Ten Things I Have Learnt as a Sex and Relationship Therapist – by Juliet Grayson

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We spoke to the author of ‘Landscapes of the Heart‘, Juliet Grayson, about what she has learnt in her years as a couples therapist. She shares ten fascinating insights below.

For more information on the book, or to buy your own copy, just follow this link!

Here are ten things that I have learnt as a sex and relationship therapist.  I’m in the very privileged position, as a couples therapist, to get a real insight into the lives of other people.  I probably know some aspects of my clients better than anyone else.  I also get an amazing view of how people think about sex and relationships.  When I see people for a session on their own, there is no point in them lying.  They share how they really think about intimacy, lovemaking and their partner.

1) Men and women really do have different attitudes to sex.  Of course this is a generalisation, but many men have told me that for them sex is largely a recreational activity.  And yet for the majority of women there needs to be an emotional component for sex to be really satisfying.  I am struck over and over again by how differently we think about sex.  One of my male clients said to me, “Having sex is like having a cup of tea with someone.”  Not many of my female clients would agree with this!

2) Relationship challenges will hit every couple at some point.  Even the couples who look like they are very much together and in love will go through tough times.  As David Schnarch said, “Relationships are people-growing machines.”  In other words they offer us the opportunity to develop into emotionally mature adults who can thrive effectively in the world.

3) Being with my clients and seeing their struggles can act as a mirror for me.  Sometimes a client might say “I hate it when my wife tries to tell me what to do.”  On the inside, a little voice says to me, ‘You do that to your husband Juliet!  And he hates it too.’   So being with my clients provides frequent reminders of the importance of prioritising my relationship, and giving both the relationship and my husband, the attention that they deserve.

4)  I’ve had clients who are worried about their low level of sexual desire.  This may not be a problem if both partners have a similar low level of desire.  Then, their main challenge is to accept that their relationship is working really well for them.  They may have to adjust to the fact that they have less sexual contact than their friends.  But if they’re both genuinely happy with that, fantastic!  They can be affectionate, and are lucky to have found another person with a similar level of sexual drive.

5) Most people don’t realise how much their childhood impacts their thoughts feelings and reactions as an adult.  Training as a couple therapist, and as a Pesso Boyden System Psychotherapist (PBSP) has really made me see how many of the problems we experience as adults will have their root in our experiences as children.  For example, the man who felt controlled by his wife realised that his mother had been controlling.  The woman who found herself being compliant with her husband, apparently agreeing with him when in truth she disagreed but daren’t tell him, had been trained to behave in this way by her aggressive father.  Helping people to see the root of their behaviour, and give them a different experience in a PBSP session, completely changes how they react in their adult relationship. Pesso Boyden System Psychotherapy is the most effective method I have found for this.  After their PBSP session, a client will tell me, “Things that I perceived as problematic before, no longer have the same heat.  I can see now that it is okay for him to do that.  In fact it is normal.  I no longer overreact!  Which is such a relief to both of us.”

6) There is another way that childhood experiences will affect some of us.  A lack of good parenting can create a longing for something in the adult, that we should have experienced as a child.  It’s common for people in the romantic phase of a new relationship to imagine that their partner will give them the love, approval, support and/or protection that they should have had as a child.  We may meet our new partner and think, “This is it.  He (or she) really understands what I need, and is willing to give it to me.”  It’s incredibly exciting.  However, the new boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t sustain this.  This is because (according to PBSP) this need has to be met at the right age, the age of the original wounding.  This means that my boyfriend in the ‘here and now’, can never fully fill the hole that was created by my father in the ‘there and then’ of my childhood.  In the blissful stage of a new relationship they are willing to try, and initially it seems to work.  But after a while both parties realise that it isn’t sustainable.  As the needy one demands more, the giver feel drained, and starts to give less.  The needy one becomes even more demanding, and the giver feels they have to withdraw further.  They are now in a vicious circle that can never be satisfied.  The only way I know to heal this is using Pesso Boyden System Psychotherapy, which uses group members to role-play symbolic figures (an Ideal Mother or an Ideal Father) who can say, “If I’d been there when you were six, as your Ideal Father, I would have loved you, accepted you, supported you and/or protected you in just the way that you needed.”  When this message is delivered in the right way in a client session it can be amazingly effective at filling the hole that was left by the lack in childhood.  It works because the message is being sent to the person at the right age (when the client was six-years-old).

7) I always say to people in a new relationship, “Don’t do anything in the first thirty days that you’re not willing to do for the next thirty years.”  Many of us are too generous in the early phase of a relationship, when we want to impress the other person, and are willing to put ourselves out.  We set unrealistic expectations in our partner, only to disappoint them later.

8) Our behaviour is ahead of our values.  Most people have a set of values which they intend to honour, yet few of us manage this.  It might be that I have a value on honesty, but I find myself lying.  It might be that I have a value on generosity, and yet I am mean.  It might be that I have a value on connection, and yet I withdraw.  Over and over again I see people failing to live up to the values they aspire to, not managing to behave in ways that they want to.

9) It’s really important to make the distinction between identity and behaviour.  Who I am, my identity, is a core part of me.  What I do, my behaviour, is what other people see.  Behaviour is at a more superficial level than identity.  In our culture we often confuse the two.  We might say to a little girl who has stolen some chocolate, “You are a naughty girl.”  It would be better to say, “That was a naughty thing you did.”  In the same way, when someone criticises us it is wise to focus on the behaviour that needs changing, rather than taking the comment at the level of identity.  For example, if I’m accused of being lazy (identity), I’ll benefit from thinking about what I need to do differently (behaviour) to avoid the “lazy” label. It is easier to change my behaviour, what I do, than my identity, who I am!

10) Through all the therapy and all the client work that I’ve done, I would say that the most important thing I have learnt is the power of self acceptance.  Until we can really love and accept ourselves, it’s very hard to love and accept someone else.  Along with this, many people will benefit from being a little kinder to themselves.  The Pesso Boyden system has really helped me to do this.

Juliet Grayson is a UKCP registered psychotherapist, and author of Landscapes of the Heart: The working world of a sex and relationship therapist (Published April 2016).  £12.99 www.landscapesoftheheart.co.uk To find a therapist contact  www.TheJulietGraysonNetwork.org

For more information, or to buy the book, please follow the link.

Follow Juliet on Twitter at @CounsellorsCPD

 

Sign up for the Autism Movement Therapy® April 2016 UK workshops

LARA-Bowers_Autism-Movement_978-1-84905-728-8_colourjpg-printFounder of Autism Movement Therapy® Inc. Joanne Lara will be in the UK this April to run AMT® certification workshops that will be open to ALL. With no dance experience required to participate the author of Autism Movement Therapy® Method: Waking up the Brain! will guide attendees through this unique program that outlines the functions of the brain specifically pertinent to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and shows how music and independent movement can help strengthen the body and brain connection. This practical and positive programme will give all comers the techniques needed to use AMT® effectively in a range of environments and will provide all who complete the course with a certificate.

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MOON BALLOON JOURNEYS

Author Joan Drescher, A Journey in the Moon Balloon: When Images Speak Louder than Words, shares highlights from her home in Hingham, Massachussets after a wonderful trip to the 2015 International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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Music therapy and dementia care – it’s now time to win friends and influence people

Shibley Rahman completed his PhD in frontotemporal dementia at Cambridge University, commencing a lifelong interest in the timely diagnosis of dementia. In this article he argues for more high quality research into the possible benefits of music therapy for people living with dementia; as well as making the case for the development of dementia care strategies which include the vital insight of people trying to live well with dementia today, so we can improve the experience of care for the many people in future who will receive a diagnosis of dementia.
You can learn about Shibley’s book,
Living Better with Dementia, here

It won’t have escaped you, hopefully, that the five-year English dementia strategy is up for renewal at any time now. The last one ran from 2009 to 2014.

Probably the usual suspects will get to command the composition of the new one. “Dementia Friends” has been a great initiative which has taught at least a million people so far about some of the ‘basics’ about dementia, but this ‘raising awareness’ is only part of a very big story.

In my book Living Better with Dementia: Good Practice and Innovation for the Future, about to be published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, I argue that it is the people currently trying to live better with dementia who should be the ‘champions’ for the future. I believe strongly they should drive policy, not ‘leading Doctors’ or senior members of big charities.

My reasoning is as follows.

The population at large can be thought of as consisting of many people, represented below as dots. Networks

In a ‘cohesive’ (close) network such as A, members in the network are connected in close proximity. This builds trust and mutual support, discourages opportunistic flow of information, facilitating communication but minimising interpersonal conflicts. A cohesive network might be the hierarchical network of medical professionals.

A ‘sparse’ network (C) is effectively opposite to cohesive networks; but let’s say for the purposes of my example C consists of people with an interest in non-pharmacological interventions in dementia, including unpaid family carers.

In bridging networks, the ‘bridge’ (B) acts between disparate individuals and groups, giving control over the quality and volume of information exchange. I think of politicians such as Debbie Abrahams MP and Tracey Crouch MP, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on dementia at large, as people who can act as the bridges. These people are pivotal for policy formation.

I devoted a whole chapter of my new book to promoting leadership by people aspiring to live better with dementia.

Having all these people involved will improve the thought diversity and relevance of the new strategy for people actually living with dementia

We are currently in the middle Music Therapy Week 2015, dedicated to raising awareness about how music therapy can improve the lives of people with more progressed dementia. It’s no accident I’ve devoted the bulk of one chapter in my book to explain the brain mechanisms behind why music has such a profound effect on people living with dementia.

We, as human beings, all react uniquely to different music – there’s every reason to believe that certain people living with dementia, whether in the community, at home, in residential home, or a hospice, in other words wherever in the “dementia friendly community”, can hugely benefit from the power of music.

According to NHS England;

“Over the next five years and beyond the NHS will increasingly need to dissolve these traditional boundaries. Long term conditions are now a central task of the NHS; caring for these needs requires a partnership with patients over the long term rather than providing single, unconnected ‘episodes’ of care.”

In Rotherham, GPs and community matrons work with advisors who know what voluntary services are available for patients with long term conditions. Apparently, this “social prescribing service” has cut the need for visits to accident and emergency, out-patient appointments and hospital admissions.

Today sees a wide-ranging, open discussion of music therapy and dementia in Portcullis House, in Westminster. Prof Helen Odell-Miller, Professor of Music Therapy, Director of The Music Therapy Research Centre and Head of Therapies at Anglia Ruskin University, presented significant research findings at the meeting.

I feel music is not being given a fair ‘crack of the whip’ in the current policy. The first English strategy,  “Living well with dementia: a national dementia strategy” , was initially launched by the Department of Health, UK in order to improve ‘the quality of services provided to people with dementia . . . [and to] promote a greater understanding of the causes and consequences of dementia’ (Department of Health, 2009, p. 9).

We could have done, I feel, so much more on research into music by now. We could have done much more to increase the number of music therapists in England by now. Maybe some of this is due to ‘parity of esteem’, which has seen mental health play ‘second fiddle’ to physical health.

There are, however, glimmers of hope though, I feel. For example, it was last year reported in the Guardian:

“Overseen by Manchester University, it is part of a 10-week pilot project called Music in Mind, funded by Care UK, which runs 123 residential homes for elderly people. The aim is to find out if classical music can improve communication and interaction and reduce agitation for people in the UK living with dementia – estimated to number just over 800,000 and set to rise rapidly as the population ages.”

Accumulating evidence shows that persons with dementia enjoy music, and their ability to respond to music is potentially preserved even in the late or severe stages of dementia when verbal communication may have ceased.  Musical memory is considered to be partly independent from other memory systems. In Alzheimer’s disease and different types of dementia, musical memory is surprisingly robust, and likewise for brain lesions affecting other kinds of memory.

Given the observed overlap of musical memory regions with areas that are relatively spared in Alzheimer’s disease, recent findings may, actually, explain the surprising preservation of musical memory in this neurodegenerative disease. Jacobsen and colleagues (2015) found a crucial role for the caudal anterior cingulate and the ventral pre-supplementary motor area in the neural encoding of long-known as compared with recently known and unknown.

That’s why I believe we should support the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT), the professional body for music therapists and a source of information, support and involvement for the general public.  The title music therapist can only be used by those registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. So there is regulatory capture, if not corporate capture.

This year’s campaign by the BAMT focuses on the instrumental role music therapy has to play in supporting people with dementia and those who care for them. Indeed, the current Dementia Strategy acknowledges that music therapy, as well as other arts therapies, ‘may have a useful role in enabling a good-quality social environment and the possibility for self- expression where the individuality of the residents is respected’ (Department of Health, 2009, p. 58).

Leading research has suggested that music therapy can significantly improve and support the mood, alertness and engagement of people with dementia, can reduce the use of medication, as well as helping to manage and reduce agitation, isolation, depression and anxiety, overall supporting a better quality of life. But very recently Petrovsky, Cacchione and George (2015) have found that there is “inconclusive evidence as to whether music interventions are effective in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression in older adults with mild dementia due to the poor methodological rigor”. This reinforces my view that service provision will only be markedly improved if we invest in high quality research, as well as the allied health professionals who can offer high quality (and regulated) music therapy as clinical service.

Living Better with DementiaAs I argue in my new book, “Dementia Friends” is great – but we’ve gone way beyond that now. The “Prime Minister Dementia Challenge“, I feel, showed great leadership in prioritising dementia as a social challenge, and the “Prime Minister Challenge on Dementia 2020” follows suit.

Being honest, we haven’t got a good description of what ‘post diagnostic support’ means, and therefore what it precisely looks like, for dementia. But one thing that is very clear to me that we need to invest in the infrastructure, including research and service provision, to implement living better with dementia as a reality in England. But I remain hopeful that my colleagues in the music therapy world will be able to win friends and influence the right people.

Find out more about Shibley’s book, Living Better with Dementia, read reviews or order your copy here.

Thoughts behind ‘The Music of Being’

Levinge_Music-of-Being_978-1-84905-576-5_colourjpg-printIn The Music of Being, Alison Levinge explains the approaches of key child development theorists and explores how they apply to and inform the practice of music therapy. In this article, she discusses the inspiration behind writing this unique book and how she feels Winnicott’s theories resonate with the central aspects of music therapy.

We only have to observe a mother with her baby to realize that we are deeply musical beings. Training as a musician, combined with an understanding of human development, has led me to consider the significance of this medium and in particular, its value as a therapeutic tool.

No matter what our musical preferences may be, whatever our age, where we live or more significantly, in what ways we may find life difficult, music can enable us to connect more deeply to who we really are. And this can happen even when we are yet to be born!

Our early experiences are impressed upon not only our physical being but also upon our cognitive and psychological states of mind. But what is it like to be a baby? How do we let people know what we are feeling? How do we ask for what we need when we do not have words? Above all, what is it that we require in order to help us along the journey of life in a healthy way? Through helping children and adults who have difficulties, I discovered the value of music and its remarkable ability to engage a child or adult in a relationship. I discovered music, in fact, is a universal language.

In the world of words, there are many who have studied early development. Donald Winnicott, a pediatrician and psychoanalyst, is one who dedicated his life to the study of babies with their mothers and it can be said, was an early prime mover in the field. My book evolved through interweaving some of Winnicott’s ideas with my experiences as a therapist, combined with my understanding of a musical relationship. Music can allow us to express ourselves in so many ways that words may not.

 

Alison Levinge, PHD, LGSM(MT), Cert.Ed., is a music therapy practitioner and researcher. She specializes in music therapy with children experiencing early developmental difficulties and issues relating to bereavement. She teaches and lectures internationally and is based in Bristol, UK. Read more on her book The Music of Being or order your copy here.

Call for Comic and Graphic novel submissions

Jessica Kingsley Publishers and Singing Dragon (an imprint of JKP) have recently started developing an exciting new line of comics and graphics novels and we are now open for submissions.

At JKP we are committed to publishing books that make a difference. Our range of subjects includes autism, dementia, social work, art therapies, mental health, counselling, palliative care and practical theology. Have a look on www.jkp.com for our full range of titles.

Singing Dragon publishes authoritative books on all aspects of Chinese medicine, yoga therapy, aromatherapy, massage, Qigong and complementary and alternative health more generally, as well as Oriental martial arts. Find out more on www.singingdragon.com

If you have an idea that you think would work well as a graphic book, or are an artist interested in working with us, here is what we are looking for:

Graphic novel or comic – Long form

We are looking for book proposals that are between 100 and 200 pages, black and white or colour, and explore the topics listed above or another subject that would fit into the JKP/Singing Dragon list. Specifically we are hoping to develop more personal autobiographical stories.

Here are the guidelines for submission:

  1. A one-page written synopsis detailing the plot/outline of the book, as well as short bios of all the creators involved.
  2. Character sketches of the main characters with descriptions.
  3. Solo artist/writers or writer and artist teams should submit 5 to 10 completed pages to allow us to get a sense of the pace, art style and writing.
  4. Solo writers will need to submit 10 to 20 pages of script as well as the one-page synopsis from point 1.

Comic – Short form

We have some shorter comic projects underway and are looking to expand the range of topics covered. These books can run from 20 to 40 pages, black and white or colour, with dimensions of 170x230mm. We are mainly looking for comics that provide ideas and information for both professionals and general readers.

For example, the first in this series, published by Singing Dragon, is a book exploring the latest developments in chronic pain research.

Here are the guidelines for submission:

  1. A one-page written synopsis detailing the narrative style and subject matter to be explored in the book. Also include short bios of all the creators involved.
  2. Solo artist/writers or writer and artist teams should submit 3 to 5 completed pages to allow us to get a sense of the pace, art style and writing.
  3. Solo writers will need to submit 5 to 10 pages of script as well as the one-page synopsis from point 1.

When submitting please provide low-res images and send them, along with everything else, to Mike Medaglia at mike.medaglia@jkp.com

If you have any other ideas that don’t directly relate to the subjects described above but you feel might still fit into the JKP or Singing Dragon list, please feel free to get in touch with ideas and enquiries on the email above.

On the value of writing with traumatised young people – with Marion Baraitser

Baraitser_Reading-and-Exp_978-1-84905-384-6_colourjpg-printMarion Baraitser demonstrates the power of writing with traumatised children and young people. Marion’s book ‘Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Unpack My Heart With Words’ is available now from the JKP website.

On the value of writing with traumatised young people:
When disturbed young people have read aloud together a strong text, talked about it with a practiced facilitator in a roomful of trusted community members, discussing characters and subjects that concern their own lives, and then written about it, it can transform their idea of themselves and of their future lives. They are better able to externalize self-hood so they can exist in the world, feeling that their internal being has connected to the outside world through books, in some profound way, a form of ‘being-in-development’, a process of growing and changing the many selves they can uncover by this process. The facilitator brings energy, optimism, warmth and responsiveness, even inspiration, or at least motivation or affirmation, to each session.
Here is Amina on the value of writing in helping her to heal:
Writing is helping me to put down memories, different perspectives, to try to find the line… Talking doesn’t do this. When I write I am having a relationship with my journal. Writing is like having a conversation with yourself. I tend to be more honest… pick up on things that lie deeper. I love myself, in writing… I am lucky to be here… I am lucky to be alive… You must keep going and finding yourself, at the same time staying true to yourself… even though you cannot forget where you started from.

Boy

How reading great books together can change lives:
The Nigerian writer Ben Okri, who holds childhood memories of civil war in Nigeria, of his schooling in Lagos 400 miles from his family and of how, on reaching England, he lived rough, by his wits, homeless and miserable. He went to London because of Dickens and Shakespeare, but he also loved African writers like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. ‘Literature doesn’t have a country. Shakespeare is an African writer… Dickens’ characters are Nigerians.’ (Okri, 1992) As the young people read aloud in the company of a facilitator and a like-minded group, they become the writer, they are taken out of themselves, and if the writer is worth his salt, that encompasses a whole new set of dimensions that can change the way they regard life and their place in it.

Marion’s book ‘Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Unpack My Heart With Words’ is available now from the JKP website.

 

 

 

The Self-Portrait Dance – extract from Anna Halprin

Learn about the self-portrait dance – An interpretation of oneself through drawings of the individual components of the body. Merging them together allows you to see the image you have of yourself brought about by your subconscious. When combined with dance, the mind and body can connect and begin to raise questions about this image.
For more on the life and works of Anna Halprin, see Gabriele Wittmann’s book ‘Anna Halprin – Dance – Process – Form’  

THE SELF-PORTRAIT DANCE

The perceptual journey through the body, accompanied by Movement Ritual and psychokinetic visualisation, can be followed through images, texts and episodic dance. Visualisations of different areas of the body – the head, spine, ribcage, shoulder girdle, abdomen and pelvis, arms and hands, legs and feet – finally come together in the drawing of a life-size self-portrait in which the separate images fit together in one large whole. Daria Halprin says: ‘Thinking of the body as a family made up of separate yet interrelated members, we know that each part has an impact on the whole and that each part can help us understand the whole. When a family is in conflict, it is important to listen to each member separately as well as listening to how they communicate with one another so that we can really hear and understand.’36 As if in a mirror, the person who did the drawing sees and encounters herself in the image she has created, and embarks on the journey of deciphering the messages concealed in it. She approaches the image not as one who knows, but as one asking questions. Anna Halprin drew a self-portrait and transposed the image into dance when she was coming to terms with her cancer diagnosis, of which she writes:

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‘This process of connecting with our internal imagery involved “dancing” the images that welled up from the unconscious as another way of connecting the mind and the body. In learning this imagistic language, it became clear I was receiving messages from an intelligence within the body, an intelligence deeper and more unpredictable than anything I could understand through rational thought.’ Various pathways open up as one approaches one’s self-portrait. The person who drew it lets the entire image, or aspects of it, speak to them and tries to hear, see and feel its messages (see Figure 18). The selfportrait is asked questions: Where are you from? Where are you going?

Halprin22

Answers come out of the silent dialogue, from the ‘soul’ of the image.38 In creative writing, texts and dialogues emerge between different forms and figures inthe image. They open up the gaze and the senses to the hidden, mysterious, unknown and seemingly alien, and blend together in a life story of the self-portrait. Processes of developing a concluding performance are walked through, following the model of RSVP Cycles (described below). The emotional process of discovery follows the thread of the Five-Part Process on the way to integrating the experiences gained.

For more on the life and works of Anna Halprin, see Gabriele Wittmann’s book ‘Anna Halprin – Dance – Process – Form’