Sunday, May 06, 2007

PE-EFT Training in Norwich

Entry for 5 May 2007:

Arrival. We flew down to Norwich on Friday morning for one of my standard lecture plus day-long workshop format PE-EFT training. We arrived around noon at Norwich’s tiny 5-gate airport, to find spring significantly more advanced there than in Glasgow: Almost all the trees were out, many – chestnut, whitebeam – in full bloom, visible even from the air. Ivy and other vines already had a good start in their attempt to cloth the buildings in leafy green. The campus of the University of East Anglia is a 1960’s cement construction, distinguished by its extensive network of elevated walkways connecting the buildings to each other and giving the feeling of being in one of the Myst worlds. (A computer game; I kept expecting to have to solve some sort of complicated puzzle…)

Research Consultation. That afternoon, I spent an hour and a half with a group of research students talking with them about some of their research projects and about the need for both quantitative and qualitative research in counselling. One or two were unhappy with my advocacy of what they saw as positivist research methods. I did my Render Unto Caesar number (quantitative research for the government, our Caesar; qualitative research to enlarge the human spirit, which is God-for-us). One of the students, Richard I think, is has collected a bunch of significant therapy events from his work with clients and is interested in their “poetic intensity”, so I talked about my own interest in significant events and how it was sparked by my love for T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.

Evening Theory Lecture. Before the Friday evening theory lecture, we had supper in Judy’s room in the Counselling Centre. Brian Thorne (with Dave Mearns the co-founder of the Person-Centred Approach in the UK) joined us, and we discussed this week’s elections. Like Judy, Brian is very English: very polite, cordial but a bit reserved, the kind of person around whom I always feel somewhat awkward in my Americanness. I had actually never spent much time with him and very much enjoyed the chance to get to know him a bit better. After dinner, he kept Diane company while Judy and I were preoccupied sorting out the technical arrangements for the evening, and she was charmed by him.

The lecture was well attended, but I was nervous to be presenting to another new type of audience in a new social-ideological context I didn’t know. The audience didn’t seem very responsive. I tend to feel more comfortable when I have more interaction with the audience, so the lack of obvious responsiveness gave my Critic some scope for imagining disapproval or lack of interest. Judy, on the other hand, later told us that the she had noticed that the audience was unusually rapt and attentive, without the restlessness or stirrings she usually notices at this lecture series! It appears that English Person-Centred/Experiential therapists are less expressive than Scottish or American ones. To quote Kate Fox, “Typical!” (This, we are told, is how English people express disapproval or disappointment … but only privately.)

After a full night’s sleep (unusual for me, especially under these circumstances), I was ready and eager to run the day-long workshop. Judy had chosen a short day schedule, 1000 – 1600, so the trick was going to be getting two tasks into such a short time.

Systematic Evocative Unfolding. I opened by reviewing a bit of the basic theory for those who had missed the previous night’s lecture, and described the System Evocative Unfolding (SEU) task. I don’t have a classic example of SEU on video, but have been showing client PE-111’s bridge phobia unfolding that turns into gestalt enactment/body-work and then into traumawork. It’s a nice piece of therapeutic work, very interesting in its own right, but doesn’t really do justice to the more typical SEU work of using the client’s external-perceptual experiences as a way of helping them access and differentiate emotional reactions.

To make matters more confusing, my audience was packed with students and graduates from Campbell Purton and Judy Moore’s postgraduate course in Focusing-Oriented Therapy (FOT), who were ready to assimiliate everything into Focusing (in the same way that I assimilate everything into tasks and Les assimilates everything into emotion etc, etc). When I broke them into small groups to practice (in little rooms tucked into obscure corners down tangled hallways throughout the building), most of them ended up reverting to Focusing after they found that an external focus interfered with their currently-experienced, internally-oriented Problematic Reaction Points.

What’s the difference between Focusing and the kind of internally-oriented Unfolding work you’ve just shown us?, they wanted to know after we got back together. A good question, I said: Not much really when you’re working with a current internal reaction. So we have a limiting case where Focusing and SEU overlap. But, I said, it’s still really useful to have a task to use with clients who have an externalizing process or who present with externally-focused behavioral (rather than emotional) reactions. I love it when I learn something from trying to teach a task!

Two Chair Work. After lunch in the Sainsbury Centre, a large art museum on the U of East Anglia campus, it was time to Two Chair work, a daunting prospect, given that we now had a bit less than two hours. I rushed through Dialectic Constructivism, which I’ve started teaching as the theory input for Two Chair Work, and described the markers and main steps of the task. I showed them bits of client PE-111 doing Two Chair Work over whether to try to cross a bridge. I’d been debating about whether to do a live demonstration, but decided on the spot that the process needed something more live, and a volunteer was forthcoming.

Live demonstrations are somewhat controversial; they were a point of severe conflict at my last job, where other faculty claimed that they amounted to doing therapy on my students, in violation of the new American Psychological Association Ethics Code. Also, they have a frequent tendency to “go sideways”, i.e., to veer off into something entirely different, as happened to me last year in the Netherlands when a Space Clearing demonstration ended up going into Self Soothing work. For this reason, Les Greenberg doesn’t do live demonstrations in workshops. (He makes commercial video demonstrations instead, something that would totally terrify me!) However, I am learning that the Two Chair Process is strong enough and the markers robust enough that this task seems to be less likely to go off unpredictably (so far at least…). Nevertheless, we now had only about an hour of workshop time left, so I was feeling the time pressure. The Two-Chair demonstration I did in Heusden last month was much more comfortable, in part because there wasn’t the time pressure. Fortunately, in spite of the time pressure, the client and I made the best of the situation, and it worked out pretty well.

After a bit of processing, however, we were left with only half an hour for small group practice. I told them to back to the same groups and rooms as this morning. The first two groups I visited felt paralyzed by the lack of time (I had also dispensed with the marker work, which didn’t help). I raced back and forth among the groups, usually providing helpful suggestions, but in one case just making things worse (fortunately, Campbell was present in that group to help contain the client).

Suddenly, it was over; the clock had run out. A few of us hung around for a bit; I put away my equipment; several people came over to thank me. Judy had had a really good experience of Two Chair Work in the client role, so she was very excited about the day and declared herself “a convert”. She wanted to know if I could come down again to do another workshop, perhaps even a four-day Level 1 training.

Evening in Norwich. After a bit of downtime, Judy picked us up and took us into the Norwich town centre. Diane had already had a nice wander around, so I was the newby. We tried to get into the Cathedral, but it had closed early for some reason, so I will have to visit it next time I am in Norwich. There is a seven-circuit Cretan Labyrinth in the cathedral cloister which I am very eager to experience next time! (This is the same kind of labyrinth as at my parents’ place in Murray Creek, but it is highly unusual for a church to have this as its only labyrinth; the more complicated Chartres is much more common.) We wandered down to the river, then back along the narrow, winding medieval streets, past many, many old churches (Our friend John Riches from St. Mary’s claims that Norwich has the highest per kilometer proportion of churches of any place in the UK), past the market, which its colourful stripe-roofed market stalls, and finally to the Forum, a large, new building that houses the Norwich Library, the local BBC centre, and various restaurants and shops. There, at the Pizza express, Campbell, Judy, Diane and sat overlooking the market, and another local church, with Norwich Castle and the Cathedreal in the distance. We sat there reviewing the workshop, talking about our lives and children, beginning to make tentative plans for the future, as the evening gradually darkened around us. The doors of the church below us opened, and people came spilling out into the night from some concert in the Norfolk Arts Festival. Finally, we said goodnight and goodbye (for now), and Judy took us back to the our hotel, the end of a satisfying and successful training.

No comments: