Facilitated by Dr. Joke van de Belt and Gabriele Hoppe
at Oaklands House, Baltyboys, Blessington, Co. Wicklow. 13 – 15 May 2015
Reviewed by: Julia Mitchell
Biosynthesis Body Psychotherapy is scientifically recognized by the European Association for Psychotherapy and specialises in helping clients overcome trauma. As we worked in pairs with posture and movement we began to experience how these are direct access routes to our clients’ potential and to what is holding them back from achieving it. Thus the body itself becomes a target for intervention and powerful agent of change. The advantages of working somatically became clear; gesture, facial expression, and posture can be directly and objectively observed and addressed in clinical practice. As we further explored David Boadella’s Structure Exercises (Boadella, 1987) specific to Biosynthesis, we gained insight in how to integrate the body in therapy by shifting emphasis from conversation to mindful exploration; from a sole focus on emotions and thoughts to the inclusion of body sensation, posture, and movement; from discussing new possibilities to experimenting with new actions.
International senior trainers, Dr. Joke Van de Belt and Gabriele Hoppe were both kind, accepting and skilled. They clearly have done substantial work on themselves, as they were not fazed by strong emotion, nor did they restrict where a person needed to explore. They showed a great capacity for attunement yet were clear and strong, managing boundaries and theoretical input, without detracting from the personal experience. This might sound heavy and intense, but their wonderful, sparkling humour balanced and softened the weekend.
Attracta Gill, MIAHIP, and Austin Breslin, MIAHIP, (both Biosynthesis Psychotherapists and International Trainers) were the hosts in this beautiful setting. Their presence was supportive and grounding, facilitating the smooth running of the group, hosting the newcomers, and working seamlessly alongside the others.
The environment of Oaklands House is specifically converted buildings that surround a courtyard alongside a big old country house. It is situated in beautiful countryside, near lakes and forests, allowing for some sightseeing or walking, in recreation time. The workspace is comfortable and appropriately furnished, and no neighbours to worry about noise levels. It is a little way from Dublin, but not so far as one might think. There are some fabulous bed and breakfast places nearby, as well as self- catering houses to rent.
Personally, I found the experience satisfying and profound. It is rare to find a place where I can trust and will be able to work at the level I need. I was not going to blindly allow my vulnerability to be seen without really sensing it was safe. As the weekend progressed, I began to really feel the solidarity of this practice, and of the therapists that were working with it. I saw the absolute presence and flexibility of the therapy as the facilitators worked with the participants, at whatever level was presented at the time.
There was space for clinical supervision from a Biosynthesis lens, which also allowed us to explore how to nourish our embodied relationship with our clients. This helped us develop our own confidence in the value of working through the body by using somatic interventions naturally and effectively within the relationship.
I came away knowing this was the next level of understanding that would merge and expand my previous knowledge. It’s simple in its essence, yet amazingly powerful. It is applicable in all issues that clients present us with, from trauma to abuse, to everyday stress. This is because it works with what is, right here, right now. It provides professional development, as well as personal awareness and growth. I was looking for a gentle but sensitive therapy which allowed the Rogerian fundamentals but was also able to build on theoretical and experiential aspects, to form a deeper and more specialised approach, integrating body mind and spirit. I found this, and more in the Biosynthesis weekend I attended at the Institute for Biosynthesis, in Oaklands House, last year.
Julia Mitchell is a psychotherapist of 24 years in private practice with extensive experience in differing psychotherapy approaches.
Boadella, D. (1987). Lifestreams: An Introduction to Biosynthesis. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.