The focus of our training is developing a practitioner’s ability to track what is happening with the body and mind of the client as well as within themselves, while also providing the necessary containment, space, attention, curiosity and interest that will keep the interior process alive for the client.
As practitioner’s we place a strong emphasis on allowing a process to unfold, and paying attention to what is emerging as it does. This is the art of facilitation, which we define as bringing forth what most wants to move or emerge, in order to become a part of the larger whole.
This differs from a more directive and leading approach, which can also be useful at times, but skews the process in the direction of the practitioner’s agenda for the client, as opposed to going with the client’s deepest needs and motives, as well as respecting the client’s limitations and deficits.
We feel it is most essential to be capable of following the client’s agenda, in order to assist the client in becoming more aware of what is driving or influencing their perceptions, feelings, beliefs and behaviors. This is especially important to do as we become aware of the deeper conflicting or contradicting motives and agendas existing within the client’s inner being.
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The following are examples of the types of Process Teachings that we provide as part of our four year training:
1. PROVIDING A HOLDING CONTAINER
Building a holding container for the client’s unfolding process is essential, not only in PSEN depth work, but in any therapeutic setting. It contributes to the client’s experience of safety, support and consistency in their process work.
As part of our training, PSEN trainees learn to strengthen their ability to create a holding container for others by learning to tolerate, contain and process their own psychic material and emotional issues.
PSEN trainees also learn to hold appropriate boundaries and limits, necessary for the client’s safety, as well as to provide a space for something new and inevitable to come into being.
2. DEEPENING INTO THE PROCESS
PSEN processes take time and space. They require the facilitator to be grounded and patient, and to know when to wait and when to support movement.
By strengthening their own tolerance for uncertainty, and for keeping a potentially challenging experience in the moment, and also give it the time and attention required, PSEN trainees learn to help their clients deepen their journeys.
Our trainees also learn to understand the differences between emotional intensity and emotional depth, and work with the counter-balances of emotional impressions and expressions.
3. WORKING AT ONE’S DEVELOPMENTAL EDGE
Working at one’s developmental edge requires keeping a complex issue such as a dilemma in the here and now, and understanding the psychological functions of both support and challenge.
PSEN trainees learn to tolerate their own as well as their clients’ developmental edges, including the ambiguity and uncertainty, which they may feel in these places.
Trainees learn to support their clients’ unfolding processes by strengthening what they have already learned and integrated, to be more present to what already is.
They also learn to challenge their clients to move beyond the comfort of what they already know, and lean into the risks of experiencing or becoming what has not yet happened for the client.
4. ATTUNEMENT & DIFFERENTIATION
Over our four years of training together, PSEN trainees learn to intimately and compassionately attune with their client’s emotional and psychological states of being, while honoring their own individuality and differentiation from the client’s experience.
This is essential in establishing a healthy contact boundary between the practitioner and the client, and it enables the PSEN practitioner to move in and out of providing support and challenge to the client, depending on what is most needed to support flow and forward moving momentum of a session.
5. SLOWING IT DOWN
Through the consistent practice of mindfulness, PSEN trainees learn to slow down their own process sufficiently to be able to be grounded and present and useful to their client’s present moment experience. Slowing down and deepening down inside one’ self is essential for the practitioner to keep slowing down the process of their client.
Slowing down a process helps both facilitator and client to look closely at what is happening and to feel again, which contributes to the awakening of a more conscious experience of living. Slowing things down is also an essential support to the deepening process, and allows a client to take up a practitioner’s genuine curiosity and inquiry.
Slowing down also helps to attune both the practitioner and the client to the more subtle meanings and messages available underneath the surface of everyday awareness.
6. MAKING PROCESS OBSERVATIONS
7. SUSPENDING JUDGMENT
Setting aside our assumptions and judgments about how our clients should think, feel, and behave seems obvious, and yet is very challenging to uphold. PSEN trainees learn to continuously keep a “beginner’s mind” in their work with their client. They learn to relax into the vulnerability of not knowing, and letting go of attachments to any outcomes. This is critical to do, so that the integrity of the client’s process can be maintained, with all of their potential and all of their limits being able to co-exist.
Suspending judgment helps PSEN facilitators to keep their minds open and spacious, while being fully grounded and available to the present moment experience with their client’s unfolding, as well as with the relational field between them.
Cultivating a neutral witnessing or observing state of mind is essential to being able to suspend one’s judgment, which in turn allows for the possibility of something new to happen. Finally, it is most important for a practitioner to suspend judgments about their client’s process, precisely because this is likely to be very difficult for the client to do on behalf of themselves.
8. STAYING PRESENT TO THE UNKNOWN (TRUSTING THE PROCESS)
Staying in the present moment means staying close to uncertainty and the “not-yet-known“. By deeply attuning to their moment to moment embodied experience and open mind, PSEN trainees learn to tolerate the vulnerability of not knowing what will happen next. As they do so, they begin to touch upon the enlivening process that can begin to take place within themselves and eventually with the client.
Our practice of conscious breathing is a primary to support in tolerating the unpredictable as well as the unknown, both within each person, and within the interactions that take place between the practitioner and the client.
PSEN trainees learn to take one step at a time, by attending to what is happening ‘here and now’ in the room, and by trusting the gradual unfolding of the client’s process. This allows our trainees to trust more and more in the inevitable discoveries to be made in the unknown.
9. KEEPING THE WORK IN THE ROOM
The consistent practice of embodiment and mindfulness enables PSEN practitioners and trainees to encourage their clients to keep the work in the present moment experience, which is what we mean by “keeping the work in the room”. Rather than just giving clients tasks and assignments to work on “outside of the room”, PSEN practitioners are committed to doing the work with the clients that needs to be done “right here, right now”.
By balancing support and challenge, the client and practitioner can be present together as a resource, and begin to address, confront and work through unresolved, threatening or conflicting beliefs, thoughts and feelings as they arise.
PSEN trainees learn to confront their own unresolved issues in a similar manner, which gives them the knowledge, strength and trust to make a space in which their clients can do the same for themselves, with the support and challenge of the practitioner’s “here and now” attention.
10. TRACKING VITALITY
Tracking vitality (or the lack of vitality) is essential for a client’s process being able to move forward, and for taking up a healing process that leads one towards a greater sense of wholeness. For this purpose, PSEN trainees learn to track the flow of energy and vitality in their client’s body, as well as noticing where the client tends to hold back, shut down or cut off from the energy they contain in their body.
Our trainees learn to help their clients come into an embodied contact with the dynamic tensions that can enhance or inhibit their vitality, creativity, eros and aggression. A PSEN practitioner must be able to tolerate the necessary depth and intensity in their own bodies and minds, in order to accompany a client with theirs.
Trainees learn ways to assist their clients in the redirection their repressed life force through touch and movement as well as through making direct process observations. They gain the confidence they need to be able to provide encouragement to their clients to take hold of, tolerate and express their own vitality in ways that are true to their own character make up.
They also learn to meet their clients in their vitality and aggression in a contactful and accompanying way, one that feels accepting, mutual, and shared, which tends to be very healing and empowering for their clients.
11. BECOMING A DISTURBING FORCE
Our PSEN trainees learn to have a mind of their own, and an embodied experience of their own, which often differs from those of their clients. Holding on to their own sense of individuation, while also being able to connect and engage with their clients, enables them to become a useful presence for their clients processes.
It is inevitable that at some point in the client’s process, they will need assistance with disrupting an embedded routine or fixed, habitual pattern in their way of processing. This is where it is essential for a PSEN practitioner to learn how to become a necessary and useful disturbing force on behalf of their client’s highest and best self.
Our trainees learn to invite aspects of their client’s shadow into awareness, which the client may naturally tend to avoid. Our trainees also create positive and enlivening disturbances for their clients by becoming emotional amplifiers, and expressing embodied speech or emotions that our clients are not yet able to do for themselves.
They learn to do this in ways that actively challenge the client to take risks in order to grow, and not in ways that are simply care taking or overly sympathetic, which, however comforting this may be, is ultimately dis-empowering to the client.
12. TRACKING THE PECULIARITIES
Our bodies often tell others what we don’t see, while we remain quite unaware of what our bodies may be saying.
PSEN trainees learn to pay special attention to peculiar and incongruent body signals of their clients. They learn to notice gestures and facial expressions that stand apart from what is being spoken, and bring what they notice to their client’s attention with gentleness and with curiosity, as a way of helping them uncover perhaps unconscious and conflicting impulses and drives.
These interrupted or unintegrated body movements and gestures can often become compelling for the practitioner when they are free to notice and track them. They can also be a threshold or doorway for the client to a deeper awareness that can bring forth new life force, or help recover a meaningful experience from early on in one’s life.
It is often our peculiarities that we tend to disown rather than embrace; by owning them, we take ownership for our distinct features that make us uniquely who we are.