What is Core Process Psychotherapy and what does it mean to me?

I wrote this article for www.psychotherapy.co.za in January 2011.

I was drawn to Core Process Psychotherapy as it rests on a contemplative foundation.? While the training is long and rigorous, what is being cultivated is a sense of rest and being in the therapist.? From this state of presence/being knowing naturally arises in the mutual field created between client and therapist.

The Karuna Institute in Devon, England was founded 25 years ago by Maura and Franklyn Sills.? They were exploring whether a one person meditation practice could become a two person enquiry.? Drawing on Western psychological theory and Buddhism, Core Process offers a profound synthesis of these.? Core Process falls under the humanistic category of psychotherapies in the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy and has played a leading role in this council over the years.

In some ways one could argue that Core Process is simply a different frame for the same territory that other psychotherapeutic modalities cover ? and to some extent I would say this is true.? There is also a sense of Core Process bringing something very new to the therapeutic field.? The spiritual ground, if you like, is part of the very fabric of the work offered, though it is not something that will necessarily ever be named in the therapy.

As I begin to read more of the material coming from neuroscience, I am struck by how its insights resonate profoundly with the practice of Core Process Psychotherapy.? The training emphasizes, ad infinitum, the need for the practitioner to have support and to ensure their own on-going well-being.? This takes quite some learning I discovered!? This is not an end in itself ? though what a good one ? but is rather a means of being rested and quiet enough in oneself to be able to receive the client as fully as possible.? So too the ongoing enquiry with the client would be, at least in part, to strengthen those aspects of the person?s life that encourage ease and joy.? (Neuroscience supports how easily we are drawn to what is difficult ? it?s part of our evolutionary survival instinct ? and we need support and practice to notice and stay with what is rich and good in our lives.)

This is one of the delights and great values of Core Process Psychotherapy.? It holds a deep confidence in the client (the Core part of Core Process Psychotherapy refers to the person?s inherent health and wisdom that is always present) and the therapist is trained to resonate with the joy of the client.? So if a ?helpful? or joyful experience is remembered or arises in the course of the therapeutic hour ? a positive recollection, a ?good moment? in the midst of a difficult week ? the therapist would encourage the client to stay with this so as to more deeply embody the healing affect of this experience.? This is a beautiful and a rich skill which has such healing potential.

Core Process? approach to dealing with trauma is gentle and often quite slow.? One is cautious not to rush in to difficult material before the client is resourced enough to do this.? The person was initially traumatized as there was not enough support for a difficult experience in their lives and they became overwhelmed.? One wants to be sure there is enough capacity for the client to draw on support when this material begins to arise in therapy.? Small ?pieces? of trauma are worked with at a time rather than trying to work too quickly with deeply held difficulties.? The therapist might typically use the phrase:? Shall we slow this down a bit?? This in itself, in my experience, can be extremely helpful, as in the West there is often a sense of having to move fast and sort of ?get on?.

In all this there is a deep respect for the body of the therapist and the client.? This makes for such interesting and fresh work.? The therapist has been trained to be attuned to their own body responses and use these as a source of information.? On occasion this direct somatic experience may be shared with the client.? Similarly clients may be slowly encouraged to widen their repertoire of access, and so would be gently invited, over time, to include in their awareness their own body response and sensations.? So the therapist might ask:? As you tell me this, is there anything you are aware of in your body?

Great care is taken around boundaries ? the time boundary, not having dual relationships (not having a relationship with the client outside of the therapeutic space) and, as I have already mentioned, support.? So therapists would meet with peers and have regular supervision, usually with a Core Process Psychotherapist.? In all of these there would be great respect accorded to the client, and their identity would never be disclosed.

Practicing Core Process Psychotherapy, while it is highly demanding at one level, is also steadying and resourcing at another. One rests in the unknown to a large degree, asking often what?s happening now as a way of enquiring, with the client, into the present moment. There is a real sense of resting in a wider supportive field and that one?s not on one?s own.? What a relief this is!

Further reading:


Being and Becoming: Psychodynamics, Buddhism, and the Origins of Selfhood. Franklyn Sills