Relational Embodied Supervision
In two videos, German relational psychotherapist Julianne Appel-Opper and Norwegian relational psychoanalyst Jon Sletvold set out to help each other unlock two intractable cases through their respective takes on the embodied relational approach. First, Jon presents his work with someone with whom he feels unable to create a developing and deepening connection, with interesting results. In the course of this supervision, by examining his own embodied resonances as he thinks about this patient, Jon gradually grasps the complex defenses that may be blocking intimacy between them by locating them in his own body. Finally, he knows what it is that he needs to say to his patient, and experiences a sense of calm and liberation. Julianne’s approach demonstrates how the perspective of the Third can be explored as movement around the two chairs of therapist and client, thus capturing the corresponding continuous rhythms and movements of the inter-bodily communication. Such a process is similar to a walking journey into the Third which opens up space for various perspectives and layers within such a “third field.”
Underpinned by contemporary relational psychoanalysis and dialogical gestalt psychotherapy, Julianne brings field theory to life as part of her approach to embodied supervision. After exploring Jon’s inter-bodily resonances when he sits down in the client’s and then the therapist’s chair, Julianne invites Jon to move around the two empty chairs. As she follows Jon in his walking, both actively explore the embodied field between Jon and his client. Within this “third field,” they move and are moved. It is as if both walk into a spatial third with numerous perspectives. To walk faster and slower, for example, opens up various sensations and ideas about the implicit body-to-body-communication. The actual walking provides a distance—both away from and toward the dyad—and a certain movement pattern which mirrors the movements and distances between therapist and client.
In her accompanying talk Julianne illustrates through case examples the approach she calls “Relational Living Body Psychotherapy.” It is through their bodies, she suggests, that clients broadcast their attachment histories. As therapists, we inevitably and physically react to these embodied narratives. They reach us skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart, and muscle-to-muscle, stimulating responses and impulses in reply. She proposes that subtle physical impulses that the therapist experiences during the session are at the core of the work.
The pair then switches places, with Jon supervising Julianne. In this second video we can observe how he helps her to reach some new insights about a client who had experienced extreme early neglect and trauma. His approach demonstrates the theory that, by supporting the therapist in imagining the client’s bodily experience, and by focusing closely on her bodily countertransference, the therapist will come closer to a third position from which to view the core themes of the required therapy work. Micro-observation of affect is at the core of their discussion, and an empathic connection is notable in both videos.
In an accompanying video Jon argues that the therapist´s own body forms the constitutional foundation for our capacity to experience and communicate in the therapeutic situation. The therapeutic process is seen as a continuous process of registering, feeling, and sensing what is happening and changing in the therapist´s body as s/he interacts with the patient, a process that largely proceeds beyond the bounds of conscious awareness. It is argued that therapeutic action is fundamentally dependent upon the therapist´s ability and freedom to respond immediately—verbally and nonverbally—to the patient´s emotions, actions, and verbalizations. The importance of reflective thought is acknowledged, and is seen as a function of the analyst’s awareness of unconscious bodily relational experiences. Based on these principles, Jon suggests that training and supervision, in addition to its traditional emphasis on exchange of words, should focus on sensitizing therapists to embodied experience and expression.
Julianne Appel-Opper is a Clinical Psychologist, Depth Psychological Psychotherapist, UKCP registered Gestalt and Integrative Psychotherapist, and supervisor. She has 25 years of clinical experience, including 12 years living and working in France, the USA, Israel, and the UK. Since 2001 she has worked internationally as a trainer and a visiting tutor at several psychotherapy training institutes. She has developed the “Relational Living Body Psychotherapy” approach which she has written about in the British Gestalt Journal, The USA Body Psychotherapy Journal, as well as in her contributions to numerous books.
Jon Sletvold is a licensed specialist in clinical psychology and psychotherapy. He was founding Board Director and is currently Faculty and a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Norwegian Character Analytic Institute. He is former chair of the Psychotherapy Specialty Board of the Norwegian Psychological Association. He is the co-editor of two previous books (in Norwegian), and the author of the recently published book, The Embodied Analyst: From Freud and Reich to Relationality (Routledge, 2014), which has won the Gradiva Award for Best Book, 2015.
These four videos can be found in the Confer Online module, Embodied Approaches to Psychotherapy, at www.conferonline.org. The package of presentations includes contributions by Julianne Appel-Opper, Shoshi Asheri, Bill Cornell, Morit Heitzler, Dr. Pat Ogden, Dr. Susie Orbach, Dr. Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar, Dr. Yorai Sella, Jon Sletvold, Michael Soth, Dr. Kathrin Stauffer, and Nick Totton, with work by Dr. Ruella Frank in the pipeline.
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Jon Sletvold, PsyD
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Presentations by Daniel Shaw (USA)
“Traumatic Narcissism and the Cultic Dynamic in Groups and Relationships”
Daniel Shaw will present a workshop for the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy (ICP) Trauma Studies Center in New York City, on Saturday, December 10, 2016. This course will identify the characteristics of the traumatizing narcissist as theorized by the presenter, and the cultic, subjugating dynamic that shapes this person’s way of forming relationships. This dynamic can be observed in dyads formed by the traumatizing narcissist, in families, and in groups of any size. Clinical issues relating to surviving and recovering from abuse by the traumatizing narcissist will be demonstrated through clinical vignettes, using guidelines developed by a group of survivors of cultic abuse in conjunction with the International Cultic Studies Association.
“Make Someone Happy: The Traumatization of Love and the Repetition of Lovelessness”
Daniel Shaw will be a featured speaker at the Sir John Bowlby Memorial Conference in London on March 3 and 4, 2017. In this presentation, Shaw looks at the problem of what he calls “lovelessness.” Adult children of unloving, non-recognizing parents often seek love hungrily, but in the end find love where it is doomed to fail. Alternatively, they find it initially with great hope, only to soon find a reason to reject and punish those who have tried to love them, including, in some instances, their therapists. For many with this kind of traumatic history, love is fervently sought, only partially found, and never fully trusted.
Shaw describes his work with his patient Alan, focusing on some of the uncanny ways in which coming to understand Alan’s attachment trauma, and how it led him to repetitive lovelessness, opened a window for Shaw into some of his own early attachment issues. Shaw and his patient Alan both come to see why the need to “make someone happy,” whether in personal life or in psychoanalytic treatment, can become a block to the development of mutuality and intersubjective relatedness.
Daniel Shaw, LCSW
211 W. 56th St., Apt, 5K
New York, NY 10019
315 N. Highland Ave.
Nyack, NY 10960
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Ruth Lijtmaer, PhD, presented the paper, “Who Are the Torturers and Suicidal Bombers?” as part of the panel entitled “Terror in the Consulting Room” at the 19th International Forum of Psychoanalysis Conference, May 12-15, 2016, in New York City. The theme of the conference was “Violence, Terror, and Terrorism Today.”
In this presentation Lijtmaer discussed the social influences contributing to torture, mass killings, and the personality of the perpetuators of human right violations. She described how experiencing such trauma leaves victims feeling denigrated, humiliated, helpless, bloody, and dirty. Being less human than his/her victims makes it harder for the torturer to feel any kinship with his/her victims, or to feel empathy or guilt. Lijtmaer discussed the power of psycho-social and ideological forces at play, including chaotic social justice systems and invasive governmental policies that influence the making of the terrorist mind, as well as the influences of child-rearing practices and the impact of obedience to authority and ideology at play in the development of the terrorist mind.
Lijtmaer also presented her paper, “Music Beyond Sounds and its Magic in the Clinical Process,” as part of the panel entitled “Music within the Clinical Encounter,” at the IARPP Conference, “The Arts of Time: Relational Psychoanalysis and Forms of Vitality in the Clinical Process,” June 9-12, 2016, in Rome, Italy.
By using a clinical vignette, Lijtmaer’s paper explored how talking about any form of artistic expression—in this case music—can enhance the therapeutic process by changing the transference-countertransference dynamic. In Lijtmaer’s case, the inherently abstract nature of music permitted the safe expression of emotions and helped her patient translate them into words, thus enhancing the therapeutic relationship.
Ruth Lijtmaer presented her paper “The Dream and the Nightmare of Being a Refugee: Mass Migration and the Feeling of Not Belonging” at the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society (APCS) Conference. The conference theme was entitled “Dreams and Nightmares.” It took place October 13-15, 2016, at the Rutgers University Continuing Education Conference Center in New Brunswick, NJ.
In this paper she explored the feelings and experiences of asylum seekers whose migration is forced, with no time for preparation. They leave in a rush to save their lives and their families due to political and religious fear, death threats, persecution, slavery (particularly for women), rape of women, or forced labor. As they do not have time to mourn their losses, there is no time for pleasantries or “ideal migration” in which destination countries can choose whom they will admit. These people suffer rejection and endure dehumanization and shame in addition to feelings of helplessness, loss of dignity, frustration, and anger since nobody wants them. The initial hope and dream to escape to a safe “heaven” is transformed into a nightmare of humiliation and fear.
Lijtmaer also gave two presentations at the IFPE (International Forum of Psychoanalytic Education) Conference that took place in Pasadena, California, October 27-19, 2016. The conference theme was “Skin.” One was a paper in a panel entitled “Other and Otherness.” Her paper focused on herself as the “other” immigrant analyst and the responses from patients about her “otherness.” The other presentation was discussion of the movie Black Psychoanalysts Speak. Featuring interviews with eleven Black psychoanalysts, the film is intended to raise awareness of the need for greater openness and understanding of cultural and ethnic issues in psychoanalytic training, in transferential and countertransferential interactions, and in the recruitment of people of color into psychoanalytic education.
Ruth M. Lijtmaer, PhD
88 West Ridgewood Ave.
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
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