Somatic countertransference in trauma work

A CPD workshop at UKAPI with Morit Heitzler

2 April 2016 – 10am – 5pm at National Council for Voluntary Organisations – London N1

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 that means in practice is being constantly exposed to – what feels like – unmanageable intensities, picked up by subliminal, non-verbal channels and via our ‘mirror neutrons’, our autonomic nervous systems 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 the non-verbal communication through offering some practical techniques that will enhance and expand the therapist’s existing way of working.

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