Australasian Journal Of Psychotherapy
NO.1 - 2018
On occasion we may find ourselves witness to an event so overwhelming in its emotional impact that it exerts a transformative power across a radial field. The recent rescue of the Thai boys and their coach in what appeared up to the last possible moment to be insurmountable odds was clearly such an event. The words of the Leonard Cohen anthem, the theme of the 2018 PPAA conference, provide an uncanny echo:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
The search for survivors, the pitch-dark caves with their treacherous waters, the acceptance of “imperfections” (a vulnerable rather than narcissistic state of mind) which allowed the crack of mind-light to transform individual efforts and understandings into a viable rescue operation of those in the most extreme state of vulnerability, all serve to give voice to the event on both a real and symbolic level. In our work too, the dark cavernous quality of the troubled mind, at times flooded with toxic affect — at times seemingly impenetrable, confronts us with our own edges and vulnerabilities as “helpers” and we hope for a finely-attuned balance of mind and heart, theory and practice so that “rescue operations”— often imperceptible, of-the-moment and relying on the “life-giving” qualities of the therapeutic couple — can take hold. The Thai rescue was a triumph of collaboration and cooperation on all levels; the five papers in this volume, though diverse in their subject matter, all explicate the importance of dialogue and collaboration, humane intent with careful thought.
Anthony Korner brings a sophisticated and nuanced clinical and theoretical, research and teaching focus to the significant and prescient issue of confidentiality regarding psychotherapy conducted in the public domain: the specific example used relates to Conversational Model Therapy as developed by Russell Meares and Hobson and taught and conducted in the Westmead Psychotherapy Program. The model privileges the concept that the mind’s development depends on minute, imperceptible, oftentimes unconscious relational interactions which lead to potential enhancement “within the safe space of engaged and responsive relationships.” Korner et al argue for “greater protection of professional privilege” regarding the audio recordings of therapy sessions used for supervision and teaching purposes, in order to protect against “impingements” on the “delicate holding environment” intrinsic to the work. The paper carefully researches a range of legal and ethical responses and opinions, offering an illustrative clinical vignette, and strikes a fine ethical balance between public and private realms in relation to professional ideals and responsibilities.
Michael Moore’s engaging and original paper, presented at the 2018 PPAA conference in Brisbane, is concerned with “the debate around the nature of the relationship between science and psychoanalysis” through the lens of what he identifies as the two preeminent camps in this debate: “on one side there are Solms and Yovell et al arguing for psychoanalysis to have a serious relationship with neuroscience and … Blass and Carmeli et al arguing against this idea”. Moore is concerned with the hostile and futile tenor of the debate and the “toxic relationship” thus engendered and ingeniously illustrates this using a core concept of Fairbairn’s object relations theory. He argues that “neuroscience and psychoanalysis need to collaborate … I also think neurospsychoanalysis needs to regain its hyphen to reflect a type of relationship, or shall we say a crack, that is more likely to enable light getting in”. Moore then presents a lucid argument for restoration of the hyphen as a symbol of the collaboration which only becomes possible with “retaining the identity of each.”
Three clinical papers are presented in this volume:
Ann Cebon’s paper was originally presented as the 2016 Isla Lonie Memorial Lecture. At the heart of this paper is the writer’s depth of appreciation to all those who have formed her thinking and influenced her clinical understanding and skills over a lifetime of clinical work. We are told at the beginning that the paper will not present a “perfect offering” as a reminder of the “underlying dynamics of our work”. There is a poignant memory of Lonie’s work with a young man where stillness and silence in a joint communion led to a transformation. Cebon then brings a beautifully rendered account of her own work with a young child, Edward, a case supervised by Esther Bick, conveying that the smallest of cracks can allow illumination and then brings her work with an adult patient, demonstrating her deep humanity and clinical understanding before concluding with a current example of “the possible application of the psychoanalytic process to popular trends and social issues.”
Gabby Howse in her paper brings an evocative and reflective voice to the topical issue of Skype therapy in an era of “the emergence of digital possibilities for psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.” The “crack” here could be seen as the alteration to the usual frame predicated on both parties’ physical presence; instead therapist and patient find themselves in the dark cavernous space of the digital unknown. Facing into the challenges of change to the frame and its containing and holding presence, the writer brings a fine clinical understanding and an evenly-hovering attention to her own process and that of her patients’ inner lives and brings a number of clinical vignettes to illustrate both the challenges and triumphs of the work.
Finally, we are fortunate to have Penny Jools’s very rich couple therapy paper: Narcissism and the terror of annihilation in couple therapy, thematically linked to the recently published “Working with Developmental Anxieties in Couple and Family Therapy”, a collaborative work of which she is the senior editor. (see book review section) Jools brings an expert’s eye to “the destructive impact of narcissistic relating on couple relationships.” She deftly outlines the prevalence of narcissism in the culture, bringing topical examples from literature and the arts, then taking us to the paper’s central concern of destructive narcissistic relating in couples with a special focus on violence in couple relationships as viewed through a developmental lens.
Our book review editor, Lis Hanscombe brings two interesting and stimulating reviews: the first a review by Sue Oliver of the recently published “Working with Developmental Anxieties in Couple and Family Psychotherapy: The Family Within,” a compilation of a feast of couple therapy essays edited by Penny Jools, Jenny Berg and Noela Byrne, followed by a review by Alison Clayton of a recent book edited by Ferro and Nocoli: “The new analyst’s guide to the galaxy: questions in contemporary psychoananlysis”, a work presented in conversational style between “Elder” Antonini Ferro and “Student” Nicoli in order to highlight Ferro’s thinking. Both reviewers give vivacious, inviting voice to their in-depth understanding of the works.
A very welcome contribution to this edition is a poem by the Melbourne-based poet, Tricia Dearborn. Dearborn is a widely published and respected poet whose work appears in significant publications and anthologies including Contemporary Australian Poetry (2016).
I would like to appreciatively thank the authors and reviewers who have contributed to this volume and all those who have brought their experienced eye to the editing process.
Judi Blumenfeld Hoadley