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I teach and practice Gestalt therapy, Career decision coaching, and Family Constellations work. As well as Australia, I teach workshops and training in China, Japan, Korea, the USA & Mexico. I am author of Understanding The Woman In Your Life, a book of advice for men about relationships with women. In my work as director of Lifeworks I provide therapy,  training and supervision. I am a Phd candidate, studying the interpersonal dynamics of power, and am currently director of an MA in Spiritual Psychology for Ryokan College, an accredited online institution based in LA.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Case #136 - Turn it around

Nuri was nervous. She described how she couldnt sleep, and mentioned her parents fighting every night.
I said - 'I am 20 years older than you, and could be in the same generation as your father'.
I asked her to show me how her father sat (a little bent over).
I did this both to get a sense of her father, to invite her into his position (and therefore out of her own) - creating some movement from her child position...and also to anticipate and acknowledge any dynamics between us that may echo her relationship. This is important in Gestalt, to pay attention in the present to such dynamics, as they can provide a great deal of material for direct exploration and experimentation.
Next she posed the question - 'does my father like me?'. She mentioned some of the things she thought he didnt like about her.
Rather than get into that, I asked her to turn the statement around, to make a statement about the things she doesnt like about her father...and then 'put him in the chair' and say them directly to him.
She felt relief.
This is a Gestalt process of ownership - people tend to percieve things in other that may or may not be accurate. But the point is, there is a part of themselves projected there. By turning the statement around, Nuri was no longer in the helpless position - dependent on whether or not he liked her. She could move into her own ground, and own what was true for her - the basis of responsibility and authenticity.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Case #135 - Up on a pedestal

Lynne came up to work, but seemed unclear as to just what she wanted to work on. She appeared very disembodied to me. Her conversation would constantly go to abstract issues, questions, things where were engaging intellectually, but seemed far removed from who she was as an emotional being. I noticed her shirt - it had sparkly crystals on it. I made several observations about it, as well as trying to bring her into the present in the conversation. She would pull away from the present, and did not respond at all to my curiosity about her own 'sparkliness'. Ok, none of this was engaging her, or enhancing contact.
She did however report that her legs feeling cold - no surprise, as she was hardly in her body. She did feel some warmth in her heart, at our contact. She spoke several times of working with me, the 'maestro'. These references were clearly putting me on a pedestal.
So I grabbed this as a point of contact. I sat up on the edge of my chair, physically above her, and spoke of my experience of being 'above it all'. I then invited her to do the same, and we both sat there, perched up on our chairs, sharing that experience. We were on the level, but everyone else was beneath us. This gave her the experience of being able to be with me, in some more horizontal way.
I then sat down, and asked her to stay up there on the chair, and enquired about her experience. This gave us a chance to explore the other polarity - the way she sees herself above others. She actually felt quite comfortable up there. When she came back down, she reported feeling a lot more warmth in her legs and body.
Talking has significant limits in therapy. Especially when talking does not really facilitate contact, its important to do something different. The Gestalt experiment allows a chance to bring creativity, variety, and presence into the therapeutic contact. It involves taking elements of what actual IS, and bringing them to life, in order to facilitate further awareness and contact.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Case #134 - Together on the ledge

Harvey mentioned divorce in his family. His parents were divorced. His brothers were divorced. He was divorced. He was wondering what was going on in his family.
This was a clear invitation to look at family patterns, and examine the field.
I did not follow this obvious line of interest. Partly because he wanted some served up 'answers' on this front, and it was a little too much 'ordered up' for me - I want to get beneath this - to find out more about who he was, and the details of his experience.
People can get fascinated by the field, but this can be more of an intellectual interest, and not necessarily the best start to therapy.
So I asked about his own experience of divorce.
He talked about feeling fairly settled with it. I also shared something of my own experience. There appeared to be no unfinished business left, or at least none that he was revealing.
But then he talked about his son, who he now only saw twice a year. He reported that he would sometimes would wake up crying, thinking about this.
He felt a deep pain in his heart, and he talked about how he would avoid dealing with the topic, or thinking about it, because it was so painful.
I used some awareness processes to invite him more fully into the experience in the present, and was present with him in that place.
But, he only got so far in going deeper. He said that he would like to do a process like this overseas... as there were many of his students and colleagues in the workshop, and he did not feel completely comfortable opening up.
I gave him an image - on one side, the sea of his emotions, on the other, the obstacle of the cliff of his holding back..he was on a narrow ledge between. He agreed.
I did not try to push him on this. I respect people's limits, and their 'resistance' as being valid.
I told him - 'I am with you, in this place, sitting on this ledge'. I stayed with him  in that space for a little while. He got a sense of the support available to him in that place, and it touched him deeply. He said that he would take that experience with him.
The session did not end on a 'finished' or 'resolved' note. We did not go through the whole awareness cycle. Often we can do that in Gestalt, but not always. And, thats ok. Whats more important is the experience of contact, of being present with the client in the 'stuck' place - which in one sense is not stuck, but a place of choice. They choose to stay in that place. Being with them in that way creates the ground for something different to happen - and builds relationship. Then, when there is enough internal and external ground the person can more easily choose something different.
No matter where the client is, no matter how 'resistant', we can be with them in a Gestalt process, and find the place of contact.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Case #132 - Intimate Communication

Larry had been practicing trying to notice his feelings. He found this enormously difficult. He had set them aside for so many years that most of the time he just 'felt emptiness'. Now, he was able to start recognising, sometimes, small feelings in his body.
So I wanted to build on this. I asked him to pick three people in the group that he had the strongest feelings in relation to, and name those feelings. He did so, then I supported him to bring those statements into relationship with the people. Doing so, he got a heartfelt response. This was encouraging for him. I guided him as to how to continue such conversations, ensuring that if he gave a thought/perception response, he also included a feeling as well.
As he did this, the conversations built. He got some very positive feedback. Others in the group, for the first time, felt touched by him. He started to feel enormous warmth in his body, which continued to build, so he was heating up significantly.
This was the feeling of emotional pleasure, which he was unused to, and constituted a very important ground-building experience for Larry.
The conversations developed. Next came learning for him regarding making enquiry about the other person. As he named his own responses, they contained a lot of positivity towards the other person, but did not include curiosity or asking questions, or checking out his perceptions or imaginations about them.
I showed him how to do this, to check out his projections to find out who the other person really was.
Then the next stage involved talking about the impact on him of hearing the complexity of the person being revealed to him. In his previous emotionally dry world, his understanding and experience of people was more two dimensional. Now this recognition of his own, and then other's emotions gave him a more three dimensional experience, but one which he then needed support to decipher, and understand how to continue to dialogue with.
Everyone appreciated Larry's efforts, including me, and gave him very positive feedback.
This process was significant, as men often do not have the skills to develop intimate conversations. The first stage requires them to get in touch with their feelings. Due to socialisation, and perhaps traumatic experiences, many men are substantially out of touch with their feelings. It requires careful support, both from a therapist, as well as those around, for this to occur. Then support is needed to build on this, into conversation, and dialogue. Because women are more easily in touch with the feelings (for the most part), they can easily take up group time, as they are more easily articulate about their feelings. Men can need additional space and support - and patience, in this process.

© Lifeworks 2012

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Who is this blog for?

These case examples are for therapists, students and those working in the helping professions. The purpose is to show how the Gestalt approach works in practice, linking theory with clinical challenges.

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Gestalt therapy demonstration sessions

Touching pain and anger: https://youtu.be/3r-lsBhfzqY (40m)

Permission to feel: https://youtu.be/2rSNpLBAqj0 (54m)

Marriage after 50: https://youtu.be/JRb1mhmtIVQ (1h 17m)

Serafina - Angel wings: https://youtu.be/iY_FeviFRGQ (45m)

Barb Wire Tattoo: https://youtu.be/WlA9Xfgv6NM (37m)

A natural empath; vibrating with joy: https://youtu.be/tZCHRUrjJ7Y (39m)

Dealing with a metal spider: https://youtu.be/3Z9905IhYBA (51m)

Interactive group: https://youtu.be/G0DVb81X2tY (1h 57m)