Saturday, March 30, 2013

“No New Meds”: Article in Science News

Entry for 30 March 2013:

I didn't think I'd live long enough to see the psychopharmacology movement begin to run out of steam! While drug companies defund research on new psychopharm drugs, others in the field continue to search desperately for ways to save the paradigm, such as cutting corners in the drug development process. What is bracing and unexpected here is the range of scientists admitting that there are real problems with the field, including the fact that no new classes of psychiatric drugs have been introduced in the past 30 years. What they seem to be missing in all of this is the idea that psychotherapy/counselling is a much more refined and differentiated psychopharmacological agent for helping people change their brains by changing their experiences and behavior. Let's hear it for neuroplasticity!

No New Meds | Humans | Science News

Web edition: February 7, 2013 Print edition: February 23, 2013; Vol.183 #4, (p. 26)
With drug firms in retreat, the pipeline for new psychiatric medications dries up
Psychiatry seemed poised on the edge of a breakthrough. In early 2011, after decades of no radically new drugs, a fundamentally different schizophrenia treatment promised relief from the psychotic hallucinations and delusions plaguing people with the disease. The new compound, devised by chemists at Eli Lilly and Co., hit a ...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Music for Good Friday

Entry for 29 March 2013:

I think George Crumb's Black Angels (Thirteen Images from the Dark Land), written during the Vietnam war for amplified string quartet, captures the battle between the forces of light and darkness in the Passion story, and speaks to the horror of the crucifixion, going beyond the mood of sadness say at the end of Bach's St Mark Passion, played live tonight on BBC Radio 3.  

I thought of Crumb's dramatic and eerie music tonight during our Good Friday evening service, when Jesus' last words were shouted out,  but it could also be a sound track also for the rest of the story: the arrest in the garden, the trial, the scourging etc.  It has a similar modernist starkness to Gwyneth Leach's Stations of the Cross paintings, used in the service tonight (see with their depiction of soldiers carrying automatic weapons, guard dogs, and barbed wire.  If you don't know Black Angels and are curious (it's definitely not going to be to many people's tastes), you can find live performances of it on You Tube for example: .  (Yes, they really are playing musical water glasses with their violin bows.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Questions from 2013 EFT 1 in Turnhout, Belgium

Entry for late March 2013:

Questions: At various points during EFT training workshops I like to ask the participants to tell me what questions they have about EFT.  At the beginning of the month I spent a couple of days in Turnhout, Belgium, east of Antwerp, running the last two days of an EFT level 1 training.  It was a great group and by the afternoon of the last day many of the participants had experienced big emotional change processes, which was exciting to see.

Here are a couple of the questions they asked, along with some answers:

1. Question: How directive do I have to be if the client is reluctant to change chairs?

Answer: If you’re in the middle of a two chair process and they decline an offer to change chairs, it is likely that the client has more to say from the part they’ve been speaking from; therefore, it’s a good idea to follow their lead, perhaps asking for what else comes to them. 

More difficult is when a client refuses chair work altogether.  Then, it’s important to empathically recognise and explore the client’s reluctance, while at the same time validating their choice.  It’s hard for clients to say no to therapists, so it’s useful to assume that they have a good reason for doing so, rather than attributing this to “resistance”.

2. Question: How do we balance relationship and task aspects of EFT? 

Answer:  This is another example of a dialectically constructive process, but in general in EFT we try build a strong relationship early on in order to support later difficult work on tasks.  Once that is established, often by around the third or fourth session, we work on tasks with the client, to as great an extent as the strength of the relationship and the client’s resilience/fragility allows.  In the process, we empathically hold small relational issues, concerns or hesitations; but if the relationship is ruptured, we stop working on whatever task we were trying to facilitate at the moment, because at this point, the relationship becomes the task.

3. Question: What do you do when a chair task seems to run out of energy? 

Answer: It’s often useful to ask an exploratory question, such as: “What are you experiencing right now?” or  “Where are we with this? “  “What do you need?” Alternatively, you can ask if the client is still experiencing the conflict. (I call this “going back to the marker”).  Yet another possibility is to go back to the most powerful/important/difficult part (getting back to the trail).  Finally, running out of energy for a task may simply mean that it is time to look for a different task (eg focusing, self-soothing, unfinished business).

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thursday Symphony Adventure: What does the Sibelius Fifth Symphony Have to do with Emotion Focused Therapy?

-->Entry for 21-23 March 2013:

Diane’s away in the US helping her mother, and I’ve been away working in various places for the past 3 weekends, so Adventures have been a bit scarce lately.

On Thursday, however, there was a concert of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, featuring the Sibelius Fifth Symphony, conducted by the rising Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu. 

The Sibelius Fifth is one of my most favourite pieces of music, ever since I bought my first recording of it in 1971.  It has sweeping melodies, pumping rhythms, and lots of emotional dynamics, from quiet solos to intense crescendos …. and one of the most amazing endings in the whole symphonic repertoire.

So when I saw this on the schedule 6 weeks ago, I marked it on my schedule and resolved to go.  City Halls, the home of the BBC Scottish SO, is only a five-minute walk from my office, after all. 

Various complications intervened during the week to throw my Symphony Adventure into jeopardy, but in the end I made it with five minutes to spare, sitting down next to two little old ladies who were pleased indeed with their £7 concession tickets. 

The BBC Scottish SO looked stylish but casual dressed in the their black tops and trousers for this afternoon concert.  Hannu Lintu bounded out form the wings, very tall and Nordic, big hands, baton at times threatening to collide with the microphones over the stage.  He danced his way through the Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin and Haydn’s Symphony 98, both very tasty, the latter quite amusing actually.  Then, after the intermission, what I’d been waiting for: the Sibelius 5th Symphony. 

I think Sibelius is a composer whose music really is even better when experienced live up front in concert.  He passes melodies all around the orchestra in a way that’s hard to capture in recordings.  The plucked pizzicati are more dramatic.  There are several places in the piece, one in the first movement and then again in the final movement where it all builds up to such a level of intensity and you can see the intensity of everyone in the orchestra playing in unison for all they’re worth.  It’s almost unbearably powerful.  It reminded me of those moments of really intense emotional contact in therapy when the client contacts their core pain, and something inside them shifts and you go with them, you feel it in your body and all over.

According to the program notes, the Fifth Symphony was inspired by a spiritual experience Sibelius had in 1915, in which he saw a ring of 16 swans flying high in the air in a large circle.  It took him five years to get it right to his satisfaction, but this was the inspiration for soaring melody of the last movement.  This performance, which the audience applauded enthusiastically for several minutes, was certainly the high point of my week, and as I walked back to my office, appropriately enough through the bitter Nordic wind and blowing snow, I felt elated and inspired.  As I said the next day to this year’s EFT Level 3 supervision group, it’s these moments of intense contact that makes life worth living.  Long live Sibelius and EFT!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gendersteyn Grafheuvel at Steensel

Entry for 16 - 17 March 2013:

I’ve been in Veldhoven (near Eindhoven in southeast Netherlands) for the past few days, starting a new EFT Level 2 training there.  All the hotels in Veldhoven were booked this time (there was a barbershop quartet convention, of all things!), so we ended up at a funky little hotel in Steensel, a small village 5 miles west of Veldhoven.  On the way to and from Veldhoven we passed a couple of signs directing travellers to Grafheuvel.  “Grafheuvel?” I asked Anja.  “Burial mounds,” she said.  “Oh!” I said. “Graf = grave, and heuvel = hill.  You mean, burial cairns?”  “Yes.”

The training went really well:  Although new to me, the group was experienced and enthusiastic, and over the next two days we got into a groove.  The lectures, discussions and skill practice all went well, with the able assistance of Anja and Kurt.  Although it could use further fine-tuning, the revised material on Collaborative Case Formulation in EFT didn’t overwhelm the participants.  And the Day 2 afternoon session on Alliance Ruptures worked really well, with most participants bringing in and role playing clients they had been having difficulties with.  This pushed us all in the direction of therapist self-development so that the skill practice encompassed both trying out Relational Dialogue and exploration of therapist personal issues that were being tapped into by the difficulty.

After it was over late Saturday afternoon and Kurt dropped me off in Steensel, I went out for a much needed run, hoping to find the grafheuvel.  After about a kilometre, I got to the little side road with the sign I’d seen before.  I followed the road around several bends and a large farm, finally taking a dirt road to the left until on the right I reached a low mound surrounded by a larger circle of wooden stakes.  Suddenly it was as if I was in Scotland again, at one of the ancient burial cairns in Kilmartin or Arran.  The wooden stakes would most likely mark the positions of the original wood posts that such sites typically had at their earliest stages, before the stones were put in place.  Dusk had fallen, but I could still read the sign that announced it as the Gendersteyn Grafheuvel, dated to the Middenbronstijd (Middle Bronze age), 1850 -1550 BCE.  The mound was about 4 feet high, entirely covered in dirt.  I walked around it, climbed onto it and stood there for a few minutes in the gathering dark.  Behind the grafheuvel was the forest; in front the mysterious mounds and buildings of the farm, itself possibly on the site of some ancient farm.  I climbed down, finished my circumnavigation, and continued my run.   

The main road between Steensel and Veldhoven passed by more forest, probably plantation, but not as densely planted as in Scotland.  On the way back, I passed another grafheuvel sign pointing to the opposite side of the road from the one I’d explored.  I ran off along another dirt road looking forward another ancient burial cairn, and after a few minutes of running, I found a low rise of earth in the midst of the forest.  There were no signs and it was getting darker by the minute.  Was this another ancient grafheuvel, not yet explored enough to make it worth signposting?  Was this whole area in fact another ceremonial landscape, like the row of cairns that runs down Kilmartin Glen?  (Further investigation confirmed this suspicion: more than 30 grafheuvels have been discovered in the area around Veldhoven.)  What kinds of unfinished business did ancient supplicants bring to these sites?  Given the ancient, multi-layered nature of human emotion processes, what parallels between their “technologies of the spirit” and EFT might there be?

The Gendersteyn Grafheuvel.  By Peter Maas (2005), reproduced under Creative Commons license [CC-BY-SA-2.5] via Wikimedia Commons. Downloaded from:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Glasgow Airport 5am

Entry for 14 March 2014:

Up at 3.30am after 4 hours of sleep.  Finish packing, make lunch, take out rubbish.  Out the door at 4.30.  The taxi drops me off at 4.45.  Past security by 5am, most of the shops are just opening, setting out signs and restocking. 

As I pass through the main lounge for international flights, I’m startled to learned that a new pope has been elected: Francis!  My first reaction: What would my mother think of this?  A pope named after her favourite saint!  What would the saint himself think of this?  Is it an oxymoron to have a pope take the name of the patron saint of humility and otherworldliness?  Or is it a hopeful sign?

My gate hasn’t been announced but I head for Gate 28, and sure enough, the cabin crew are sitting around looking bored, while the only KLM jet at Glasgow Airport waits outside at the end of the jetway.

I’m off to Veldhoven again, to start another round of EFT Level 2 training there.  I’m in the New Dispensation:  I’ve brought almost all of the EFT training I run into the University of Strathclyde’s economy, and I’m delighted to have it as part of my official job now.  It might be 5am at Glasgow Airport, but I’m on the clock and pleased to be looking forward to three days of intensive training!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Robert’s Personal Timeline

Entry for 22 Feb -2 March 2013:

[Note: Constructed for life history biography project being carried out by Barbara Hannigan, Trinity College Dublin.]

1927-1950: Parents both from broken families: mother’s by divorce, father’s by parental suicide

Chapter 1: California (First Saturn Return)
1950: Born, Stanford University, California
1950 – 1968: Childhood, Lodi, California
• Responsible oldest of 6 children: “family therapist” role, consulted by mother for advice on my siblings and myself
• Mother and grandmother Jung enthusiasts; Grandmother’s interest in parapsychology
• Parents involved in Christian healing/charismatic movement; later, father becomes a shaman
1967 (age 17): Turning point 1: Read Karen Horney, decided to become psychotherapist
1968 – 1972: University of California, Santa Cruz (Psychology)
1972 – 1978: University of California, Los Angeles (Clinical Psychology)
1973 (age 23): Married Diane Pearson
1975 (age 25): Realised that I could, with experience, become a competent therapist
1976 (age 26): Turning point 2: Attended first SPR meeting, met Les Greenberg & Laura Rice

Chapter 2: Toledo, Ohio (Second Saturn Return):
1978 - 1984: First job: moved to Toledo, Ohio: teaching research and psychotherapy; significant events research
1982 (age 31): First son, Brendan, born
1983 (age 33): Marital crisis: Realised that people are more important than work
1985 (age 35): Turning point 3: On sabbatical in Sheffield UK, decided to give up interpreting clients; after return to Toledo, began working with Les Greenberg and Laura Rice to develop what eventually became EFT
1985 – 1991: Toledo Experiential Therapy of Depression Project
1987 (age 37): Second son, Kenneth, born
1991 – 1992: Sabbatical in Toronto, Canada: Finish Facilitating Emotional Change; take part in PE-EFT training program run by Greenberg and Rice; beginning of humanistic-experiential psychotherapy meta-analysis project
1992 – 1999: Toledo Crime-related PTSD project; Director of Clinical Training, U of Toledo; Center for the Study of Experiential Psychotherapy protocol starts
2000- 2006: “Time of Turning”: “Every day is a gift”, Learning Emotion-Focused Therapy; conflicts at work

Chapter 3: Scotland (Third Saturn Return):
2006 (age 56): Turning point 4: Year of many changes: Father dies, youngest son leaves home, move to Scotland; new job, begin running EFT training in Scotland.
• High point of my life to date: co-officiating at oldest son’s Shinto/Christian/animist wedding
2006 – present: Scotland: University of Strathclyde; Strathclyde Social Anxiety Project; ongoing EFT training established in Scotland, followed by Netherlands and Belgium
• 2008 (age 58): Year of Awards: Carl Rodgers Award for Contributions to Humanistic Psychology; Society for Psychotherapy Research Distinguished Career Award
• 2010 (age 60): Prostate cancer: focused on letting go, identifying what is important (ie, doing the most good with the time I have left in my life)
• 2012 (age 62): Stayed with Mother during her process of dying from brain cancer