Advanced training

Write up of the Sunday afternoon advanced training of the staff at JNTI

by Rabbi Yosef Cornfeld, M.S.W.

In this weeks advanced training Chana presented further ideas about exploring areas that are non-verbal.  She drew on her past experience of training with Alexander Lowen and his theory of bioenergetic analysis.  The idea she presented is to access a language being expressed that is non-verbal.  This could be the client’s breathing, feeling, physical movement, or physical stance.  Sitting in a certain stance can be communicating something.  This could be a memory that has a 3 dimensional recall in the cerebral field, or be represented somatically.  These memories can have a revelation about identity, or about a rupture in identity.  We usually think of change as being gradual, but working with these body memories can reduce the time it takes to get to a certain point and can increase clarity.

She presented some exercises in which we were asked to think of something that needs to be changed in our life, and then to explore where in the body we feel this, what word could describe it, what picture comes from it, what color, size, shape etc. would it be?

Questions were raised in the staff about this new direction, such as do we then try to translate this into something verbal?  And if not, as a therapist how do we know what is going on?  And can this new direction be considered as still being within the realm of classical Narrative Therapy as we know it?  A partial answer given is that it is done Narratively in the sense that it is “non-normative”, it’s done from a non-expert position, from a position of curiosity, and is de-centered.

It is apparent that the Narrative Movement is moving into new directions, as are the Narrative groups in Australia and Denmark.  So we are exploring new areas that fall outside the Narrative Therapy that Michael White taught.  And Chana and Gidon are preparing this mind-body work to present at the 2nd European Conference in Narrative Therapy and Community Work, in which one of the three main tracks is “Narratives of the Body”.

by Rabbi Yosef Cornfeld, M.S.W.

The narrative metaphor is that of a story taking place over time.  Does that mean that it has to be a spoken story?  Therapy has been traditionally known as the “talking cure”.  But in the Narrative metaphor we don’t necessarily want to be limited by the ability of the client to be expressive verbally.  We want to be open to the possibilities of helping the client to develop the preferred story even if they are not verbally expressive.  Along the same lines, we can help the person sitting opposite us even if we don’t fully understand their issues, as long as they feel that they are getting somewhere with it.

For example, some of us have worked with clients that had problems and memories that were so painful that they could not bring themselves to verbalize it in the session.  Nevertheless, with externalization, we can talk about the problem, the effects of the problem, the relative influence of the problem, and ways to put the problem in its place.  It could help the externalization process if we could give the problem a name.  But if that is too difficult, often suggesting the name “no-name” will be acceptable.  In this way we can help the client to deal with “no-name” without ever knowing what exactly the problem was.

Some ideas that have been tried include music and song.  David Denborough has developed songs as a response to trauma and hardship, and has also developed a practice of community songwriting.  In an article he wrote on the subject, he says that “the creation of community songs on gatherings can provide a source of hopefulness and can sustain and support the alternative stories of the spoken word.”  The article can be found here.  He also presents

Some of us have experimented with song with individual clients.  A song could help the client to express problem saturated stories, or to sing the praises of the preferred story.  It might  be helpful to use an already existing tune, or an existing genre, such as for a problem story “singing the blues”.  (For the preferred could it be singing the “yellows”?”  Or it may be more useful to just make up that tune as you go along.

Other ideas that have been presented have been to explore non-verbal experience, such bodily sensation.  We in the staff of JNTI are exploring different methods of how to access these body experiences, for both the problem stories and preferred stories.  Hopefully in the coming weeks we will have more to write about that here.


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