Saturday, May 24, 2008

EFT Level 1 Training in Ireland: The Primacy of Emotion Work

Entry for 19 May 2008:

I’ve just finished 3 intense weeks of travel and presentations and want to look back at what has been happening.

Beginning with the week of 28 April, I flew to Dublin, and Laco and I took the train to Galway, in the west of Ireland, to help Les Greenberg and Serine Warwar run a 4-day level 1 training in Emotion-Focused Therapy. Although this came at a stressful, busy time, it turned out to be quite useful and interesting as an opportunity to see how Les typically runs an EFT Level 1. This was because when Les, Jeanne and I ran the EFT-1 at Strathclyde in 2006, Les made major adjustments to the way he normally runs the training, in both content (e.g., less chairwork) and process (e.g., set times for practice sessions). The EFT-1 that Jeanne and I ran last summer and will do again this coming July was based on the modified version of EFT-1 rather than Les’ usual approach. So it was quite interesting and useful to see how he normally does it.

For one thing, the process had a looser, more fluid feeling: Les adjusted timing and topics as we went, in response to the group. If a practice session was going well, it went longer. A topic might be shifted backwards or forwards. We did Evocative Unfolding after chairwork instead of before it, and this worked out quite nicely. We didn’t worry about covering a wide range of tasks (for example, Self-interruption Splits are covered in Level 2), concentrating on Focusing (the first afternoon), Conflict Split Work (day 2), Empty Chair (day 3), and Evocative Unfolding (day 4). The last afternoon, for dramatic relief, and because people were too exhausted for much else, we looked at videos of cathartic work (beating pillows and hitting chairs with batakas), and we did the pros and cons of this sort of work.

Les also did some nice things to support the group process issues, by allowing participants to self-organize into their own groups (making sure to balance the men, who were in the minority, and to separate siblings and close work associates); he gave them a bit of time to get to know each other at the beginning, and allowed them to stay together through the two days of chairwork and optionally on the last day as well.

He also paid more attention to final processing of the experience and transfer of learning issues. This was done as a useful exercise: Take a few minutes: ask yourself, What am I taking away from this? How would I like to apply it in my practice? What might make it difficult to apply?

The participants, mostly experienced Irish psychologists from the west and south of Ireland who had trained in gestalt therapy, confounded our stereotypes for gestalt therapists by their gentleness and the quality of their empathy. It was a real pleasure to work with them and to see them progress over the 4 days. And it was also a real pleasure to see the ease and flexibility with which Les worked with them. Serine, who had come over from Toronto to help with the training, was also great, in how she worked with the participants, and in her energy, organization, therapeutic skill, humour and enthusiasm.

But the biggest thing was the central focus on emotion, rather than tasks. As my friend Laco points out, the focus of Les' version of the training was on helping the client access core emotions, both maladaptive and adaptive. In other words, the training is emotion-focused rather than task focused. This of course is the difference between EFT and PE, which is really a matter of emphasis. Tasks are important in Les’ version of EFT but they are subordinated to emotion work. Actually, this has always been the case, but in our initial formulation of PE therapy, we emphasized the tasks rather than emotion work. And this feels like a very useful perspective to take back to my work with my PE-EFT students in Scotland, to help them get past the point of being overwhelmed by the complexity of the tasks. Emotions are rich, complex, multi-layered… but there is always the “pain compass” pointing to what is most important to the person at a given moment. This guides us on, like the North Star or a magnetic compass. The tasks are useful maps for helping clients work with emotion, but in the end what is important is the helping our clients access and elaborate their core emotion schemes, and in some cases change some of these with new, more adaptive emotions.

No comments: