Corrina and Nick spoke of ‘Aloof’ – this is where the individual is ‘in their own world’, not wanting to interact with others. Another style is ‘Passive’ where some individuals are happy to be on their own but are open to interaction with others if approached. ‘Active-but-odd’, was mentioned next but this label has been in decline of late but refers to the individual who wants to interact with others, but doesn’t have the skills or understanding to do so appropriately. Lastly came ‘Formal & Stilted’, here as the name suggests, individuals are very polite and use very formal language.
Therapists in the room having listened intently to Corrina and Nick’s presentation no doubt at this stage pondered to question `How do I best work with clients with Autism?`. The answer lay in the next PowerPoint slide which suggested that we prepare well for the session and that we don’t scare the client. This may necessitate the therapist changing traditional styles of therapy such as maintaining eye contact, which don’t appear productive. Seeking out peer support or a Supervisor with experience of client group was said to be useful and interestingly the consideration of sensory issues within the therapy room, an example of the latter being given afterwards as being a client getting distressed by the combination of colours on a therapy room bookshelf. An awareness of societal biases is essential as is the question of what it really means to be treated as different.
Handouts are available to download HERE and HERE
Following the vote of thanks, TAP members and guests enjoyed a hot beverage and were tempted by a fine selection of biscuits, while discussing the superb presentation by Corrina and Nick Wood. The next TAP talk takes place on 19 Oct 2018, when Andrew Pritchard, CEO, Mind in Taunton and West Somerset, presents `A local mental health charity, what it does, when, where and how`. All are most welcome.
David Trott TAP Council Member
TAP Talk June 2018 - Max Dalda Muller: Black Mirror: the influence of technology and social media on the therapeutic relationship.
A near capacity audience gathered on the 15 June to enjoy a presentation by Max Dalda Muller intriguingly entitled Black Mirror: the influence of technology and social media on the therapeutic relationship.
His rationale for putting together this talk was the huge use of technology in this country and the impact it is having on our health. The audience heard that it’s just over ten years since the first i phone was launched, and also around the same time Facebook became available. Since then one billion i phones have been sold and Facebook has acquired 2.2 billion active users, that’s roughly a quarter of the world’s population. In the UK 85% of the population own a smartphone and there are 30 million users of Facebook, that’s around half of the UK populace.
A buzz of surprise resonated around the room when the audience heard that the average UK user spends 2 hours 45 Minutes each day on a mobile device, which equates to 42 days a year and that we also check our phones on average 28 times a day which equals to 10,000 times a year.
Concern about the escalating use of mobile technology is backed up by research that shows that more people are being diagnosed with mental health problems than at any other time in human history, this is especially true in children and young people. Although we cannot say for certain, it appears highly likely that there is a link between mental health and time spent on mobile devices and social media.
Max offered the view that, like it or not the internet is changing the way we live, the way we shop and the way we find out information but most importantly it is changing the way in which we communicate with and relate to one another. In other words it is changing our relationships.
Continuing his fascinating presentation, Max explained a little about why smart phones and social media are so alluring and why users go back time and time again to check for messages and why they feel they cannot do without them.
The audience heard how the release of the naturally occurring drug Dopamine in the brain is partly responsible for this addiction. Part of the role of Dopamine is helping us learn about rewards and reinforcement. Dopamine neurons become activated when something good happens unexpectedly, such as the sudden availability of food. However dopamine has a sinister side as well. The use of drugs like Cocaine, Nicotine and Heroin, causes huge boosts of Dopamine in the brain, so the high that people feel when using drugs is partly down to Dopamine. In the same way, when we pick up our phone to check our messages we get a Dopamine hit, so our brain responds in the same way as a crack addict or gambler.
However it was not all bad news for the users of mobile technology. The audience heard that as well as being fun, it can help with finding friends and relatives and the sharing of experiences and events.
An enthusiastic round of applause followed a vote of thanks by TAP council member Ian Stevenson and discussion continued over tea and coffee afterwards.
The next TAP Talk will take place on Friday September 14th when NICK & CORINNA WOOD will present Working with clients on the autistic spectrum. All are welcome.
David Trott TAP Council Member
On Friday 18 May, a brand new season of talks commenced with TAP’s own council member Ian Stevenson who enthralled his audience with his presentation Cutting Edge Spirituality Take Two in which he built on the theme of TAP’s 2017 conference of `Connections between Spirituality and Psychotherapy`. Ian is a senior counsellor at the Somerset Counselling Centre and has been a driving force at TAP for many years, filling many roles.
Ian grabbed the audience’s attention by positing the question ` Do we think we are part of a universe where we are connected across space and time or are we are like a man standing on a melting ice floe in a universe that is unaware of us?
Addressing the idea that spirituality might be a nice concept Ian asked what do we mean by spirituality? How do we encounter it? What it is we encounter? And is there is any evidence for a dimension outside of our physical world; the metaphysical. Offering the thought that as religious faith has declined, people have investigated what has often been viewed to be the supernatural. Near death experiences, past life memories and telepathy were examined in Ian’s presentation together with the reason for resistance to these ideas and the concept of a paradigm shift.
The audience heard how another Ian Stevenson existed between 1918-2007 and that he was a Canadian-born U.S. psychiatrist who worked for the University of Virginia School of Medicine and was a founder and director of the university's Division of Perceptual Studies, which investigates the paranormal. Stevenson became known worldwide for his research into reincarnation, the idea that emotions, memories, and even physical bodily features can be transferred from one life to another. He travelled extensively over a period of forty years, investigating three thousand cases of children around the world who claimed to remember past lives.
Our own Ian Stevenson recounted an experience from his younger days when he was part of a group that sat around a table. In time honoured fashion they placed their hands upon it and in due course found it to be moving. The mystery as to how it moved continues to this day with no one admitting to causing it to happen.
As with all unexplained phenomena, humans instinctively search for meaning and answers and Ian offered the thought that Quantum physics might give us clues.
Unsurprisingly, a lively question and answer session followed Ian’s thought provoking presentation and after a vote of thanks by TAP vice chair Andrew Wilcox, the discussion continued over tea and coffee.
For Ian's list of resources useful to pursue your interest in this subject see HERE for a downloadable Word document.
The next TAP Talk takes place on June 15th 2018 when Max Dalda Muller presents: Black Mirror: the influence of technology and social media on the therapeutic relationship.
All are welcome.
David Trott TAP Council Member
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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