Ultimately the body will rebel

ENLIGHT 2019 schema therapy
Highlights from ENLIGHT 2019, ISST's Biennial Symposium

Unfortunately I could not attend ENLIGHT this year. My Healthy Adult made other plans during the school holidays. The available slides I read are so inspiring. In this article I will highlight some points that I found insightful. The slides will soon be available on the ISST website.

Janis Briedis

Janis Briedis provided insight into how we could use bodywork in Schema Therapy. She put it that Schema Therapy focuses largely on emotional and cognitive aspects of experience, but schemas are as much somatic patterns (emphasis on physical experiences).

Janis suggested that body focussed interventions can offer a faster route to accessing resources for self-regulation and the processing of trauma memories, and broadening the therapist’s tool kit. Taking a somatic route can help bypass ‘therapy interfering’ coping modes, e.g., the intellectualiser, overcontroller, detached protector, etc. The purpose of body focussed work, she says, is to learn to read two stories in parallel – (1) the (explicit) story that the client tells you and (2) the (implicit) story that the client’s body tells you that may or may not match the story (1), and to navigate fluently between these two levels.

Hannie van Genderen and Remco van der Wijngaart

Hannie van Genderen and Remco van der Wijngaart talked about empathic confrontation and limit setting – very useful in doing the right thing in therapy. Their slides are really handy for insights, but also they presented very practical things you can use in your own therapy.

Eckhard Roediger

Eckhard Roediger gave theoretical insight into use of the Metacognitive Perspective. He talks about Schema Therapy as a Contextual Therapy and part of the 3rd wave in Schema Therapy development. 1st wave being the original model of Jeffrey Young (based on Schemas and Schema-Coping, Modes as additional concepts for complex cases). The 2nd wave, “Dutch” model, of Arnoud Arntz / Gitta Jacob (Modes as “Parts of the Self”, little connection to Schemas, therapy corrects maladaptive behaviour). Although very interesting, for me I cannot comprehend this completely. I need to think about this sometime longer.

Factors that I need to provide schema therapy

In building the Secure Nest platform what strikes me most is the difference between the largely verbal and theoretical driven findings in the area of Schema Therapy on one hand and the client on the other hand. They just want change and recovery. Case conceptualisation, so important, but sometimes quite a journey itself. The modes as a very practical way of working on different states, but with some clients it tends to be a verbal exercise of putting things in place rather than recovery.

For me, when starting treatment three factors must be present: most important is to feel connected with my client. Although the connection can be quite fragile and small, it has to be there some of the time for us both to feel safe in our collaborative workspace. Second, I really have to understand the case conceptualisation. If not, chances are that one of the schemas or modes are actually activated, with the client or with me. Last of all, before starting to do business, it is important to feel the reaction in my body when connecting with the client and his or her life story.

And there we are round again. Let us keep connection in this inspiring world of Schema Therapy and cherish life. Janis Briedis cited Alice Miller from her book ‘The Body Never Lies’ (2005):

“Ultimately the body will rebel. Even if it can be temporarily pacified with the help of drugs, cigarettes or medicine, it usually has the last word because it is quicker to see through self-deception than the mind. We may ignore or deride the messages of the body, but its rebellion demands to be heeded because its language is the authentic expression of our true selves and of the strength of our vitality.”

Diana Kleijzen
The Secure Nest Team


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