Therapy has its roots in Reichian body work, process approaches,
psychodynamic therapies and earth-centred spirituality. Initiated by
Nick Totton and Em Edmondson in the late 80s, ERT continues to grow and
develop, especially through Allison Priestman’s contribution.
is an holistic integrative approach focusing on two facts about human
beings: we are embodied and in relationship. To be alive we need to
be a body, to be alive we need to relate to others; our greatest
challenges and our greatest joys follow from this.
human beings, we are integrated body-mindspirit; on the whole, we find
this condition hard to manage. Sometimes the problem is to 'bring
spirit down' into material
expression, to commit ourselves sufficiently to the recalcitrance and
fixity of being in the world, rather than floating off in fantasy.
Sometimes the problem is to 'bring matter up' into spiritual
connection, to hold sufficient inspiration and enlightenment rather
than getting caught in the demands of practical existence. For each of
us, there is a constantly shifting balance; also for each of us, we
have certain preferences, predilections, assumptions which go to make
up our character structure. This expresses itself not only in
our habits of thought and behaviour, but also in our bodily and
What we have just called 'character
structure' can be usefully reframed as 'style of relating'. There is a
consonance between a person's style of relating to the conditions of
existence - to embodiment - and their style of relating to other human
beings. (After all, it is through interactions with other people above
all else that a baby learns what to expect from the universe and how
best to respond to it.) Our
nature seeks to express itself freely, while at the same time
protecting itself in conditions sometimes of great difficulty. This
double task of expression and protection makes us often subject to
contradictory pulls, and offering double messages about what we feel,
want and need. Through a relationship which is challenging but
supportive and non-invasive, it is possible to disentangle our
doubleness and allow our process to unfold.
draws a great deal from other therapies, but brings these ideas and
techniques into a new synthesis with its own unique flavour and values,
described in terms of seven ‘metaskills’: Awareness, Trust,
Contactfulness, Spontaneity, Spaciousness, Relaxation and Wild Mind.
Encouraging a deep letting go into what is, ERT takes a position of
profound trust that what ever is trying to happen in someone's life
needs to happen, and whatever needs to happen is trying to happen.
The fundamental assumption of
Embodied-Relational Therapy is that we all do the best we possibly
can - the best that we know so far. Each individual has come up
with a brilliant solution to the conditions in which they have found
themselves - the optimum style of relating, the optimum balance between
body and spirit. Equally, each person is seeking, consciously or
unconsciously, to change their behavioural style in accordance
with current conditions - which may be very different from the
conditions in which we grew up. Whatever appears in a person's life as
a problem, a symptom, a conflict, can also be understood as an
incomplete attempt to change and grow.
So the core tasks of the therapist are:
To support all aspects of the
client's process - not just the bits we like! This is harder than it
may sound, and is probably the heart of the therapeutic project.
To identify and amplify that
process, especially as it expresses itself through relationship -
through the feelings each person has about the other.
To come back, over and over, to a
centred and open position, holding the space so as to allow the client
free expression within it, and so as to witness every aspect of the
situation including one's own responses.