Rosemary is a counselling psychologist, and deputy course leader for the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at NSPC. She says this about her presentation: ‘I will talk about the findings of my recent research into emotional connection in therapy. This research showed that within the therapeutic relationship there was both a manifest and a hidden emotional level and that emotional connection was linked to client change at both levels. However, healing of the client’s deepest hurts took place on the hidden level. On this level there was also an emotional matching between client and therapist. The research provides support for the idea that ‘being with’ clients may be more therapeutic than ‘doing to’ clients, and that the healing mechanisms within therapy may be beyond our control.’
“Half-Heard Voices: The Human Reality Behind the Great Case Studies of Psychotherapy”
This is the title of our next talk at 7pm on Tuesday 23rd. October, by Anthony Stadlen. Anthony Stadlen has asked us to say this about himself and the topic of his lecture:
“Anthony Stadlen is an existential and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, supervisor, researcher, teacher, and convenor and principal conductor of the Inner Circle Seminars. Since 1979 he has undertaken historical research on some of the great canonical case studies of psychotherapy — Freudian, Jungian, daseinsanalytic and existential. His reason for devoting his life to this research was to find fundamental principles on which psychotherapists’ work, including his own, could be based. Einstein said that to understand and evaluate the work of physicists one should attend not to what they say but to what they do. Freud, independently, said the same for the work of psychoanalysts, specifying case studies, not theories, as the evidence which an enquirer should examine. Stadlen took Freud’s recommendation seriously, applying it to Freud’s own paradigmatic case studies as well as to those of Binswanger, Klein, Layard, Fordham, Boss, Laing and Esterson. In tonight’s talk, he will describe how his historical detective work to trace the real subjects of these case studies, their families and social milieux, led him to unsettling findings. While some of these so-called “therapists” appear to have helped some of their so-called “patients”, this was often despite rather than because of the therapist’s theories. In other cases, the therapist’s theories so distorted his or her perception of human reality as to offer a paradigm of how not to relate to a client. It became questionable whether there is – or ever could be — a body of “theory” which psychotherapists can “apply” to their own practice. Theory in the original sense means contemplation of practice. Practice comes first. The writings, and even some of the theories, of the great psychotherapists can deepen one’s understanding, but can they, strictly speaking, be “applied”?”
The Society, founded in 1998, sponsors lectures and seminars on all aspects of psychotherapy. They normally take place at 7pm on the third Tuesday of each month during the academic year (October to July), in the Existential Academy at 61-63 Fortune Green Road, London NW6 1DR. £6 entry fee for if pre-booked via Meetup, or £8 payable at the door. All friends of psychotherapy welcome!
Dr. Meg Barker took us on a fascinating journey that began with an exploration of some of the problems with the Old Rules of relationships, highlighted some New Rules and asked what a less rule-based world of relationships would look like.
The Old Rules. To some extent we are probably all familiar with some of the Old Rules, which are based on heterosexual, monogamous relationships: the idea that the norm is largely straight and aiming headlong automatically into a one-on-one status quo. Although Meg highlighted this as the Old Rules it was clear that they form the foundations of many present assumptions around what being a success in the relationship stakes is all about. They are based on gender inequalities, an obvious issue, and the discourse around objects and possessions is a transparent flaw. The Old Rules also create a gap between lack and desire, on an individual level and on a social level, for people, or groups of people, that do not feel they either want to or do not fall into the boundaries of these rules.
Uncertain Times. The Old Rules have been around for a while and to some extent their proponents might refer to the stability they provide in their defence. However, we are living in times where there is less degree of automatic progression along a linear relationship trajectory between birth and death. Meg highlighted how this results in uncertainty, that the existential tension between freedom and belonging is being played out in relationships.
New Rules? So what might an alternative look like? Meg described rules that already exist that fall outside of the status quo space, including swinging, open relationships and polyamory. However, these rules are still based around ideas of hetero-normativity and often they split sex from love and other relationships. The New Rules are still negotiated from a position of searching for a degree of certainty, rather than embracing uncertainty.
Beyond Constraints It is to a world beyond demarcated role definitions and functions that Meg beckoned our thinking, relationships with fewer borders or sense of enclosure, with multiple loves based on meeting different mutual purposes but with no sense of ownership or restriction and no requirement for enduring commitment. Whether such an attitude can be maintained or is desirable was questioned by some in the audience, who wondered about issues of jealousy and stability. Whether we can have ‘expectation-free’ relationships was also discussed and whether having some level of expectation was indeed helpful was also considered. As Meg agreed, these issues remain areas for further deliberation and I am sure that we all took away our own particular areas for further reflection.