Playing with Fire online course

Playing with Fire online course

Allison Priestman

Date: 11/10/2024
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

About this event

Exploring an Embodied, Relational and Wild therapeutic approach. How can working in these ways, enrich and support the decolonising of our therapy practice?

“To colonise is to capture, to take, to control, to disconnect, to disenfranchise, disidentify. To decolonise is to reclaim, to reconnect, to honour, to recognise our interconnectedness with all living things.” Dr Thema Bryant.

The themes of relationship, embodiment, wildness, and decolonisation are interlinked. We’ll spend some time exploring each of them and their entwined natures.

We are pattern makers and our experiences in early childhood go on to shape and inform our patterns of relating throughout our lives. When we meet with another, we each shape and mould the other. We will explore our interconnectedness through thinking about Embodied Relating, co-transference, enactments, and mutuality.

Bringing an awareness to the power dynamics within the client therapist relationship and having an understanding of our own intersectional identities, deepens this work. We will explore how our particular mix of our privilege and marginalisation, interacts with our clients’ intersectional experiences and identities. How this impacts the work and reveals hidden biases, as well as depths.

We are all interdependent and our individual trauma often results from the systemic injustices we experience. On this course we will embrace the stance that therapy is political, looking for ways to work with individual psychology within the context of a collective, cultural, and social view of the origins of our distress.

We will explore how to amplify and work with both our own and our clients’ embodiment. Offering tools to support a deepening into present lived embodied experience, however far it is from a normative idea of how we should be.

We will focus on some of the channels least supported by our profession, including movement and touch and finding creative ways to play with our own embodied experience in the moment.

Oppression lands heavily on our bodies, which carry our lived experiences of oppression and intergenerational marginalisation. We will explore how we can honour and support the exploration of the embodied trauma that comes from experiences of oppression.

Wildness and Eco-psychology
Supporting our clients to explore their relationship with the other-than-human and more-than-human. We will have structured experiences of connecting with wildness and working outside.

A central theme in the course will be working from ‘Wild Mind’ – that part of us, which is embodied, animal, spontaneous, dreamlike, non-linear and wild. When working from Wild Mind we centre our practice on a wild, indigenous, local, ‘gatherer’ consciousness. Indigenous perspectives are an important part of this exploration.

We are all part of systems that we are co-authored by, influenced by and are participant in creating. We will think together about our collective colonial exploitation of the Earth and its people, and our interdependence, and inseparability from the sentient land, from the perspective of an eco-systemic approach to psychotherapy.

Colonialism has a historical legacy that is still deeply embedded in our minds, our systems and our society, resulting in huge global injustice and inequality, particularly towards black, brown, and indigenous bodies.

Such systemic injustice privileges certain bodies above others. White, upper, and middle class, male, intellectual, non-disabled, heterosexual, cis gendered people are privileged, and seen as the norm by which all other bodies are judged (sometimes openly, often covertly) both as inadequate, and as other.

Decolonisation is the process of examining our internalised hierarchies and our assumptions. There is a wealth of insights, coming from marginalised communities, offering leadership in these times. Inviting the potential of non-normative thinking to nourish and enrich all, including the mainstream.

A decolonised therapy practice offers the possibility of a different paradigm of what it means to be helpful and human. Embracing creativity, therapy as play, going into the unknown, dreaming and a spirited life.
The Approach
I’m seeing this as a collaborative, collective exploration. To an extent what we will cover will be informed by the course participants.

This will be the fourth time I’ve run the Playing with Fire course. Each time it’s a new synthesis of the work, as my thinking and practice evolves. This time I’m wanting to integrate my learning and unlearning particularly over the past three years – engaging more deeply with issues of anti-racism, colonialism, marginalisation, power and privilege.

I see this course as one amongst many which are taking forward the project of decolonising psychotherapy. I wish to explore the gifts and strengths of working with embodiment, relationship and wildness. I also want to be awake to what is biased and unhelpful in the heritage of these therapy traditions.

This course runs over nine months, giving time to immerse ourselves in meeting each other and the material. My aim is to support participants and the group to build trust and safety, facilitating a supportive and open community of practitioners. This course aims to support robust and non-defensive practice, resourcing practitioners for what can be demanding and isolating work.

Suitable for counsellors, psychotherapist and allied practitioners, the course is experiential, underpinned by theoretical input. There are no written course requirements. There will be handouts and an online resource of relevant, accessible articles, book chapters, videos and podcasts to support the integration of your learning. The aim is to integrate the course into your current working practice.

The group will be kept relatively small, to support sharing and intimacy. I’m interested in finding ways to offer accessible online training that still supports connection, embodiment, and relationship. I hope we will move, breath, talk, think, and explore together.
Course Content:
Here are some of the themes that I plan to explore:

Introduction- Oct & Nov
Meeting each other. Exploring racism, colonialism, privilege, marginalisation. Therapy as play. The role of creativity in therapy.

Relationship- Nov & Dec
Exploring power dynamics in the therapy room. Embodied Relating, mutual co-transference and enactments. Intersectionality.

Embodiment- Jan & Feb
Exploring embodiment, ableism and disability, working with movement, working with touch.

Wild- March & April
Eco-systemic thinking, domestication and wildness. Wild Mind, working outside together. Relaxation, non-expert approach.

Integration and Ending- May & June
Working with erotic charge, gender trauma, non-binary and trans issues. Endings.
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Times – Friday morning 10am-1pm, Fortnightly

Dates – 2024: October 11th & 18th, November 1st & 15th & 29th, December 13th.
2025: January 10th & 24th, February 7th & 21st, March 7th & 21st, April 4th & 11th & 25th, May 9th & 23rd, June 6th.

Online – using Zoom

Group size – 8 to 12 people.

Contact – Please contact me for more information and/or to book an informal 40 mins mutual interview.

This work is influenced by and grows from:
The courses I’ve run over the past four years, including the two-year residential Embodied-Relational Therapy training with my co-trainer Stephen Tame.
The ‘How to be a Bad Therapist’ project and the Eco-systemic Psychotherapy course, both of which I co-ran with Nick Totton.
Embodied-Relational Therapy, Wild Therapy, Eco-psychology, Nick Totton, Michael Soth, Family Constellations, Five Rhythms Dance, my relationship with the other-than-human and more-than-human, my garden and walking the land around my home, in Gloucestershire U.K.

Acknowledging some of my teachers from marginalised communities:
Eugene Ellis, Rae Johnson, Resmaa Menakem, Thema Bryant, Nick Walker, Eli Clare, Dr Dwight Turner, Christine Caldwell, Lucy Bennett Leighton, Travis Albanza, Alex Lantaffi, Meg-John Barker, Foluke Taylor and Travis Heath.

About Allison
I am a white, slim, cis gendered woman, living with and exploring both my disability and my ableism. I have been working as an Embodied-Relational Therapist for over 20 years. I’m continually being woken up, challenged and nourished by my contact with clients, supervisees and trainees.
At this time of climate, diversity and equality crises, I’m interested in being part of a collective understanding of their interwoven causes, and part of a wider societal search for ways forward.

Comments from previous course participant

“I have enjoyed the accessibility and emotional spaciousness of the course; it has surely changed my role as a therapist and made me more of who I am and allowed me to access my playful creativity in the room. Thanks a lot Allison” Shehla

“Playing with fire was nourishing, supportive, and challenged me to explore beyond my familiar ways of working. I very much appreciated the way the group was held and the explorations with peers that have benefitted me and also my work with clients.” Mat

Playing with Fire: –

Fire- strength, robustness, energy, risk, warmth, protection.
Playing – spontaneity, trying things out, the potential of relaxing, flexibility, creativity.

Contact Details
Contact Person: Allison Priestman
Email: [email protected]
More contact details: Allison Priestman

Full fee £1060. (£160 deposit) Remainder of course fees payable monthly. I'm offering a range of generous concessions, to make the course accessible £880, £700, £565.