WORKING IN THE WEB
An online course on eco-systemic psychotherapy
Nick Totton & Allison Priestman
Starting Sept. 23, 2022
12 fortnightly Friday mornings
Cost: £700 (maximum concession £450)
An ecosystem is a spontaneously self-regulating network of interdependent beings, all of which form the environment for each member of the network. When we meet as therapist and client, each of us comes as part of many literal and metaphorical ecosystems; we can see the situation as a disturbance somewhere in the client’s networks which leads them to seek interaction with the therapist’s networks, including but not only their professional ones. Many different beings are effectively present at the meeting – human and other-than-human, alive and dead, physical and non-physical; all potentially have a role to play.
Experiencing therapy from this larger perspective is enriching, but it’s not immediately clear how to translate this vision into a new form of practice. We will be exploring some possible ways of working ecosystemically, through presentations, discussion, group processing and exercises in pairs and small groups. Questions and themes we want to address include:
People we hear about but don’t meet. Clients generally tell us a lot about their relationships – partners, family, friends etc. The received wisdom is to the very cautious in forming opinions about these people, or even pictures of them: we are encouraged to treat them as ‘figures’, which teach us about the client’s inner world. This is good advice, of course; but it leaves out the reality of the whole system our ‘designated client’ inhabits, and which is presenting itself to us for attention. This issue asks us to move beyond the extreme individualism of traditional therapy, without betraying the interests of the individual who has come to see us.
Bringing in the other-than-human. As well as being individualistic, traditional therapy is anthropocentric: it pays no attention at all to the context of other species in which all human beings live, and which have profound effects on our lives. Part of widening our perspective is to include and attend to these other beings, the ways in which they help to create, and also respond to, the situations which our clients bring to therapy.
Bringing in the ancestors. Most practices from other cultures which serve similar functions to therapy place a lot of emphasis on the ancestors – which is not at all the same thing as therapy’s focus on parents and immediate relations. We can think of the ancestors as the collective wisdom and care of those who have come before us, creating a centuries-long projects which informs our dreams and our deepest impulses and responses.
To an even greater extent than usual, who the participants are and what they bring will shape the course. To learn how to work ecosystemically, we need to consciously become an ecosystem.
Both of us are deeply impacted by the current three emergencies facing our earth: the crises of climate, biodiversity and equality. We’re offering this course as a small step towards exploring the inter-relationship of these issues, and to offer a model of what a psychotherapy fit for the future might look like.
Dates: 12 fortnightly Friday mornings, 10am-1pm.
2022: September 23, October 7, October 21, November 4, November 25, December 9. 2023: January 13, January 27, February 10, February 24, March 10, March 24.
Group size: 12-15 participants
Cost: £700 (maximum concession £450), Deposit £160, balance payable in six monthly instalments, or in full before the start of the course.
If you haven't worked with either of us before please be in touch to arrange a conversation.