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Body and Spirit in Contemporary Psychotherapy and Counselling: If Not Now, When?

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Saturday, 10 March 2018 from 10:00 to 17:00

Body and Spirit in Contemporary Psychotherapy and...

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Body and Spirit in Contemporary Psychotherapy and Counselling: If Not Now, When?

A one-day seminar with Professor Andrew Samuels and Nick Totton

London, March 10th 2018, Saturday

10:00AM to 5:00PM   


Regardless of our primary modality, a great part of our work as therapists and counsellors cannot progress without an awareness of embodiment. Similarly, the issues of meaning, purpose and alienation that many clients bring are very usefully understood with spirituality in mind. Apathy and depression, for example, can be considered from both embodied and spiritual perspectives. Relationships, too, carry our deepest experiences of soma and soul. So, can we re-frame the therapy relationship in embodied and in spiritual terms?

At this practical and intellectually stimulating seminar, Andrew and Nick explore these two key themes that today’s therapists cannot ignore, yet often find challenging. Through coherent introductions, integrative thought and experiential exercises, they illustrate how body and spirit intertwine, each being reflected in the other: embodied spirit and spiritualised body (and other aspects of lived experience). The seminar helps us comprehend:

  • The relationship between embodiment and spirituality: How the binary pair of ‘body’ and ‘spirit’ needs to be both respected and moved beyond
  • How contemporary psychotherapy and counselling practice benefits from a systematic exploration of body and spirit
  • How we can better understand a client’s distress by being attuned to bodily and spiritual questioning
  • The role of body and spirit in relationships, with specific reference to the therapeutic alliance
  • Transference and countertransference as reciprocal embodied experiences, originating in the matching of embodied-relational engrams
  • The role of the spirit in intimate relationships including physical and sexual relationships
  • The reliance of the co-created therapy relationship on the spirit of the client
  • The shadow of spirituality and the shadow of embodiment -   potentially negative and problematic elements that might be dangerous to ignore
  • The concept of spirit as democratic, transparent and for the many instead of elitist, esoteric and only for the enlightened few

Andrew and Nick also bring a third element to the body-spirit matrix – that of political and social awareness and sensibility within the clinical session. This implies a highlighting not only of gender and ethnicity (which therapists are more used to), but also of questions around environment and ecology, leadership and the economy. The seminar recognises that these are issues which touch our clients very deeply. Social injustice creates crises on both bodily and spiritual levels.

Lastly, the seminar facilitates participants in contacting and exploring their own embodiment, and in deciding for themselves how this process relates to spiritual exploration.

About the speakers

Andrew Samuels began to develop his ‘anatomy of spirituality’ in the late 1980s and has developed it in subsequent writings and in consultancy work with organisations (including the NHS), political leaders and activist groups in several countries. An example of this is his introduction of the idea of ‘resacralisation of culture’ in 1993. Andrew’s clinical approach is a blend of Jungian, relational psychoanalytic and humanistic approaches. He calls himself a ‘pluralist’. He was a Founder Board Member of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy and is an editorial board member of the humanistic psychology journal Self and Society.

Andrew is Professor of Analytical Psychology at Essex and holds visiting chairs at New York, Roehampton, Macau and Goldsmiths, University of London. He was Chair of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy and one of the two co-founders of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility. He worked with Nick Totton on the establishment of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union. Previously, he was the founder Consultant Editor when Nick was the founder Editor of the journal Psychotherapy and Politics International.

Andrew’s books have been translated into 21 languages. The ones relevant to the seminar are Jung and the Post-Jungians (1985), The Plural Psyche (1989), The Political Psyche (1993), Politics on the Couch (2001), and A New Therapy for Politics? (2015). His website is known for its ‘rants’, spontaneous talks delivered straight to camera on a wide range of subjects:

Nick Totton trained as a post-Reichian body psychotherapist in the early 1980s, and although since then his work has broadened greatly and integrated a number of approaches, its spine has always been work of one sort or another with embodiment. Since the 1990s he has developed a style of work called Embodied-Relational Therapy (ERT), developed originally in collaboration with Em Edmondson and later with Allison Priestman and other ERT practitioners and trainers. He will soon be retiring from the ERT training, which will continue in other hands.

Like Andrew, the political aspects of therapy, the power relations which it uncovers but also sometimes conceals, have always been of central importance in Nick’s work. ERT has always seen therapy as both a political and a spiritual practice, and understood embodiment and spirituality as indivisible. Nick has been Chair of both Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility, and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union.

Nick has written a number of books. The most relevant are Reichian Growth Work (2nd edition, 2009); Body Psychotherapy: An Introduction (2003); and most recently, Embodied Relating: The Ground of Psychotherapy (2016), which argues that we are all body psychotherapists whether we know it or not. 

Seminar Schedule


10:00AM: Andrew Samuels and Nick Totton – joint introduction and opening dialogue with each other and with participants

10:30AM: Session 1: What exactly is Embodiment?

In this first session Nick will discuss:

  • the meaning of ‘embodiment’, and why it is important for psychotherapy and indeed for satisfactory living
  • Finding spirituality in embodiment rather than outside and in opposition to it

11:30AM: Coffee Break

12:00 noon: Session 2: Embodiment and Therapeutic Work

In this session, Nick looks at:

  • a redescription of transference and countertransference as reciprocal embodied experiences
  • how practitioners can develop the capacity to track their own embodied experience throughout every session, in order to perceive the effect of each client’s relational field
  • how this model of therapy also has political/spiritual implications, and the case for therapists to relinquish both distance and authority
  • shifting from the visual to the visceral in therapy, and finding our clients inside our own being

1:00PM: Lunch (a light lunch is provided as part of the seminar)

2:00PM: Session 3: ‘anatomy’ of contemporary spirituality

Our third session of the day builds on our discussions so far, and Andrew illustrates:

  • Spirit – every day and everywhere
  • Spirit in a ‘secular’ age
  • Spirituality and intimate relationships
  • Spiritual themes in psychotherapy and counselling
  • The shadow of spirituality – problems that are dangerous to ignore
  • Is spirit democratic, transparent and for the many – or elitist, esoteric and only for the enlightened few? Or is it a bit of both?

3:30PM: Session 4: the spirit and the outer world

In this session, Andrew discusses the spiritual experience many people have when joining in social / political activity and enterprise – and what is lost when they do not. This topic is often neglected by therapists.

4:30PM: Open Discussion and Review of the Experience of the Seminar

5:00PM: Close

© nscience UK, 2017 / 18

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When & Where

Great Hall
King’s College London
Strand Campus
WC2R 2LS London
United Kingdom

Saturday, 10 March 2018 from 10:00 to 17:00

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nscience UK

nscience is an independent organisation that seeks to explore the interdisciplinary richness of mental health disciplines. Through a series of seminars, workshops and conferences that are conducted throughout the year, we aim to present the latest advances in theory and research to practitioners; with a view to furthering their continuing professional development.

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Body and Spirit in Contemporary Psychotherapy and Counselling: If Not Now, When?
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