Introducing the Trust's Certificate in Transpersonal Couple and Relationship Counselling: An Interview with Adrian Bickers & Sophia Prevezanou
“Why, if love is so great and powerful, are human relationships so challenging and difficult”
– John Welwood
What is the purpose of the course?
(Adrian) The course exists to support practitioners in gaining awareness, skill and confidence in working therapeutically with people and their relationships.
(Sophia) To inspire practitioners to think more deeply about relationships, to realise the value of working with people in relationships, so that sessions can be more meaningful and rewarding for clients. It also offers a space for participants to reflect on their own relationships, which was a significant outcome for all participants who completed the course earlier this year.
What makes this course unique for you?
(Adrian) The relationship Sophia and I have makes this course unique, I love working with Sophia. We hope participants gain from this, as we model how a relationship develops, strengthens, weakens and recovers. We endeavour to demonstrate that relationship is about support, acceptance and humility. We are committed to this, really care about each other and mirror this well.
(Sophia) I would say the same… We are open with each other and with participants about the development of our relationship. This is something that at the end of the course, the participants said they observed, appreciated and learned from.
How does the training begin?
(Adrian) It’s important for all participants to have a clear sense of their own experience of love and relationship in order to be available to clients when working with specific challenges in a relationship. Module one is mostly about facilitating the exploration of people’s relationship to love; their understanding of what love is, what type of love they most yearn for and what that love would give them. We explore what it really means to ‘love’ someone, how this impacts our ability to be in relationship, our ability to be lovable and in relationship with our own vulnerability. It’s powerful work…
(Sophia) It’s also important for counsellors to be aware of their own biases, their prejudices. I think it’s really useful that we talk about romantic love, our fantasies of love, what love means and what reality brings; and how to reconcile the differences.
Psychosynthesis is a significant part of the introduction. We discuss what it means for a practitioner to hold the psycho-spiritual perspective with two or more people who are in relationship. For example, we encourage an orientation in the practitioner, which enables clients to move towards truly supporting one another to become their truest, most fulfilled selves.
On a practical level, we introduce how to assess clients’ readiness for couple or relationship work and how participants can prepare for the potential difference in dynamics that arise from working therapeutically in a group of three or more individuals. It really differs from one-to-one work. All of this is foundational and necessary before diving deeper into theory and experiential practice and learning.
“Love is wanting the other to be” St Augustin
I see that part of the course explores early relationships and how these can influence or impact adult relationships. Could you say more about that?
(Adrian) My premise is: It is every small being’s inherent right to be seen, to be heard and to feel loved, and to know that their love is received as love. If this isn’t met, there is wounding.
Surely then everyone has such an early wounding?
(Adrian & Sophia) That’s right, everybody does.
(Sophia) In Psychosynthesis, we define this type of wounding as a perceived disconnection from our essential self: who we really are. This self-perception is very much informed by how we are seen, mirrored and loved. We tend to create this template in our childhoods and carry it into our future relationships. In the course, we elaborate on this process and what it can mean in our adult relationships.
So, if for example as a child I felt unheard, I potentially expect not to be heard and create the conditions not to be heard in relationship?
(Sophia) It’s possible, you could be attracted to partners who don’t hear you; and it is likely that you would make such choices completely unconsciously.
(Adrian) Yes, and it’s usually a re-enactment from our relationship history, in the hope that ‘this time it will be different’.
So you’re including this in the teaching so that couple and relationship counsellors can reflect back to their clients what patterns they see and inspire them to create conditions to enable new stories and experiences, better relationships etc.
(Sophia) Yes, and we offer a perspective whereby a person needs to work towards letting go of their expectations of their partner/s to change, in order to meet their needs or so that they feel better. That could happen as a result of accepting the partner(s) as they are, with all the gifts and limitations they bring to the relationship. In my experience, it is counterproductive when people come with the agenda that relationship therapy will ‘change’ their partner.
So all parties can take responsibility?
(Sophia) I often invite clients to say to one another: ‘I cannot change you, I can only change myself’. This can free them up to see their relationship/s differently and, yes, take responsibility.
(Adrian) And we like to consider that responsibility is the ability to respond.
How does this training differ from the ‘Application of Psychosynthesis’ and Relational Dynamics modules on the Trust’s PGdiploma in Psychosynthesis Counselling?
(Sophia) There are similarities and differences. The PGDiploma modules invite reflection on relationships and relational dynamics, they focus on enabling students to be in a group with other students, understand triggers and learn new ways of communicating with each other without enactment. For example, they might become more conscious of their projections. The certificate in Transpersonal Couple and Relationship Counselling includes this and focuses more on intimate relationships, where the stakes are higher, so to speak, in the sense that partners can be more invested in the longevity of a relationship.
(Adrian) As we consider this I am mindful of the importance the course places on exploring the interplay of bonding and differentiation in intimate relationships.
Is there space for participants to bring in questions and challenges they experience in their own relationships with family or romantic partners?
(Sophia) Yes, and there’s space for them to bring relationship challenges their clients are experiencing too. A huge percentage of issues brought by individual clients are about relationships. We found, through feedback from course participants , that the learnings gained on this certificate course do not only equip practitioners to work with people in relationships but also they are transferable to one-to-one client work.
(Adrian) I agree with that totally. One of the significant outcomes that we observed from previous course participants, was how much we all learned by bringing in both personal and professional examples to support the group’s learning.
What qualities are useful for trainees to embody?
(Sophia) This course is a good fit for practitioners who are open and curious about their own process and blind spots, without self-criticism; just open to expanding their view of relationships. It’s less of a fit for people with fixed views about what constitutes a healthy relationship.
(Adrian) It’s a good fit for participants who are open to thinking laterally, open to their curiosity, and creativity… for participants who are willing to explore relating through imagery, myth and story. It can be fulfilling for practitioners who are inspired to facilitate the deepening of communication between people.
What is your favourite aspect of teaching?
(Adrian) I enjoy the experiential work we do in the group; the discussions and learning we gain from clinical experiences and personal examples that are brought forward and shared.
(Sophia) I like utilising the opportunities the present moment brings. In other words, I enjoy using what’s happening in the room to make a teaching point; to highlight the course theory underpinning what is manifesting. This can help participants practise and gain confidence in forming hypotheses about the relational dynamics they observe, in an embodied way.
Why have you chosen to train people to become couple and relationship counsellors as part of your life’s work?
(Adrian) I have great faith in our relationship and likewise hold steadfast in my belief that very few people set out intending and knowingly to cause harm to their relationships. If we consider the John Welwood quote above: yes, relationships can be both wonderful and difficult, therefore adult relationships carry both hope and disappointment.
(Sophia) I also feel that willingness to be disappointed is important. In our culture, we tend to avoid disappointment. Many people remain with partner(s) because it’s too painful to face what isn’t working, or it’s too painful to face the ending of an unfulfilling relationship.
(Adrian) That’s it, hope and disappointment are bedfellows. We can only hold hope, if we are fully able to embrace disappointment. Only then can love flow freely.