personal reflections on 'psychotherapy today': jungian perspective
Have you been wondering what kind of experience and value our Psychotherapy Today course brings? Find out from one of the reflective papers written by a former student at the end of the course, focusing particularly on the Jungian aspects of the course.
In this paper, I would like to reflect on the significance of the Psychotherapy Today course for me. I learnt a lot on this course and it was an important step for me in deciding which pathway to follow within the world of psychotherapy.
Personally, it was also an opportunity for me to see some growth in my confidence in groups, and it gave me the encouragement I needed to make the next step. This was not only through sparking my interest with wide-ranging and thought-provoking seminars and a well-chosen reading list, but also a reminder of how thoughtful and containing a course run by psychodynamically minded people who care about their subject can be.
The course leaders created an atmosphere that felt welcoming and encouraging of points and questions coming from a range of angles that were used by facilitators to stimulate a discussion. My mentor played an important part for me in terms of offering support, encouragement and enthusiasm for the subject.
When I found this course, I felt a rare moment of things seeming to fall into place all at once, the timing, the content and the purpose were all what I was looking for. It was the first course I had found that brought together Jungian and Analytic theory. I wanted to learn more about the theory of the two approaches, so I could choose which pathway to take for the next step of the psychotherapy training.
I kept a diary through the year, but for the purpose of this essay, I have chosen a few months that stood out to give an overview of my reflections and will focus more on the Jungian perspective.
january: ‘overview and different sides of the brain’
I was surprised at how emotional I felt sitting in the first introductory group, at one point I even felt tearful. Some of this was a feeling of sadness as I missed my therapist and felt a strong connection to her as I sat in the room with therapists who trained, as she did, at the bpf. I started this course three months after my therapist retired, bringing 7 years of therapy to an end.
I had an initial feeling of thinking everyone else looked more experienced and confident and reflected on how much I was projecting onto others when no one had even said a word and how much was coming from inside of me rather than reality. I felt more relaxed when one of the therapists, who turned out to be my group leader, said he too felt anxious and I noticed relief around the room. I then felt more connected to others and wondered if some of my emotion was also linked to the whole group’s sense of anticipation.
I enjoyed the afternoon exercises, especially the ones where we were learning about and using the more instinctual part of the brain. I felt more confident in myself, compared with group exercises in previous courses, where I’ve felt embarrassed, less playful and a ‘sense of lacking’ inside.
I found it easier to embrace these exercises and make contributions, which was perhaps linked with the supportive atmosphere provided by the course. I think it also indicated some growth in my confidence.
There was a quote about ‘if you're unable to be playful, it will be hard to grow’. It reminded me of the importance of using this more instinctual side of the brain and that I would like to find a way to be more ‘playful’ in my future therapy.
I liked the M. Hart (2007) paper ‘Looking at Titian’s ‘The Flaying Marsyas’, because I felt it 'normalised' all the dark feelings we have and how we need an element of fantasy to get through life and how stripped away one can be which can lead to a deep depression where any falseness cannot be tolerated.
The M. Arden (2004) paper about the history of psychoanalysis allowed some criticisms of psychoanalytic theory - which made me think how I can struggle with criticisms of it from friends and take it personally. This paper made me see the strength in encouraging critical views, debate and allowing doubt in. This also made me more inclined towards Jungian thinking.
I felt a relief that the level the course was pitched at felt right for me. This feeling of it suiting me left me feeling happy and I heard how I excited I sounded as I called my mentor after the first day. I was pleased to speak to my mentor and share my thoughts and emotion from the first day. She was understanding and receptive which reinforced my enthusiasm.
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february- ‘models of the mind’
I enjoyed learning about the Jungian model and I related to concepts such as ‘a superior mind is not clear....’. It made me think perhaps I can see an advantage in my unclear mind! I am aware there is a difference between being open and playing with ideas to being unsure and indecisive, but I think I have a tendency towards seeing things from different perspectives. I found the approach hopeful, the way it encouraged the practitioner to be confident not come to a definitive conclusion too prematurely, allowing room for doubt, which gives space for new information to come to light and encourage creativity. I liked the emphasis on experiencing change through the relationship with the therapist rather than intellectualising the theory too much.
I felt some regret that I had said a couple of things in the discussion group, which on reflection, I had not meant. While discussing how powerful the unconscious is, I commented that when I am being indecisive, I feel reassured in thinking there is so much more going on out of my control, that ‘it will all work out'. This is not what I think. What is closer to my thoughts, is that I am humbled by how much more is going on of which I am unaware. I can feel like I have been working hard at changing an ingrained pattern in me then suddenly realise that I am repeating a familiar pattern.
This made me think of a moment in my therapy when I realised the 'work' on yourself is never-ending, like cleaning. It does not end after a few years of therapy. I will probably always have to work at being up front with my negative thoughts and feelings to try and stop them coming out in unhelpful ways.
I think what bothered me was that I felt I had said something I did not mean. I would have liked to think that after my therapy I could make my words come closer to my thoughts and wondered why I had not shared them more accurately.
However, on reflection I think I can feel both of these perspectives, sometimes reassured and sometimes humbled by the unknown role my unconscious is playing in my life.
april- ‘trauma and defences’
In the discussion group, when we were talking about personality disorders, I found myself feeling annoyed without knowing why and when I spoke I was more emotional than I realised. Just before, someone else talked about how angry they felt listening to ‘mistakes’ from the lecture about the anatomy of the brain, which was their specialist knowledge, and there was something similar for me.
I found it hard to keep the balance between not sounding more experienced than I am with a topic (such as personality disorders) and not undermining my experience by not contributing to the discussion. This is where I recognise that there are unconscious processes at work in myself and within the group, feelings of envy, competition, finding our place in the group and they can be hard to put your finger on and feel uncomfortable.
However, the theory encourages you to be open to these moments rather than pushing them away. Talking to my mentor about my irritation helped a lot as she also reminded me these moments of irritation or regret are opportunities to learn more about yourself, as well as normal for everyone and encouraged me to write them down.
I enjoyed the seminars on defences, however, I felt some frustration when I left. Partly the fact that our discussion group made notes of our discussions which felt like a defence itself, as the whole group ended up with paper in front of them. This had not happened before, so it seemed linked to the topic. It was also the timing, as in the proceeding group we had talked about us all not eating and drinking in the group as it was a distraction and a defence against anxiety. It felt inconsistent to then be taking notes. However, I was also perhaps making too serious a point of it, as it is an experiential group.
In the final large group, I felt irritated at other people’s comments that they wished there was more structure in the group. I disagreed, but my irritation was not about our difference of opinion but was, I realised, linked to my frustration of wanting to be further along my path of study.
I think my frustrations were also linked to the subject matter, which stirred things for me about my defences and what I am defending against. The summer break was also playing a part in my frustration, feeling it was going quickly with only four months left and that I was enjoying it.
However, the good thing about all this frustration was it gave me the impetus to make a decision about taking the next step. There were a lot of factors for me to consider and the course coordinator helped me a lot with answering questions and finding responses from others about further training. After weighing things up, I applied for the MSc in Psychodynamics of Human Development. I would have taken a third option of an integrated pathway, if available, but as I had to choose, I realised I am more inclined towards the Jungian approach. I liked the space allowed for doubt and I found it a less dogmatic, more hopeful and creative perspective.
november- ‘borderline and narcissistic states of mind’
I noticed how much more relaxed I was in this month’s groups. After saying something a bit exposing, I was less preoccupied than I would have been earlier in the year. I think the group as a whole was also more relaxed and perhaps because it was near the end, everyone was more open as trust had also built up.
In our discussion group, I spoke quite a lot about my previous experience of working with people with personality disorders. I felt more comfortable about how I portrayed my experience and what I was saying matched more closely to what I was thinking.
In this paper, I have reflected on my thoughts over the year and how they developed about myself, the group and unconscious processes. I was pleased to feel more confident in myself as I have had a sense of feeling invisible in previous groups and regretting that I did not contribute more.
I feel sad about the ending and I will miss my group, the people and the day. I enjoyed getting to know the individuals in my group and felt our different backgrounds, experience and insights, complimented each other. I appreciated our group facilitator; he had a welcoming warmth and a sturdy reassurance. He, along with the whole course, created a spirit of openness to discussion, linking everyday experience to psychodynamic theory, which was not only encouraging but also showed how relatable and helpful psychodynamic thinking is to everyday life.
Psychodynamic thinking made sense of topical news that unfolded through the year that could feel hopeless and depressing, such as certain political movements! In particular, I found the Jungian approach emphasising the value of integrating the darker sides of the human condition, made sense of the senseless.
I found the course structure containing. It felt put together with care and attention by professionals who cared about the future of their field. The combination of the course co-ordinator, who had an attentive eye over every aspect, the discussion facilitators’ skill at speaking to the unspoken and my mentor’s support gave sound scaffolding for learning about the theory.
I found the support of my mentor invaluable as I could express my anxiety that was more embarrassing to announce in the group and she encouraged me to take these moments as opportunities to learn more about myself. This again followed the spirit of the course to enhance your capacity to reflect by making use of these opportunities rather than seeing them as something to get rid of.
I learnt a lot from the breadth of reading without feeling overwhelmed. It helped me achieve what I wanted in deciding to apply for the next stage of the training. Although I chose the Jungian pathway, I look forward to continuing learning from both perspectives as this course showed me they both have so much to offer.
Arden, M. (2004). Some Holistic Thoughts on Consciousness and Psychoanalysis. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 21:119-130
Hart, M. (2007) Visualizing the Mind: Looking at Titian’s ‘The Flaying of Marsyas’. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 23:267-280
The author completed Psychotherapy Today course in 2018. Due to the personal nature of the reflection paper, the author preferred to remain anonymous.