Psychotherapist’s narrative of coming together through the holding of rope
Blomqvist Almbring, Josephine Carin
The relational psychotherapist comes into the therapeutic relationship with their professional self and their personal self, and in their practice, the personal and professional selves of the psychotherapist are inextricably interwoven. In the intersubjective space of the therapeutic relationship, the client and therapist are mutually influencing, thus creating many layers of experiencing, both conscious and unconscious. Yet no psychotherapist is perfectly developed. We are all in a lifelong process of personal growth, development and discovery, and this continued professional development is also necessarily a continued process of personal development. This thesis takes this topic for further exploration and analysis. It is an in-depth inquiry into one psychotherapist’s experience of personal and professional transformation and discovery and thus serves as a contemporary case study in this often unexplored territory. I take myself as this case study. I explore and demonstrate how my personal development practice of Shibari or rope bondage has facilitated my professional development and in particular my capacity to hold client distress and deepen my presence and embodied knowledge in my therapeutic work with clients. Grounded on a psychoanalytical and interpretivist philosophical position, I use reflective example/case study material (suitably anonymised), to unearth embodied, intuitive and practice-based knowledge. This knowledge-building process develops a conceptual, personal and practical exploration of Donald Winnicott’s concept of holding. I work from professional clinical insights through which I became aware of limitations in my capacity to hold some clients back to my early history of holding, and more specifically the lack of it, and then explore how I experienced personal and subsequent professional growth through my embodied practice of Shibari/rope bondage. From a psychoanalytical perspective with the unconscious at the core, I explore the inner movement of fragmentation and coming together of the hidden and unsymbolised. Themes that emerge are holding, integration, defences, and embodiment in the development of the self. The resulting work serves as a richly detailed, psychoanalytically-informed case example of psychotherapist personal and professional development. It offers refreshingly unique and candid insights into how personal experience with a practice such as bondage can enhance professional development and embodied knowledge for practice. Through a sustained integration of the idea of holding with both bondage practice and contemporary therapeutic practice, this thesis also offers new conceptual and practical applications of Winnicott’s seminal work on holding.