Writings on Embodied-Relational Therapy
Books by ERT Practitioners
Books on Relational Body Psychotherapy, Wild Therapy, Reichian Bodywork and other subjects, written by ERT practitioners. This list is not complete – we will be adding more over the coming months.
Author: Nick Totton & Em Edmondson
Available from: PCCS Books
A revised and updated new edition of a body psychotherapy classic, Reichian Growth Work sets out to convey the essential features of Reichian therapy in concrete and easily understandable language. The style of body therapy which it describes is democratic, growth-oriented and undogmatic, while still committed to Reich’s radical description of human beings and their difficulties. ‘This book is for people who want to change; because only by changing, profoundly painful as that sometimes is, can we stay alive and growing.
Author: Nick Totton
Available from: Karnac Books
Embodied Relating is addressed both to body psychotherapists and to verbal therapists, and argues that embodied relating is the soil from which all therapy grows, and that conscious understanding of this makes our work more powerful and accurate.
Embodied relating is embedded in our everyday life: we can all ‘do’ embodied relating, though some do it better than others. Like many other important aspects of life, it generally happens of its own accord, but sometimes benefits from the sort of close examination which tends to happen in therapy. However, psychotherapy has a history of keeping embodiment out of its field of awareness, and of preferring language-based relating to all other kinds – indeed, until quite recently, of downplaying here-and-now relationship altogether. All these things are now changing; and this book is intended to be part of the change.
Available from: Mantra Books
Meditating with Character invites the reader to get really curious about what goes on in their meditation practice, through understanding their embodying and disembodying habits. These habits and patterns are explored through the lens of character positions, a body of knowledge taken from post-Reichian psychotherapy. This book breaks new ground in weaving together important threads from meditation, body psychotherapy, and Buddhism, encouraging the reader to be more present with their experience of being an integrated body-mind.
Available from: Earth Books
Choosing to have children is a private decision with global consequences. Other Than Mother explores the decision-making process around not having children.
Author: Nick Totton
Available from: PCCS Books
Therapy is by nature wild; but a lot of it at the moment is rather tame. This book tries to shift the balance back towards wildness, by connecting therapy with ecological thinking, seeing each species, each being, and each person inherently and profoundly linked to each other. Therapists have always tried to help people tolerate the anxiety of not being in control of our feelings, our thoughts, our body, our future. Human efforts to control the world are well on the way to wrecking it through environmental collapse: the more we try to control things, the further out of balance we push them. Nick Totton describes a mode of being present in all cultures, ‘Wild Mind’, and explores how this can be supported through a ‘wild therapy’, bringing together a wide range of already-existing ideas and practices, which may have a role to play in creating a new culture that can live well on the earth without damaging ourselves and other beings.
What is ERT?
ERT is an holistic integrative approach focusing on two facts about human beings: we are embodied and in relationship. To be alive we need to be a body, to be alive we need to relate to others; our greatest challenges and our greatest joys follow from this.
As human beings, we are integrated body-mindspirit; on the whole, we find this condition hard to manage. Our nature seeks to
express itself freely, while at the same time protecting itself in conditions sometimes of great difficulty. This double task of expression and protection makes us often subject to contradictory pulls, and offering double messages about what we feel, want and need. Through a relationship which is challenging but supportive and non-invasive, it is possible to disentangle our doubleness and allow our process to unfold.
Sometimes the problem is to ‘bring spirit down’ into material expression, to commit ourselves sufficiently to the recalcitrance and fixity of being in the world, rather than floating off in fantasy. Sometimes the problem is to ‘bring matter up’ into spiritual connection, to hold sufficient inspiration and enlightenment rather than getting caught in the demands of practical existence.
For each of us, there is a constantly shifting balance; also for each of us, we have certain preferences, predilections, assumptions which go to make up our character structure. This expresses itself not only in our habits of thought and behaviour, but also in our bodily and energetic patterns.
What we have just called ‘character structure’ can be usefully reframed as ‘style of relating’. There is a consonance between a person’s style of relating to the conditions of existence – to embodiment – and their style of relating to other human beings. (After all, it is through interactions with other people above all else that a baby learns what to expect from the universe and how best to respond to it.) Our nature seeks to express itself freely, while at the same time protecting itself in conditions sometimes of great difficulty. This double task of expression and protection makes us often subject to contradictory pulls, and offering double messages about what we feel, want and need. Through a relationship which is challenging but supportive and non-invasive, it is possible to disentangle our doubleness and allow our process to unfold.
ERT draws a great deal from other therapies, particularly those from the body psychotherapy tradition, and brings these ideas and techniques into a new synthesis with its own unique flavour and values. We describe this in terms of seven metaskills: Awareness, Trust, Contactfulness, Spontaneity, Spaciousness, Relaxation and Wild Mind.
Encouraging a deep letting go into what is, ERT takes a position of profound trust that what ever is trying to happen in someone’s life needs to happen, and whatever needs to happen is trying to happen.
The fundamental assumption of Embodied-Relational Therapy is that we all do the best we possibly can – the best that we know so far. Each individual has come up with a brilliant solution to the conditions in which they have found themselves – the optimum style of relating, the optimum balance between body and spirit. Equally, each person is seeking, consciously or unconsciously, to change their behavioural style in accordance with current conditions – which may be very different from the conditions in which we grew up. Whatever appears in a person’s life as a problem, a symptom, a conflict, can also be understood as an incomplete attempt to change and grow.
So the core tasks of the therapist are:
- To support all aspects of the client’s process – not just the bits we like! This is harder than it may sound, and is probably the heart of the therapeutic project.
- To identify and amplify that process, especially as it expresses itself through relationship – through the feelings each person has about the other.
- To come back, over and over, to a centred and open position, holding the space so as to allow the client free expression within it, and so as to witness every aspect of the situation including one’s own responses.
Recent Blog Posts
Speaking with Allison yesterday has rekindled my passion for our core Embodied-Relational Therapy training. This brief video gives some sense of our current thinking and feeling. Taking part in (what has now evolved into) this training myself, some 26 years ago was a...
This morning I found my sit spot, ( http://www.adrianharris.org/blog/2011/03/the-sit-spot/ ) Once I gave up on trying to think my way there, and simply followed feet, then sitting in the right spot happened simply. The sun slanting in, the fresh quiet, after the...
Someone might say this to us when we are stressed or anxious… when we’re feeling uptight.
The subtext of the suggestion is often: “just relax because it will be ok” or “just relax because it is not that important”
It’s unlikely to work – for us it is important, and we don’t know that it will be ok.
Play is fundamental to our development as children, and also to our healing and therapeutic process. Through play we try on and experiment with different aspects and parts of ourselves – through play the paradox that therapy is both real and pretend can be held.
Something happens; a client cancels, or a workshop books up quickly; a friend thanks me for how I am with them, my car breaks down… …and I immediately jump to making meaning out of the event: this means that I am a good therapist, a bad therapist, a valued and...
It’s been two weeks since I spent the day with Sailaday: http://www.sailadayeco.com/ and I can still feel it in the bones of my feet – I think the changes might well be permanent. It’s difficult to write of it, as it was an experience which was one of integration, of...
Articles from the ERT Community