Couple Therapy: Dynamic Approaches for Working with Anger and Aggression A one-day workshop with Susanna Abse Dublin, 8 June 2019 (Saturday) 10:00am - 4:00pm
As couple therapists, we recognise that aggression, whether in its expressed or repressed form; is often at the heart of the difficulties that many couples bring to therapy. In some cases, the repression of anger and rage is the primary source of difficulties, while in other cases anger and rage seem to be the only ways in which intimate partners are being able to show and share feelings. At this practical and interactive workshop, which would be especially relevant for psychotherapists, psychologists and couple counsellors, Susanna Abse (former CEO of Tavistock Relationships), focusses on the key skills and mentalization-based therapy (MBT) techniques that can enable couple therapists to work effectively with aggression. She considers aggression in couples from a psychoanalytic viewpoint and helps us: Not be daunted by the levels of anger and abuse that some couples bring to the consulting room Learn how to contain and work with escalated levels of conflict between couples Understand how a comprehension of shared unconscious anxieties can help us orientate our interventions Explore unconscious barriers to the expression of ordinary aggression Understand how and why projective processes are employed to disavow anger and avoid conflict Explore the practitioner’s experiences of, and anxieties about working with aggression Find ways to support couples to manage their feelings better Understand the triggers that can lead to angry explosions of feelings Consider anger as the drive for autonomy and evaluate unconscious phantasies about aggression Explore and understand why and when verbal aggression may tip into physical violence Susanna will not only present material based on published evidence; but also, use group discussion and clinical case studies as part of the workshop. Participants are welcome to bring vignettes of clinical material that can be shared and discussed within the normal boundaries of confidentiality.
About the speaker Susanna Abse is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, executive coach and organisational consultant. She has worked in private practice with couples, parents and individuals since 1991. She was CEO of the charity Tavistock Relationships from 2006 until 2016 where she co-developed a mentalisation based therapy for separated parents. She is a member of the British Psychoanalytic Council and serves on its Executive Board. Alongside her therapeutic practice, she specialises in conflict resolution; whether that be between separated couples or within organisations where teams and managers have disagreements and unresolved differences which interfere with productive relations. She has published widely on couple therapy, parenting, and family policy and how these areas need to be at the heart of progressive welfare provision, a subject on which she lectures and teaches. Three of her papers on work with borderline couples and managing anger in the consulting room with parents post separation are relevant to this seminar: Hertzmann, L. Abse, S. et al. (2017) Mentalization-Based Therapy for Parental Conflict - Parenting Together; An Intervention for Parents in Entrenched Post-Separation Disputes. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Vol 32, Iss. 2 Abse, S (2013) Further thoughts on working with borderline couples Couple and Family Psychoanalysis 3 (2) 178-187 Abse, S. (2006). "When a problem shared is a problem. Whose illness is it anyway? Questions of technique when working with a borderline couple." Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Couple Work (2). Susanna is a Senior Fellow of The Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology and a Fellow of the Centre for Social Policy at Dartington. She is also a Leadership Fellow at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, as well as a Member of the Editorial Board of Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, and Series Co-Editor of “The Library of Couple and Family Psychoanalysis” for Karnac Books. She is currently a member of the policy commission, “Closing the Mental Health Care Treatment Gap” for the University of Birmingham, examining the wider social determinants of mental illness. Workshop schedule 10:00AM: Session 1: Aggression and Healthy Relating In this first session we explore: Theories about aggression and human nature Anger and the drive for autonomy Gender and unconscious phantasies about aggression Brief overview of psychoanalytic concepts of couple relating 11:30AM: Coffee Break 11:45 noon: Session 2: Problems with Aggression - Clinical Implications Competition and Power Struggles Paranoid States of Mind Projective Defences The threat of physical violence The therapist’s anxieties and the counter-transference experience 1:00PM: Lunch (a light lunch is provided as part of the workshop) 2:00PM: Session 3: Managing Anger in the Consulting Room (using clinical vignettes) Practical techniques derived from MBT to help contain anger between couples in the consulting room. Developing a containing stance Skills practice 3:15PM: Session 4: Group reflection In the concluding session of the day, Susanna will invite participants to reflect on the learning, and bring case material for discussion. 4:00PM: Close

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