Archive for June, 2013

Following my recent guest cartoon on the Therapy Tales blog, I’ve been wondering a bit more about exploring therapy visually rather than exclusively verbally. Something I’m particularly interested in is “otherworldliness”, an experience of not belonging to this world, or of not being connected to the real world, or of otherwise feeling to some degree surreal/ethereal/disconnected. This is often referred to as “disassociation“, though I’m coming to understand a distinction between the two; otherworldliness seems to be more of an existential stance, whereas disassociation is usually a much more focused response. Same basic functionality at different scales I guess.

One particular source of otherworldliness is the experience of parental neglect in childhood. I was thinking about how to express this in a cartoon, and came up with the ten frame strip below. I wanted to do without words but, to be honest, the lack of words created a sense of unbearable silence for me.

The Stolen Child, of course, is a poem by W. B. Yeats, and one very successfully put to music by Loreena McKennitt. My thinking here is that the old folk warning about faeries beguiling away children is actually sound parenting advice. The effects of parental neglect are profound. In my cartoon above, I show a child being left in a room for a day and a night. This is metaphorical. The child’s emotional experience is of a loss of contact, play, and love that lasts beyond its endurance. The abandoned child does not cry for attention because it has given up hope of getting any. Following that abandonment, the child seeks out a new world, and this is where the abduction by the fae comes in. People who fit the descriptions for schizoid and schizotypal character styles have often experienced significant parental neglect.

Loreena McKennitt’s song is beautiful. I recommend re-reading the cartoon as it plays:

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My name is Simon Stafford-Townsend. I am a gestalt psychotherapist in private practice in Bristol and Cardiff. My private practice website is Silver Cat Psychotherapy.


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If you have an interest in alcohol-related issues, and/or the provision of long-term, low-cost therapy, and/or running a charity generally, then this may be an interesting opportunity for you.

I am a Trustee with The Swan Project; a small charity providing long-term, low-cost therapy for people wanting to work with alcohol related issues, primarily addiction. Its founder, Ronnie Aaronson, has written a book about her approach called Addiction: this being human. The charity also offers a general low-cost therapy service.

The Swan Project is small and only a few years old. Consequently, its structure and organisation is still very informal as it makes the transition from the founders’ labour of love to a fully functioning autonomous charity. Our board of Trustees is too small to provide stable leadership at this time, so we need more people.

The Board of Trustees’ collective duty is to ensure that the charity operates legally and in the spirit of its stated aims and objectives. Essentially, we make the strategic decisions, and the charity’s management implements them. We are responsible for ensuring that the charity’s accounts are done properly and reported to the Charity Commission and Companies House within the relevant timescales.

At this point, we need responsible and reliable people who are able to attend four meetings a year and make decisions in line with a set of stated objectives. There is a lot of scope for suggesting ideas for how The Swan Project develops, particularly in the direction of fundraising, which is a need area for us.

The Swan Project has grown a lot recently, and is currently sustaining itself financially, which is an exciting milestone. Our short-term focus is on consolidating this position so we can rely on remaining sustainable.

If you’re interested in finding out more, then please email me using simon@silvercatpsychotherapy.co.uk with any questions or to arrange a time to chat/meet.

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My name is Simon Stafford-Townsend. I am a gestalt psychotherapist in private practice in Bristol and Cardiff. My private practice website is Silver Cat Psychotherapy.

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Yesterday, I contributed a guest post to the Therapy Tales blog. “Time-capsule” is about one of the long-term benefits of therapy that isn’t measured by CORE and the like.

If you don’t already follow it, Therapy Tales is an ingenious exploration of therapy via the medium of cartooning. We are given a view of two sets of legs to set the scene of therapist facing client. This set up gives us the stable ground against which the figure of each strip’s exploration emerges.

When I’m processing a therapy session, I try to draw a simple cartoon depicting the session. This seems like an impossible task. Too much happens in 50 minutes; there’s too much information; there’s rarely a simple, easily defined focus; there is an abundance of nuance and possibilities. And yet, it is always possible to sum up a session with a drawing. How do I explain this? Well the clue is in the name: gestalt therapy. What I draw in my process notes is the gestalt of that session.

Cartooning has the potential to distil a large amount of information into a simple set of images. It is easier to hold onto these images than it is to hold onto the information from which they have emerged. However, once I meditate on those images, think about them, or play around with their arrangement, I recover huge amounts of information and discover new connections between them. I also find out a great deal about how I am relating to this particular person by attending to which events I give greater prominence to, and which events I sideline. The combination of operating non-verbally, and allowing an image to emerge spontaneously, engages my intuition and gives me something honest.

I enjoyed creating a cartoon about therapy. I think I will bring images into my blogging more.

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My name is Simon Stafford-Townsend. I am a gestalt psychotherapist in private practice in Bristol and Cardiff. My private practice website is Silver Cat Psychotherapy.

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