Your further learning & development

The aim of INTEGRA CPD is to develop a comprehensive cutting-edge programme for continuing professional development, in collaboration with practitioners like yourself and in response to your evolving needs and feedback – a programme that is based on a broad-spectrum integration of all the therapeutic approaches and on embodied, relational and integral principles.

Read more about what we offer >>

How do we make our CPD learning impactful and relevant to our everyday practice? Should our own further development not be informed by the same therapeutic principles which underpin our work? In therapy as in teaching therapy, we aim to ‘walk our talk’ by focussing on the learning process rather than only the content – creating safe, creative and stimulating learning environments, suited to the variety of learning styles that therapists bring to the group.

More about how we facilitate your learning >>

In our own work, we are aiming at an integration that draws on the theories, wisdom and gifts of all the therapeutic approaches. We welcome and attract therapists from across the modalities who find inspiration and challenge in the cross-fertilisation between different schools and orientations. You can read more about the main principles of our approach which can be summarised as: full-spectrum integrative – embodied/bodymind connection – relational – informed by modern neuroscience – systemic/multi-dimensional/integral – rooted in the ‘Wounded Healer’ – embracing uncertainty, conflict and paradox.

Read more about our integrative approach

Recent News from INTEGRA CPD

What are therapists looking for in their CPD training?

What have been your experiences of recent CPD events?
Useful? Boring? Inspiring? Effective?
How has it affected your practice?

See some evaluation feedback from a recent workshop.

Read more >>

Broad-spectrum Integrative North London CPD Group

Some places still available in this ongoing cross-modality CPD group, meeting in North London for 4 or 5 days per year, building an integrative community of practitioners.

Next group days for 2015: 27/28 June, 26 September, 22 November

Read the full description >>

Do not take our word for it!

Want to know what our events are like?

Depending on topic, aims and group composition, it’s usally some mixture of experiential work (role-plays of vignettes, live sessions, skills practice), theory/discussion as well as individual and group process. Have a look at what other participants are saying:

See Feedback and Testimonials >>

All published articles & papers / presentations / hand-outs

You can now find all our writing, a list of all presentations (many of them available as pdf’s) and all Michael’s hand-outs in our new Resources section of this site.

This website is designed to address the continuing professional development needs of counsellors, psychotherapists and therapeutic practitioners in general. If you are looking for a therapist or supervisor, or want to work individually with one of us, please see the following websites:

Oxford Counselling and Psychotherapy

Michael has been running an Oxford-based referral service for about 25 years, helping you find the ‘right’ therapy for you. Assessment and referral sessions take place in West Oxford, and are primarily oriented towards Oxfordshire, but referrals and recommendations can also be made in London, occasionally nationwide and sometimes internationally.

Michael Soth

To work with Michael individually in Oxford, please use the contact form to e-mail him. He offers short and long-term individual psychotherapy, as well as individual supervision for therapeutic practitioners, coaches and consultants. He currently maintains a waiting list and is usually unable to take anybody on within less than six months.

Morit Heitzler

To work with Morit individually in Oxford, you can refer to her website. She offers short and long-term individual psychotherapy, specialises in trauma treatment (integrative, somatic, including EMDR) and offers individual supervision for therapeutic practitioners as well as complementary therapists.

Since June 2013 Michael has been publishing a blog at Psychotherapy Excellence – UK’s national portal for CPD – on the dilemmas of continuing professional development in the ‘impossible profession’. To make it easier for you to follow the sequence of entries (as they are really meant to build on each other step-by-step), he has created a dedicated blog site. If you have missed any of the entries, having them all in one place like that will make it easy to catch up. Here is the link:
The Impossible Profession: Counselling & Psychotherapy
Michael has been interviewed several times now for webcasts on various topics, including ‘What is psychotherapy?’ (see preview) and ‘The embodied phenomenology of enactment’ (see preview). You can find these webcasts, which feature interviews with many other well-known therapists, on sale at: Psychotherapy Excellence.

Sun. 26 Apr. 2015 - London: 1-day CABP Conference on 'Embodied Intersubjectivity'

This cutting-edge dialogue between the philosophy of embodied intersubjectivity (one of the most promising developments to come out of modern neuroscience and its cross-fertilisation with philosophy) and the everyday reality of embodied therapeutic practice.

The notions of ‘embodiment’ and ‘intersubjectivity’ are central to the therapeutic relationship and to modern notions of relationality. However, these notions are also surrounded by confusion and polarised assumptions:
  • ‘embodiment’ acquires its polarised meaning in contrast to ‘thinking’ and the ‘talking therapies’;
  • ‘intersubjectivity’ is conceived of in opposition to ‘one-person psychology’ and the Cartesian ‘myth of the isolated mind’

However, in their polarised meanings, these supposedly helpful and paradigm-shifting notions become too one-dimensional, rigid and unhelpful, creating as many conceptual traps and problems as they are meant to solve.

It may take a philosopher (rather than a therapist) to help us sort out these tangles and historically loaded concepts, and strip them down to terms that are phenomenologically useful, so they can do the work they are meant to do, and so we can work with them. We are inviting Shaun Gallagher, a philosopher who is known for his thinking and writing about both ‘embodiment’ and ‘intersubjectivity’, and who does so from a phenomenological perspective.

PlatoGallagherSocrates_72

with philosopher professor Shaun Gallagher

author of:
“How the Body Shapes the Mind”

We have assembled an inspiring panel to discuss professor Gallagher’s presentation:

Panel: Susie Orbach, Nick Totton, Jean Knox, Werner Prall & Birgit Heuer

 

Panel

Conference Information >>

Forthcoming Events

Sep
3
Sat
2016
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Nick Totton @ The Wheelhouse, Colwell Barton
Sep 3 @ 10:00 – Sep 4 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2016 (Weekend 3 of 4)

with Nick Totton & Michael

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain’s Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2016.

Sep
24
Sat
2016
Embodied pathways towards engaging and ‘surviving’ enactments (CONFER) @ Tavistock Centre
Sep 24 @ 09:30 – 17:00
Embodied pathways towards engaging and 'surviving' enactments (CONFER) @ Tavistock Centre | London | England | United Kingdom

This CPD day on the topic “Enactments: are these to be welcomed or avoided?”, organised by CONFER, will include presentations by Dr Anne-Marie Daly, Dr Helena Hargaden, Dr James Macdonald, Professor Alistair Ross and Michael. To show how we can make topic applicable to everyday practice, I will be doing a live supervision with a volunteer from the audience.

Most enactments build up implicitly long before they manifest externally, and when they do manifest, much of the emotional intensity is carried by unthought and often unspoken bodymind processes. Our capacity for transforming enactments remains limited as long as we remain focused on the reflective mind, mentalisation, and the techniques of the talking therapies. Whilst ‘implicit relational knowing’ is increasingly being recognised as a rich area of further development for therapists, its practical application has remained vague and undeveloped. This presentation will be illustrated by a live supervision with a member of the audience.

For full details and booking information for this CONFER event “Enactments: are these to be welcomed or avoided?”, visit the CONFER website.

Oct
2
Sun
2016
OTS: Witney – Community Building @ Witney Therapy Centre
Oct 2 @ 10:00 – 17:00

OTS_header
This is a one-day CPD workshop with Michael for members of Oxfordshire Therapy & Self-Development – a regional network of therapists attempting to offer a broad-spectrum comprehensive therapeutic service (incorporating all kinds of psychological therapies, disciplines, therapeutic approaches, and also including group therapy, workshops and other educational events for the general public). We are hoping to build it into a thriving community of practitioners who will network, develop together and provide a ground-breaking broad-spectrum service for the region. We introduced the project to the Oxford Psychotherapy Society at one of its regular meetings on Wed. evening, November 4th.

If you live in the area and want to join, contact the director of OTS, Justin Smith via the website.

Oct
8
Sat
2016
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group @ The Nebula
Oct 8 @ 10:00 – 17:00

IntegrationMandala

An ongoing, integrative group

This group, led by one of the most experienced integrative trainers in the UK, will provide an ideal relational container for your ongoing development as a therapist. By immersing yourself in a diverse group of colleagues from different schools and orientations, you will widen your perspective, deepen your practice, draw both inspiration and challenge and have a reference point as well as resources and teaching to support your further development.

You can find a detailed description of the format and objectives of this group on the dedicated page.

Oct
12
Wed
2016
Beyond antagonising: how not to enact the body-mind split interpersonally @ EABP Conference Athens @ Titania Hotel
Oct 12 @ 10:00 – 13:30

Beyond antagonising: how not to enact the body-mind split interpersonally

By habitually championing body against mind, or spontaneity against the repressions/dissociations of the ego, we are in danger of enacting the body-mind split between client and therapist, leading to ruptures in the working alliance. This workshop explores taking a third position that can facilitate deep bodymind and relational integration, by re-defining and refining our notion of ‘embodiment’ in non-polarising terms that are actually helpful in transcending the body-mind split and Cartesian dualism.

For much of my professional life as a Body Psychotherapist, I have taken an anti-position against the pervasive dis-embodiment in the culture around us, based on a clear perception of the body-mind split (or better: mind-over-body split). Since the 1970s we have shouted from the margins of psychotherapy and railed against Cartesianism and the dominance of the talking therapies. It was not until the 1990s that we have increasingly been recognised and validated. Step by step neuroscience has confirmed intuitions that we have been working with for decades.

However, in actual therapeutic practice I have found problems with taking such an anti-position – I came to the conclusion that by championing the body, spontaneity and expression, I was often turning myself into an “enemy of the client’s ego”, with counter- therapeutic consequences in the working alliance. Often, I would find myself siding with the client’s body against the client’s mind – what had originally been a battle inside the client’s body-mind system, became a battle between the client and me. This was not a problem as long as the client’s ego was sufficiently committed to the project of embodiment. But over the decades, these clients were becoming rarer, considering that many clients in our times suffer from disturbances of the self, rather than repression.

During the 1990s I went through a crisis in my therapeutic stance and theoretical outlook, that challenged many of my assumptions that I had been taught in the 1980s. Many developments arose out of that confrontation which I can now appreciate with hindsight: I had to look into the shadow aspects of the Reichian tradition, including its emphasis on ‘one-person psychology’; I tried to re-integrate the modern humanistic expression of Body Psychotherapy with its psychoanalytic origins; I developed a broad-spectrum embodied integration of all the various therapeutic approaches; and I had to investigate the diverse and contradictory understandings of what different traditions mean by ‘quality of relationship’, leading towards my attempt to embody all the various relational modalities and put the paradoxical tension between the working alliance and enactment at the heart of our work.

So this workshop is the result of my attempts over the last 25 years to move beyond my original anti-position against dis-embodiment towards a non-polarising integrative, relational and systemic stance, with implications for our theory and practice, and many changes in our own assumptions as a discipline. The workshop will be a mixture of theoretical and practical exploration, allowing participants to apply the questions and ideas to their own practice.

 

 

 

Oct
23
Sun
2016
OTS: Witney – What do we mean by ‘relational’? – Free Sunday morning talk with Michael Soth @ Witney Therapy Centre
Oct 23 @ 10:00 – 13:00

Over the last 15 years or so, relational perspectives have had a significant impact across the field of psychotherapy. However, the wider its increasing influence has spread, the less clear it has become what we actually mean by ‘relational’. The default common denominator would be the recognition that in therapy it’s the relationship between client and therapist that matters, and that the quality of that relationship is a significant indicator of outcome.

The skin-deep apparent consensus around relationality

However, whilst there is quite a lot of agreement that the therapeutic relationship matters, this apparent consensus breaks down at the first hurdle: there is no such level of agreement as to what actually constitutes quality of relationship. On the contrary: there is a tendency for the traditional approaches to define and interpret ‘quality of relationship’ either within their own frame of reference only, or within a very limited range of options. As we will see below: it is not generally accepted that 100 years of psychotherapy have given us a diversity of distinct notions what kind of relating is to be considered ‘therapeutic’. There are now in existence different – and quite contradictory – kinds of therapeutic relatedness, or to say it more simply: we find different – and quite divergent – relational spaces across the therapeutic traditions and approaches. Unless we take into account these different notions of relatedness – or the different relational modalities championed by the various traditions and perspectives – what we mean by ‘relational’ will remain confused and confusing. It clearly means very different things to different therapists, without – however – these differences being acknowledged or investigated.

Relational as defined by its supposed opposite: what do we mean by ‘non-relational’?

As a byproduct of these developments and unacknowledged divergences, and partly due to its own success, the term ‘relational’ has largely lost its meaning. It now only retains some substance in contrast to its supposed opposite: the current consensus for what we might mean by ‘non-relational’ would be some quasi-medical treatment – in the current situation in the UK we would be thinking of CBT and associated approaches. However, most CBT therapists would feel sorely misunderstood in being categorised like that, as they tend to emphasise the collaborative nature of the relationship with their clients, which – in their frame of reference – is being relational (and, there is of course now a new subcategory of CBT being developed, i.e. ‘relational CBT’). This is just one illustration that we do not have a cross-modality shared understanding of the term ‘relational’. Unless we take into account the underlying paradigms and preconceptions and what each of the traditional approaches means by ‘therapeutic relating’, we are talking at cross purposes.

‘One-person psychology’ versus ‘two-person psychology’

A well-established notion that is supposed to bring some clarity to the situation is Stark’s distinction between ‘one-person psychology’ and ‘two-person psychology’ (with a third, somewhat tongue-in-cheek transitional option of ‘one-and-a-half-person psychology’ in between). Whether these distinctions do indeed help to clarify matters depends largely on our underlying attitude in using them:

  • when we are using these terms in an antagonistic, polarising way (typically to establish the superiority of the all-new two-person over the ‘old-hat’ classical one-person perspective), they don’t seem to mean much more than ‘relational = modern = good’ versus ‘non-relational = classical = out of fashion’.
  • there is a way of using these terms (and Stark occasionally supports this usage) where all three kinds of therapeutic relatedness (‘one-person’, ‘one-and-a-half-person, and ‘two-person psychology’) can be seen as a valid aspects of what actually happens in the therapeutic relationship, in which case we can use these notions to enquire into and investigate the relational process (I have described Stark’s ambiguity between these two positions in a detailed critique of her introductory chapter to her seminal 1999 book ‘Modes of Therapeutic Action’)

Expanding Clarkson’s model of ‘relational modalities’ into my ‘diamond model’

As I have tried to suggest elsewhere, a more therapeutically useful and detailed extension of that is Clarkson’s model which – when we combine it with Stark’s – gives us six relational modalities all operating in the contested force field of the therapeutic relationship. This way of using relational perspectives (summarised in what I call my ‘diamond model’) can become quite fine-grained and helpful in supervision and in reflecting on the therapeutic process generally. It is based upon not only validating a diversity of relational modalities as existing, but upon recognising that each modality can have therapeutic as well as counter-therapeutic effects, depending on context. All therapeutic theories, tools, techniques, ideas as well as relational modalities can become vehicles for enactment – none of them are immune against that possibility.

Defining relationality through the notion of ‘enactment’

Enactment (and its possible transformation) is the key notion capable of capturing the essence of relationality and lending it substance. By recognising enactment as the paradoxical heart of the therapeutic process (when it comes to the transformation of unconsciously engrained characterological patterns), a differentiated and sophisticated appreciation of the diversity of relational modalities – always already present in the relational space – becomes possible. Rather than comparing and contrasting ideas about relationality as attitudes, strategies or stances chosen by the therapist intentionally (and then used to play different therapeutic approaches off against each other), we can use our experience of the relational modalities present in the ‘here and now’ as a perceptive and interpretive tool, as a map of the forces operating within the field, as a meta-process of reflection, giving us access to the unconscious forces influencing the therapeutic relationship.

 

OTS_header

This CPD evening will offer a whistle-stop tour through the three most established and mutually complementary formulations regarding relational stances, those by Gomez, Stark and Clarkson, with a brief overview outlining my ‘diamond model’, which is an attempt to integrate all three of them. It is in the nature of the topic that the evening will be quite abstract – to help you prepare for the evening, I will offer some reading materials prior to the event.

Nov
12
Sat
2016
Morit Heitzler: Somatic countertransference in trauma work @ National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Nov 12 @ 09:30 – 17:00

A 1-day CPD workshop organised by: UKAPI (UK Association for Psychotherapy Integration)

 

Over the last 25 years, trauma work – more than any other aspect of our field – has shown us the limitations of purely verbal ‘talking therapy’, and neuroscience has helped us understand why awareness of the body is crucial in attachment and affect regulation: in PTSD, by definition, the client is dissociated from the trauma which is experienced as terrifying and overwhelming sensorimotor affect, mostly in the body.

It is impossible for the therapist to function reliably as an attuned regulatory object without being acutely aware of both the bodies in the therapeutic relationship – the client’s and her own.

Traditionally, psychoanalysts might have used the (dubious) term ‘somatic countertransference’ to point to these aspects of our internal experience as therapists. What it means in practice is being constantly exposed to – what feels like – unmanageable intensities, picked up by subliminal, non-verbal channels and via our ‘mirror neurons’, our autonomic nervous system and other spontaneous bodymind processes.

Vicarious traumatisation is recognised as one of the dangers of such acute, but necessary exposure. How can we process the information inherent in our ‘somatic countertransference’, so it becomes useful and transformative, both for our own sake, survival and well-being and that of the client and their process?

This workshop will aim to address these questions and other related issues through an integration of theoretical discussion and experiential exercises. Morit’s aim is to support therapists from all modalities in accessing non-verbal communication through offering some practical techniques that will enhance and expand the therapist’s existing way of working.


Morit Heitzler (morit.heitzler@gmail.com or see her website: www.heitzler.co.uk) is an experienced therapist, supervisor and trainer with a private practice in Oxford. She has been teaching on various training courses in the UK and abroad and regularly leads workshops and groups. Since working both at the Traumatic Stress Service of the Maudsley Hospital and The Oxford Stress and Trauma Centre, Morit has gained experience over many years in working with a wide variety of PTSD symptoms and traumatised clients, including refugees and asylum seekers. She has developed an integrative approach to trauma work, incorporating – within an overall relational perspective – different types of somatic trauma therapy, EMDR, Body Psychotherapy, attachment theory, modern neuroscience and Family Constellations.


Booking and further information:

Early Booking Fee (before October 2) UKAPI members: £ 105 – Non members: £120
Standard Booking Fee (from October 3) UKAPI members : £120 – Non members: £135

Download Leaflet & Booking Form        –           Visit UKAPI website

Nov
26
Sat
2016
North London – Ongoing Integrative CPD Group @ The Nebula
Nov 26 @ 10:00 – 17:00

IntegrationMandala

An ongoing, integrative group

This group, led by one of the most experienced integrative trainers in the UK, will provide an ideal relational container for your ongoing development as a therapist. By immersing yourself in a diverse group of colleagues from different schools and orientations, you will widen your perspective, deepen your practice, draw both inspiration and challenge and have a reference point as well as resources and teaching to support your further development.

You can find a detailed description of the format and objectives of this group on the dedicated page.

Dec
3
Sat
2016
London, Ealing – Ongoing Professional Development Group for Experienced Therapists @ NAOS Institute
Dec 3 @ 10:00 – 17:00

This group is for experienced therapists only (practising for 8 years or more), and has had a consistent core group of participants for the last few years, meeting 4 days per year. There is a pool of 18 participants, and 2 more places are available from 2016. See the dedicated page for detailed info.

Dec
10
Sat
2016
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Michael Soth @ East Down Centre
Dec 10 @ 10:00 – Dec 11 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2016 (Weekend 4 of 4)

with Nick Totton & Michael

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain’s Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2016.

It is likely that the group will continue in 2017 with another series of four weekends.

Mar
25
Sat
2017
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Nick Totton @ Exeter, Devon
Mar 25 @ 10:00 – Mar 26 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2017 (Weekend 1 of 4, with Nick)

with Nick Totton & Michael

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain’s Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2017.

Apr
29
Sat
2017
“Working at the Edge of Chaos” with Nick Totton & Michael @ North Oxford Association
Apr 29 @ 10:00 – Apr 30 @ 17:00
"Working at the Edge of Chaos" with Nick Totton & Michael @ North Oxford Association | Oxford | United Kingdom

About this weekend

This weekend is becoming a bit of an annual tradition - it has been running for several years now since 2009. Usually we have about 12 to 16 participants, and a lively, vibrant atmosphere. In 2016 I facilitated it by myself, but usually my colleague Nick Totton and I are running it together, adding another layer of exploration and dynamic.
You can find some feedback from previous participants below.

The basic idea we get from complexity is that we do not have to rely on effort, pushing, force and discipline to create and maintain change. A lot of counselling and psychotherapy gets stuck in a battle against the client’s negative patterns, e.g. addictions, eating disorders, self-harm, obsessions, destructive relationship patterns etc. The client and therapist can be seen to be working hard to confront and overcome ingrained patterns that do not seem to want to shift.

We then start thinking about the client’s resistance, and their investments in maintaining the pattern, and the payoffs they get from remaining stuck in it. Client and therapist then re-double their efforts and start resorting to all kinds of techniques and tricks and methods to bring bigger guns onto the battlefield. But apart from temporary victories, the apparent cooperation between client and therapist does not seem to create lasting results.

Now, in many situations the pattern may be very ingrained and may not shift, whatever we do. However, the kinds of models and ideas which have been passed down the generations of psychotherapy over the last 100 years are largely rooted in late 19th century ideas of change – we could say in a Newtonian model of force and counterforce, or a linear model of change. In a world of discrete inanimate billiard balls, that model seems to work quite well: the harder you push, the bigger change you get.

However, in a world of complex human systems – both inwardly in terms of the psyche and outwardly in terms of relationships – that linear paradigm of change is often counter-productive. As therapists operating within that kind of paradigm, we are then exacerbating the stuckness in the system, adding to whatever resistance there already is and reinforcing it by pushing blindly against it.

This is where complexity theory can help us: by thinking of therapy and the client’s inner world as a finely balanced, dynamic system of complex forces, it does not necessarily need a huge exertion of influence for the system to re-balance itself differently. On a balanced seesaw, one only needs to add a small weight on one side for it to tip.

This weekend will help you to not only think about, but to experience people and their interaction – i.e. yourself, others, the whole group, the leader – as such a dynamic system, and to attend to the processes that always already are present that want to happen within it. In complexity theory terms we are thinking about emergent processes versus established structures, intra-psychically, interpersonally and socially.

It is in the nature of this proposition that the weekend and its format are unpredictable – just like therapy itself: it has uncertainty and risk, but – at the edge of the window of tolerance – also profound transformational potential.

Here is the kind of thing that people say about previous weekends:

“A quick line to say thank you for hosting the ‘Working at the Edge of Chaos’ weekend. It was an experience that created room for greater awareness of myself in ways that I would never have expected..[…] The weekend surpassed all of my expectations.” S.H.

“Thank you so much for leading another tremendously valuable and thought provoking weekend. And thanks also for sending the hand-outs so promptly. I really do feel that I benefit from looking at and experiencing chaos, and its edge, in the group that you so wonderfully facilitate. This is why this is my third year of attending. The experiential group process is so valuable to me. I have already seen my first client of the week and have more clearly been able to attune to the ‘edge’ between us and I feel that we have had a deeper session as a result. Thank you.” V.J.

For a more detailed exploration of how complexity theory can be useful, read on …

How are chaos and complexity relevant to our work as therapists?

Chaos and complexity theory are recently developed disciplines that give us new perspectives on how systems evolve and change. Therefore, the more we think about therapy in terms of systems, the more these theories apply to our work: to each individual bodymind-psyche as a system, or the therapeutic relationship, or the social networks both client and therapist are embedded in.
Process in complex systems – from galaxies to human beings to microbes – is understood to operate in a dynamic tension between stable equilibrium and evolving change, between established structures and emerging process: at the edge of chaos.

The well-known idea is that it only takes a butterfly flapping its wings to tip the meteorological balance towards engendering a hurricane on the other side of the planet. It’s not that simple, of course, but there are similar dynamics at work in the psyche, where unconscious forces can accumulate invisibly, and lead to apparently sudden, big outer changes.

The traditional ‘linear’ paradigm of change in therapy

That is not how we traditionally approach change in therapy where it is usually assumed that it takes lots of concerted effort – by both client and therapist – to make big and lasting changes. The bigger the effort and force we apply, the bigger the change. In such a Newtonian universe – rather than attending to systemic configurations – we get focussed on what we want to achieve, i.e. on insight, sustained discipline and conscious choices; this usually involves overcoming resistances. The very idea of therapy being effective is then defined in quite linear terms as achieving progress, i.e. moving the client on, closer towards some idea of psychological health; and frequently the client is expected to fully get behind the change project.
Within that mindset, much of therapy subscribes to some idea of what’s wrong and needs to be improved, i.e. ideas of pathology, borrowed from medicine – we therefore then need a ‘treatment plan’ and a therapy that is goal-oriented, symptom-focussed and directive, operating through an exclusively ‘linear’ paradigm of change. Even humanistic therapies can imply ‘linear’ agendas (e.g. self-actualisation). The idea of change as something we envision, plan and make happen is based on such ‘linearity’, like climbing up a mountain of steady progress.

Not all change is ‘linear’ – in fact ‘linear’ is the exception

Complexity theory reminds us that most change in reality does not follow those linear ideas (which are virtual abstractions and at best approximations, like a sequence of straight lines approximating an organic curve). In reality, many interdependent variables as well as feedback loops affect every part of a system – on the one hand keeping things stable in the status quo and on the other pushing for new structures, ‘attractors’ and integrations. This can lead to apparently sudden ruptures and new possibilities (which – we understand with hindsight – have been brewing for a long time, waiting for favourable conditions).
This kind of dynamic change has been called ‘non-linear’ (as the effect is not in proportion to the force invested in making it happen). And it is in the nature of the beast that this kind of change is unpredictable and uncontrollable.
So rather than relying on conscious intention, deliberation and discipline, change is seen as always already emerging, always already underway. Therefore, rather than forcing change – to get rid of something negative, or to create something positive – we can be interested in what is already happening, what wants to happen, and what is opposing it. This resonates with Gestalt’s paradoxical theory: “Change happens when we accept ‘what is’.” We then take as our starting point that we are in conflict already – pushing for change, resisting emergence, fighting against ‘what is’ – those force fields always already exist, and we ignore or override them at our peril.

A spectrum of non-linear systemic forces and tendencies

Thus, complexity gives us a more comprehensive and embracing notion that there are many different types of change: linear and non-linear, regressive or progressive, sudden or incremental, overwhelming or organic, chaotic or planned; and it gives us the idea that systemic change might only need a therapist flapping their wings in a facilitative way, rather than pushing a boulder – or a donkey – up the hill.

At the boundary between established state and emerging process is the edge of chaos, where things are complex and in flux, the full picture unknown and outcomes unpredictable – like the shapes formed by the turbulences of rising smoke or flowing water, sensitive to the slightest environmental variations. The therapeutic process is similar, and it depends on the subtlety of our perception whether we are able to notice where that edge of chaos is from moment to moment.
Rather than imagining that we are directing the boat of therapy across a calm lake in a straight deliberate line, facilitating any kind of dynamic process in any complex system is more like white water rafting – giving an occasional intentional steer at a crucial moment, but knowing that the situation is fundamentally unpredictable. The illusion of being able to control the process is one of the greatest hindrances in the helping professions, and complexity puts that impulse into perspective.

Stability and risk – the paradox at the edge of chaos

Traditional science, and traditional therapy, find it hard to tolerate and operate beyond control, in that fertile area at the edge of chaos. Complexity theory, however, gives us the tools to thrive there, helping us to understand non-linear change and to surrender to its participative, unpredictable nature. Inevitably, this confronts us with our own comfort zones and habits as therapists, e.g. our own bias towards stability or change, our own tendency to court, avoid or accept risk. This kind of enquiry opens up a rich field of therapeutic spontaneity and creativity: rather than fighting for change or against the staus quo, we attend to subtle messages of emergent phenomena in the field which are already happening.

Why call it ‘paradoxical’?

Because the more we include our spontaneous embodied, emotional, imaginal and mental processes in our moment-to-moment awareness, the more elusive the clear distinction between ‘risk’ and ‘stability’ becomes – we realise that these apparent polarities co-create each other, deconstruct each other, until each subtly turns into the other. At the edge of chaos, risk and stability imply each other …

Chaos implies ‘embodiment’ and bodymind process

Following the therapeutic process at this level of paradox requires attention to bodymind and systemic micro-detail, both internally and interpersonally, and a therapeutic presence that is equally fluid and solid: anchored and stable as well as nimble and mercurial. We then recognise that on pre-reflexive levels of the interaction in the therapeutic relationship, the attachment – and the working alliance – is indeed a shifting, oscillating complex dance – there are many butterflies flapping their wings all the time, and it needs our own differentiated embodiment and flesh-and-blood presence to notice and pursue them.

Learning together at the edge of chaos

In this territory, timing, responsiveness and spontaneity are crucial – learning about therapy at the edge of chaos cannot happen via a manual, not even a video: you need to be present, embodied in the room in the group and participate. Left-brain reflection – as important as it is in the therapeutic position – usually happens after the event, maybe in preparation for the next one … For this event, we will turn that requirement into a feature: just as we do not have control over the process in therapy, we cannot and will not set a curriculum for this weekend, and you will become co-responsible for the unfolding of your own and the group’s learning process.
The weekend is an opportunity to dance at your own growing edge as a person and a therapist, to deepen your own idiosyncratic therapeutic style and find your own way to inhabit the paradox of risk and stability.

 

Download the leaflet (including booking form)

May
6
Sat
2017
Certificate in Supervision training course for experienced practitioners in the helping professions @ Thriplow Village Hall
May 6 @ 10:00 – 17:00

Extended model of parallel process

This CPD day will be part of CST’s supervision training programme – for all details contact CST.

Jun
3
Sat
2017
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Michael Soth
Jun 3 @ 10:00 – Jun 4 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2017 (Weekend 2 of 4, with Michael)

with Nick Totton & Michael

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain’s Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2017.

Sep
16
Sat
2017
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Nick Totton
Sep 16 @ 10:00 – Sep 17 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2017 (Weekend 3 of 4, with Nick)

with Nick Totton & Michael

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain’s Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2017.

Dec
2
Sat
2017
Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group with Michael Soth
Dec 2 @ 10:00 – Dec 3 @ 17:00

Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2017 (Weekend 4 of 4 with Michael)

with Nick Totton & Michael

These workshops, designed for counsellors and psychotherapists from across the approaches, are an opportunity to work with and learn from two of the most experienced trainers at the forefront of bringing embodiment into psychotherapy.
Rather than grafting the body onto established practice as one more eclectic technique, Nick and Michael have been working towards a non-dualistic embodied way of being and relating in the therapeutic relationship.
This series of CPD training events provides an ideal container for your continuing professional development, rooted in your own embodied process.

For full details  regarding this unique venture in Britain’s Southwest, see the dedicated page: Exeter: Body-oriented CPD Weekend Group 2017.

It is likely that the group will continue in 2018 with another series of four weekends.

See Calendar with all Events >>

INTEGRA CPD – Trainers

Michael Soth
Michael SothIntegral-Relational Body Psychotherapist (UKCP)
Michael is an Oxford-based integral-relational Body Psychotherapist, trainer and supervisor, with more than 28 years’ experience of practising and teaching from an integrative perspective.
More about Michael >>
Morit Heitzler
Morit HeitzlerIntegrative Body Psychotherapist (Msc, UKCP)
Morit is an Integrative Body Psychotherapist (UKCP) based in West Oxford, where she maintains a private practice. She has been teaching in the UK and in Israel for more than 15 years.
More about Morit >>