Monday, December 12, 2016

Update: Return to California

Entry for 12 December 2016:

Last week we began a new phase of our lives, in which we will live half time in California and half time in Scotland, commuting at roughly monthly intervals from one place to the other. 

Scotland: For at least the next two years, I will continue working for the University of Strathclyde but at 60% time, working fulltime during time periods when we’re in Scotland.  I will primarily be overseeing and supporting our new MSc Counselling & Psychotherapy course, and new BSc Psychology & Counselling course, both set to start this coming September.  I will also continue supervising my PhD and MSc students, directing the Research Clinic (with Susan Stephen), and running Emotion-Focused Therapy training at Strathclyde, elsewhere in the UK, and in Europe and Asia.  That will be more than enough to keep me busy.

California:  Meanwhile, while we’re in California, I’ll be working one day a week for the University, mostly by Skype/Zoom teleconferencing.  It’s going to be challenging containing this: Last week I had 10 University-based meetings spread out over 3 days; hopefully things will settle down going forward. 

The rest of the time, I will primarily be writing: I have a long list of writing projects, principal among them:
1. Person-Centred-Experiential Therapy for Social Anxiety Outcome Study
2. An updated and expanded empathy-outcome meta-analysis (version 3)
3. Emotion-Focused Counselling in Action
4. Emotion-Focused Therapy for Social Anxiety

In California we will be based in Pleasanton, in the San Francisco Bay Area, at the eastern end of one of the Bay Area Rapid Transit lines.  There we’ve purchased a condominium (also known as a flat in UK terms, but ranch style, all on the ground level).  We take delivery on a collection of IKEA furniture flat packs today; tomorrow, movers will bring our remaining, severely down-sized US possessions from Santa Cruz, where they’ve been stored since last April. The flat/condo is a 5-10 minute drive from Diane’s mom.

We’re finding this new development to be exciting and challenging, on multiple levels: We both grew up in Northern California but have been away from it for more than 40 years, during which it has changed a lot, as have we.  It’s one thing to visit a place, as we have done in the meantime, but quite another to settle in and actually live there.  We shall have to see how we do. 

At the same time, there is a lot of interesting writing to do, and I’m looking forward to this, while still harboring the usual doubts: Can I really succeed in protecting this time against other commitments?  Can I stick with it to complete these (and other) important projects)? Do I have anything to say? I’ve done a fair amount of writing in my time.  However, it has always been squeezed into sabbaticals and summers, and for the past ten years into 20-minute bits of time when I first wake up in the morning.   My mother and her grandmother both took up writing in their later years, and I’m hoping to channel their creative energy and focus to do this.  Time will tell!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Focusing on the 2016 US Election Results

Entry for 10 November 2016

Ann Weiser Cornell's latest piece (, which my friend and former student Catherine Cowie has also picked up and commented on, has moved me to try to put into words my experience of this week's US election:

When it finally became clear early yesterday morning (UK time) that Donald Trump was going to be the next US president, against all apparent reason or sense, it took a while to even begin to process my feelings.  Over the next few hours I was able to mostly distract myself as I attended graduation for the recent cohort of our counselling students, proudly applauding them as they walked across the stage in front of me and later posing for photos (me in my garish American academic cap and gown) with the happy graduates.  I welcomed the distraction because it left a part of me free to continue processing what had happened.  What gradually emerged was in Focusing terms a bodily sense of physical injury, as if I had been punched in the middle of my chest. Then, as I stayed with the feeling and talked about it with supportive colleagues, who were also struggling but still able to give me space, I was able to really feel the anger in the blow that had left me feeling wounded. 

Immediately, I recognised this as the same feeling that 9/11 had left me with, and the whole thing began to open up for me:  I felt the anger in this vote, and then I was able to contact the sense of hurt, despair, and longing to be understood behind that anger.  As a therapist I have often accompanied my clients as they explored past their secondary reactive anger to the primary pain and sadness underneath it, and learned from them that even urge to strike out, to gain revenge, hides a longing for empathy: “I am going to hurt you, even if it injures me in the process, because that’s the only way you will ever understand how bad I hurt.”

So I am in mourning this week, like many of us in the privileged, educated elite, because Donald Trump has won and we have lost.  Nevertheless, as much as it pains me to write this, he has earned it, for better or worse: I could even go so far as to say that he deserved to win, because he was the only one who most understand the sense of hurt, brokenness, anger, and, yes, even longing for true understanding that is the core pain of the new minority of poor, struggling, working class people (especially older white males but not just them).  They recognised in him their own sense of injury and anger, understood and reflected back to them, and, grateful, they rewarded him by electing him President. 

Facing this reality is going to require a lot of us: Saying hello to and accepting the parts of us that are scared of what will happen next; supporting each other in honest, positive ways that move us beyond outrage and simply disparaging those with whom we disagree; accessing our hope, creativity and resilience in facing new challenges; and most of all listening to and offering empathy to our hurt, angry brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Level 1 Emotion-Focused Therapy Training, University of Nottingham

Lorna Carrick and I are running a standard EFT Level 1 training through the Centre for Research in Human Flourishing, Dearing Building, School of Education, at the University of Nottingham, 16 - 19 January 2017, 09.30 – 17.00

Here is the blurb about the training:

We are pleased to announce our first Emotion-Focussed Therapy, Level 1 Training on 16-19 January 2017. Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) is a humanistic, evidence-based form of psychotherapy/ counselling that integrates person-centred and gestalt therapies, with particular relevance to working with depression, trauma, and anxiety difficulties. It has gained international recognition through the work of Les Greenberg, Laura Rice, Robert Elliott, Jeanne Watson, Rhonda Goldman, Sandra Paivio, Antonio Pascual-Leone and others. More recently, it has attracted attention in the UK as one of the sources of the Counselling for Depression (CfD) model.

This is the first Level 1 EFT training to be offered outside of Scotland, where it has been running successfully for the past 10 years. It is a professional training open to qualified counsellors and psychotherapists. It will provide participants with grounding in the theory and skills required to work more effectively with emotion in psychotherapy. Participants will receive in-depth skills training through a combination of brief lectures, video demonstrations, live modelling, case discussions, and supervised role-playing practice.

This training is open to post-training counsellors and psychotherapists, preferably with a background in person-centred or humanistic counselling or psychotherapy. Psychodynamic, CBT and family systems therapists may also find it useful, especially if they have well-developed empathy skills. This training will provide all therapists with an opportunity to develop their therapeutic skills and interests, and provides the first step toward certification as an EFT therapist under the guidelines of the International Society for Emotion-Focused Therapy (ISEFT). Further training requires EFT Level 2 and personal supervision of practice by an accredited EFT supervisor; it may also require additional empathy training.

The cost for the four day training session is £595 (including lunch) - parking charges apply.

For more information, go to:
To register you will need to use a credit or debit card; go to:

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Scenes from an Iona Pilgrimage, Sept 2016

1. Blessing the Pilgrims on Radio 4

Sunday morning, 8:10am: BBC Radio 4 broadcast of choral morning prayer at St Mary’s, as Kelvin and Audrey, readers and choir treat us to a pilgrimage-themed service of travel music and celtic blessings and we receive our badges.  Afterwards, we talk to the Mo, the producer, whom we recognize from the last of these broadcasts we attended 9 or so years ago, and Ken, the engineer, who enthuses over his gear and shows us the location of the BBC satellite on his Pokemon-Go-style smartphone app (“22 degrees!” he says).  (Available until 22 October at: )

2. Journey to Iona

Sunday  afternoon: Having returned home to finish packing and to close things up, we catch the train from Hyndland to Dalmuir, where we pick up the West Highland Line train for Oban.  At Oban we meet up with most of the rest of our group and board the Cal-Mac ferry for Craignure.  From Craignure we take a bus that crosses the island of Mull on little winding one-track roads, before rocking and rolling our way across the sound to Iona.

3. Staffa


Monday afternoon: The best weather all week was forecast for Monday, so we got tickets for the trip to the island of Staffa, made famous by Felix Mendelsohn’s Hebrides Overture (“Fingal’s Cave”).  The island approached, black and columnar on the horizon, as our little wooden boat, the Iolaire of Iona, pitched and rolled on the rough seas, making it difficult to capture the gaping sea caves cut into the island’s southern cliffs.  Bruce from our church was with us, returning to see the condition of the railing that he had installed more than 30 years ago.  After a rough, wet landing on the lee side of the island, the group of us stepped onto the rough hexagons formed by the tops of the basalt columns that make up the island, created by quick-cooled lava from an undersea volcanic eruption 60 million years ago.  We edged along the path for a couple hundred meters, between crashing waves and basalt columns, extremely grateful for Bruce’s rails, which he told us were made of high tension electric transmission lines.  We edged around the end of the island and into Fingal’s Cave itself, terrifying with the waves booming and roaring.  It didn’t sound like the Mendelsohn piece to me, at least in any literal sense, but it certainly was amazing, and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

4. Geology Pilgrimage into the Deep Time

Tuesday afternoon: Alex, a geologist in our community, led a group of us on a geology pilgrimage through Deep Time around the northern end of Iona: We started below the Argyll Hotel looking at a 60-million year old lava channel bored through 800 million year old mudstone.  We then walked up to the machair on the northwest end of the island. Machair is fertile but thin soil on top of raised shell beach sand and looks like a golf course.  It’s several of thousand years old and is on land that used to be beach before the land gradually rose in the aftermath of the last ice age, springing back from the pressure of the kilometer-thick glaciers of the last ice age.  Finally, Alex led us down onto the shell beach (made of finely broken sea shells rather than silicon) just beyond the machair, where he showed us an outcropping of lewisian gneiss.  Lewisian gneiss is some of the oldest, densest rock on earth, more than 2 billion years old: it is the remains of the “roots of mountains”; the rest of these mountains, formed when two tectonic plates crashed together, have long since worn away, leaving something that was too tough even for glaciers to budge.

5. Mindfulness and the Four Elements

Tuesday morning and on Thursday afternoon: Margaret, a psychotherapist/ focuser/research mentor/artist/mindfulness trainer led us in a series of outdoor mindfulness exercises (her specialty).  On Tuesday there was a walking mindfulness meditation through a muddy pasture, and on Thursday there was a standing meditation on the grass between Bishops’ House and the sea, on the theme of the four elements:
• earth: feel the ground under your feet
• water: see the water washing against the shore
• air: feel the wind blowing against your skin
• fire: let yourself experience the light around you and on your skin
This latter led me to some of the most profound experiences I had during our week at Iona: 
• Earth: I felt the earth beneath my feet, but after the geology pilgrimage, the stability now felt illusory, until I was able to extend my senses deep into the earth, below the machair, until I reached the stability of the lewisian gneiss, billions of years old.
• Water: The brisk wind had brought a tear to my eye, and I now felt its cool moisture as it evaporated.  I also felt the moisture in the air and the water in the earth. (Iona is the just about the wettest place I’ve ever been to)
• Air: In addition to the wind, I imagined the solidity of air that can hold an airplane up in the sky, and the little molecules of oxygen being transported from the air in my lungs to my blood stream and thence to every cell in my body.
• Fire: I closed my eyes and observed the light coming in through my eyelids.  Then I felt the metabolic fires that energize all of my cells, and the fire of my spirit deep within me, connected to the spirit fires of each of the other people in our little circle.

6. A Hard Lesson

Wednesday midday:  I love labyrinths, especially seven-circuit Cretan labyrinths like the one on my parents’ property at Murray Creek.  So when I learned that there is one at Columba’s Bay, at the southeast corner of the island, I decided that I needed to go there.  I missed my chance to do it with the postgraduate students, so when a 90 minute window of opportunity opened up on Wednesday, I set off on my own, against Diane’s advice.  A series of things then went wrong:  I was soaked by the rain before I even got to our B&B, which was on the way.  I stopped and changed clothes, putting on my rain pants.  Then I headed west toward the golf course on the machair on the west side of the island, where Kenneth and I had run 8 years before.  Then I turned south, following a rather indistinct track across the machair.  When this ran out, I headed up a rocky, wet path, with a stream running down it, until I reached the little loch near the top.  My maps had gotten wet and were disintegrating, and I knew that I had to go around the loch, so I turned right.  Big mistake!  I was supposed to follow around to the left of loch.  The path soon became submerged in the loch, so I struck out on a way above and parallel to the path, until the path gave out.  There followed a little valley that descended from the loch.  However the valley was essentially a stream, so I was walking through a bog. 

The valley descended steeply, and I realized that I did not know where I was and that if I twisted an ankle on the treacherous footing I would be in serious trouble.  However, having chosen this way, I grimly stayed on the way I’d chosen, and eventually saw the sea through the mist.  Descending further I came to a beach.  Was it Columba’s Bay?  It didn’t look right, and by my reckoning I was probably at the southwest rather than the southeast corner of the island.  There was certainly no labyrinth here.  I couldn’t follow the shore to the left because it was too steep and underwater at this point.  Also, I’d almost used up my 90 min window and was essentially lost.  Diane would be worrying about me.  I began to feel foolish and sorry for myself.

Finally, I decided to have a wee reconnoiter.  I ascended the steep slope of the beach, pulling myself up onto machair.  Still no labyrinth.  Then I saw the roof of a house in the distance, and fencing.  Civilization!  Next, I notice the flag marking the number 3 hole of the golf course.  I had somehow gone in a circle and was actually on the west side of the island, much closer to our B & B than I’d realized.  This was at the same time both highly annoying and a huge relief. 

As I walked quickly back to the B&B to change out of my soaking, sandy shoes, I reflected on this misadventure and what it said about me:  I sometimes form somewhat crazy plans that I stick to determinedly.  I also have a tendency to strike out on my own, and can find myself in a lonely or even scary place.  And I have been systematically ignoring the fact that I am no longer as limber and resilient as I was 20 years ago, let alone 40 years ago.  Better preparation, better conditions, travelling in company, and letting go of plans that aren’t working:  There are all really good ideas for successful adventures!

7.  Beer and Hymns

Thursday evening: After various more conventional religious services, including compline each night, Wednesday afternoon Eucharist and a healing service at the Abbey, the postgraduate students in our group put on a beer and hymns event, featuring, naturally, hymn-singing accompanied by imbibing beer (and wine). This turned out to be great fun, with our enthusiasm making up for our lack of musical talent, although the hymns could not be delivered at the spritely pace that Diane would have preferred.  At the time, I assumed that only Episcopalians could dream up such a thing; however, I have since learned that it is A Thing, and has an ancient as well as a modern history, going back to the “Hymn for Ninkasi,” the Sumerian goddess of beer.


8. Saint James’ Way

Thursday night:  At the end of our last day, as we headed back on our nightly trek back to the B&B, we stopped, turned off our electric torches/flashlights, and looked up at the night sky, which had cleared for the moment.  Iona has no street lights, so we could see the Milky Way spread out above us, running north-south, the same way we were travelling.  In Spanish, one of the terms for the Milky Way is El Camino de Santiago, also the name of the most famous of pilgrim paths, leading to the shrine of Saint James in northwest Spain.  The Milky Way is a path of stars to guide pilgrims, both celestial and terrestrial, and we were glad to follow it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Emotion-Focused Therapy: Level 3 Training Series

Fridays, 9:30-17.00, 25 Nov 2016 – 23 June 17

Venue:  University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Facilitated by Lorna Carrick & Robert Elliott 

The Emotion-Focused Therapy Level 3 Supervision Series is open to counsellors and psychotherapists who have completed Level Two training in EFT.  This series will consist of 7 day-long Friday sessions over a 8-month period and held in the main city centre campus of the University of Strathclyde.  The format will primarily focus on supervision of recorded therapy sessions, supplemented as appropriate with brief lectures, experiential practice exercises in small groups, and discussion.  Emphasis will be on putting EFT into practice and examining blocks to effective practice.
Tentative Topics:
25 Nov 2016
Organizational; Case monitoring (Robert & Lorna)
27 Jan 2017
Supervision; Case formulation (Robert)
24 Feb 2017
Supervision; the Alliance formation task (Lorna)
24 March 2017
Supervision; Anxiety Splits (Robert)
28 April 2017
Supervision; EFT Dreamwork (Lorna)
19 May 2017
Supervision; Eating difficulties (Lorna)
23 June 2017
Supervision; EFT & fragile process (Lorna)

·      Course fee:  Until 25 October 2016: £555; after that: £605
·      The course could be taken for continuing professional education credit.
·      This course is designed to help participants work toward EFT-Individual Completion of Training Certification; however, some additional individual supervision may be required for that.

For more information and online booking and payments go to the following link: 

Contact: or 0141-444 8415 for further information on this training or to sign up for it.

Emotion-Focused Therapy: Level 2 2016-17 Workshop Series

Revised Starting Date:
Three Friday-Saturday Workshops, 9.30-16.30:
3-4 Feb; 10-11 March; 12-13 May 2017
Venue:  University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Facilitated by Professor Robert Elliott and Lorna Carrick
University of Strathclyde 

The Counselling Unit at the University of Strathclyde is pleased again to offer further training in Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) for counsellors and psychotherapists (Diploma level or above) who have completed Level One training in EFT and have had previous empathy training (see below).   This six–day series follows a schedule of three two-day Friday-Saturday sessions spread over early 2017 to allow participants to begin to implement EFT in their client work in the course of the training; it covers a broader range of topics than 4-day EFT level 2 trainings allow.  The format will be a mixture of brief lectures, videos or demonstrations, experiential practice exercises in small groups, and discussion.

The specific topics to be covered will feature material not covered in the Level 1 course, including

·      Therapist experiential response modes
·      EFT client case formulation and modes of engagement
·      The EFT adaption of Focusing
·      Relational Dialogue for Alliance difficulties
·  Creation of Meaning for meaning protests & Narrative retelling of difficult or traumatic experiences

In addition, different forms of Chairwork will be particularly emphasized:
·    Two chair conflict split work for: self-criticism, self-interruption, and self-damaging activities
·      Empty chair work for unfinished business
·      Compassionate Self-soothing for painful self states
  •  Enrolment is set for a minimum of 15, with variable staffing to accommodate up to 30.
  • The course could be taken for continuing professional education credit.
  • This course is part of Level A Completion of Basic EFT Training, recognised by the International Society for Emotion-Focused Therapy (ISEFT)
  • Previous empathy training requirement: In accord with ISEFT training guidelines, participants must have had a prior training in a humanistic-experiential psychotherapy (such as person-centred, focusing-oriented or gestalt therapy) or undertake the Advanced Empathic Attunement Workshop before commencing EFT Level 2.

Cost: Before Weds 4thJan 2017: £545; after Weds 4thJan 2017: £595
In order to keep costs to a minimum, catering is not included in these costs
Please send a non-returnable deposit of £50.00 to secure a place if not paying the whole fee at time of booking. Online booking and payments can be made at the following link:

Contact: or 0141-444 8415 for further information on this training, the facilitators, ways of applying for this course or other APT events

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Advanced Empathic Attunement: A Workshop for Psychological Practitioners

Wednesday 12  – Friday 14 October 2016, 09.30 – 17.00
Venue:  University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
 Facilitated by Robert Elliott and Lorna Carrick 

Therapist empathy is an essential but complex aspect of the practice of counselling and psychotherapy and one of the best-evidenced and most consistent therapeutic change processes.  This three-day training on Advanced Empathic Attunement goes beyond content empathy and basic empathic understanding by offering a general framework for understanding the empathic process and mastering a wide range of empathic responses. These responses reflect developments in Experiential and Emotion-Focused Therapies and offer new possibilities for practice across a wide range of theoretical approaches, including CBT, Psychodynamic and Family/Systemic therapies.

We begin by presenting a set of theoretical frameworks that underpin therapist empathy, including Social Neuroscience, an expanded Empathy Cycle, and the Empathy Channels model.  Most of the workshop will involve skill practice using your personal material, starting with the classic Opening Channels of Receptivity exercise, and progressing through separate sessions on Empathic Resonance, Evocative Empathy, Exploratory Empathy, Empathic Affirmation, Process Empathy, and Empathic Conjecture responses.  Each of these will be clearly described and concretely illustrated by a video or live demonstration, followed by skill practice and self-reflection.


1. Learn how to access and enhance your natural ability to empathically resonate with clients.
2. Be able to locate the range of Empathy Responses within the Empathy Channel framework.
3. Be able to tell the difference between Empathic Affirmation and Evocative Empathy responses and successful use both kinds of response.
4. Be able to use Empathic Exploration responses to help clients explore their unclear experiences.
5. Be able to use Process Empathy responses to help clients become more aware of their in-session process and to deepen relational contact with clients.
6. Be able to use Empathic Conjectures to help clients deepen their experiencing during chair work and at other times in session.

  • This course could be taken for continuing professional education credit.

Cost: On or before 12 September 2016: £245; after 12 September 2016: £295
In order to keep costs to a minimum, catering is not included.
                               Register via our online shop at:
Contact: or 0141-444 8415 for further information on this course