Workshop Review: The Living Body

Workshop Facilitated by Julianne Appel-Opper, Cork; November, 2008

Reviewed by Sebastiaan van Eynatten

A diverse group of psychotherapist came together to contribute to the living experience of this weekend. Perhaps not so diverse as some of us did have a common link with the U.K. Metanoia training institute one way or another. It did not take away from the fact that the different bodies present had so many unique experiences. From the beginning to the very end this workshop was process orientated, creative and experiential. Gestalt at its very best!

Julianne Appel-Opper has a huge experience with the methodology she presented. Experience gathered from psychosomatic clinic work in Germany, the Esalen institute in California and her wide experience in teaching and supervision. Her background in Gestalt and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy showed as a true integrative style. Perhaps one way to characterise this is a place where the Present Moment (2004) of Daniel Stern and the Creative Licence of Gestalt (Spagnuolo lobb 2003) comes together and I don’t think this is very far fetched.

For me the learning experience was in applying the art of phenomenology typical of an existential approach. The existence as experienced by man as an individual with emphasis on his kinaesthetic experience, his immediacy and his affectivity. Edmund Husserl might turn in his grave! This workshop was about what Des Kennedy (2003) calls perception: the experience of the living body laden with its history and enmeshed by its relationships. It was also about what Kepner (2003) calls the embodied field: our lived through experience. What more can I say: Gestalt at its very best.

Creative licence. Yes. Julianne worked with and contacted the moment-to-moment and present tense process of the living bodies in the group. We moved slowly and whenever an issue of a living body made its presence felt she could not resist doing some dialogical work. My own living body experience manifested as an irritable cough and a sensation of congestion on my chest. What was my body saying? Through a process of mirroring, coughing, spluttering, and dialogue the message was “be-easy”. Simple you will say, but meaningful to me.

The weekend was filled with group process, experiential teaching, live demonstrations and artwork. Julianne style is a very gentle, sensitive and natural way of engaging with the living body process. She verbalized the living bodies unsaid messages with a “wow” or exclamations of “bloody-hell!” Things that had to be said, pain that had to be felt and narrative that hat to be heard through the living body experience were addressed. At the end we all felt changed somehow and we all agreed: “some profound work was done”. We hope to see Julianne back next year.


Kennedy D. (2003) The Phenomenal Field: The Homeground of Gestalt Therapy. British Gestalt Journal, 12(2): 76-87.

Kepner, J. (2003) The Embodied Field. British Gestalt Journal, 12(1):16-14

Spagnuolo Lobb, M. Amendt-Lyons, N. (eds) (2003) Creative License, the art of Gestalt therapy. Vienna, Springer-Verslag.

Stern D.N. (2004) The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and everyday life. London W.W. Norton & Company.