Wednesday, April 18, 2007

EFT Training in the Netherlands

Entry for 17 April 2007:

We returned from the Netherlands on Sunday, where we had gone to do a 2-day EFT training organized by Nini Swildens-de Graaff in Heusden. Heusden is a charming little village in the south of the Netherlands, an ancient fortified village of surrounded by water and geometrically-shaped earthworks, with narrow, labyrinthine streets, apparently designed for defensive purposes. (Over the centuries, between the Spanish and the Germans, it has seen its share of war.) The workshop was in Nini's house, where she lives with Hans Swildens, a famous Dutch person-centred therapist. We like both of them very much: gentle, caring, bright, open-minded.

Twelve of us gathered in Nini’s house, mostly highly experienced therapists with person-centred and focusing training. It was a lovely experience to work with such skilled and interested therapists, and the two days, though long, went by quickly. The first day, I began with an overview and emotion theory, as I usually do, but held back some of the theory for the second day. I showed the Fear-Thing video, as I typically do, and by then it was already time for a lunch break, which we took outside in Nini’s sunny back garden.

Nini had suggested we practice Systematic Evocative Unfolding (SEU) the first day, which is always a nice starting first task to work with. After providing an overview of the therapeutic task concept and SEU, I guided us through some marker work, using a Focusing-like process to help people identify possible markers to practice with and briefly discussing four of the group member’s possible markers. Then they broke up into small groups of 4 each to practice, while I went around making suggestions. After the practice, we processed the experience altogether, then in response to questions about the increasing exclusion of Person-Centred-Experiential practice from the mental health system in favor of CBT for specific client problems, I took them through the meta-analysis outcome data that I have collected over the past 15 years. Toward the end, a few people’s eyes crossed a bit…

We had dinner at a little restaurant on the main square of the village, sitting outside through the long evening (the service was very slow…) and talking.

The next day, Saturday, was devoted mostly to Two-Chair Work. Following the model I used with the Diploma students last month, I began with a bit of theory (dialectical constructivism, held back from the first day), then described the marker, and led us through marker work. One of the group members volunteered to work on a split with me, and after some fussing with the chairs, we settled into a long, complex piece of two-chair work, during which the process started intensely, wound around, got stuck, and differentiated (at which point a third chair was introduced); the Experiencer collapsed, then rallied; there was a softening of the Coach aspect, and finally we stopped at stage 5 or 6. It was probably about half an hour, but felt much longer, as we took silences in the work so it could deepen. During a couple of these times I would occasionally look over at the rest of the workshop participants watching us, and think to myself, “We’re having a great time, but they’re probably getting bored… Oh well!” Afterwards, the two of us processed the experience between ourselves before turning back to the group. When I said I’d been concerned that they might have been bored by how long it went on, they just laughed at me and told me it was my own Critic talking! It was in fact the nicest, most realistic and illustrative live demonstration that I have ever taken part in, thanks largely, I think to my volunteer’s trust and courage and to the nice atmosphere of the group. After this we broke into 3 small groups to practice again, and, amazingly, every single one got to Stage 5. amusingly, given the I had casually introduced a third chair in the live demonstration, everyone was using third or even fourth chairs…

After lunch, I showed another video, of a long, complicated two-chair process; we processed this, and then broke up into small groups. This time, the practices went in various different directions, much more realistically, as two of the practices went into different tasks and the third one got somewhat stuck. Much more realistic! Then, in responses to questions, I explained the difference between Two Chair Work, Two Chair Enactment, Empty Chair Work, and Meaning Creation. By this time, it was 6pm, and everyone was tired and wanted to go home to their families.

Nini drove me back to Vught, and as we went we processed the training. We were both pretty pleased with how it had gone. Nini commented on my gift for taking complicated things and making them clear. I felt very pleased by this observation, because it is close to my understanding of what I like to do. Diane and I went into den Bosch to hang out together and have dinner, satisfied that it had gone well.

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