Psychotherapy is many things, but on a fundamental level it is about the integration of split-off parts of ourselves.
This cannot be achieved without the integration of psyche and soma (body), which is the function of the mind. We need the mind of another to grow a mind and this is what happens in the relationship children have with their parents, if all goes well. Emotional and psychological integration cannot happen outside of the context of a secure object relationship and it is this that is the function of psychotherapy.
Far too many ‘modalities’ of psychotherapy operate in ‘silos’, possibly reflecting the medical approach to the body and mind. This makes them limiting and we end up with ‘infighting’ around “my modality is better than yours”, or “this modality is NICE approved whereas that one isn’t”…. All of this in unhelpful to clients and to the profession. Without an integrated approach to helping clients to grow and use their minds to form a relationship with their whole being, little change is likely.
The old analysts, from Freud through Winnicott, understood integration and Winnicott wrote extensively about the ‘Mind Object’: where a mind becomes an external ‘object relationship’ for the patient/client, to compensate for a lack of secure primary object, but then persecutes the individual for having an emotional world (as it cannot process and contain emotion).
In the absence of a ‘good enough’ parent, the child projects his or her mind out of the body and uses it to navigate the world, however, this is a precocious mind that cannot help the client process emotion and attacks the client for their emotions.
The function of a mind is to make sense of the psyche and soma and be an ally to the individual. Integration in psychotherapy involves the client/patient growing a mind; learning to navigate their feelings and making sense of their thoughts, all whilst accepting reality and being in relationship to others. To do this requires and integration of approaches, not least Object Relations (psychoanalysis), Attachment Theory, Neuroscience, Embodiment and Existential Givens, all held within a relational therapeutic context.
Being a potent psychotherapist means therefore being able to adapt our language and thoughts processes to those of the client in order to help them grow their mind and discover how they become integrated. It relies on the ability to move between languages (therapeutic, class, gender, culture, religious/spiritual) as well as being able to move between the client’s experience and our own. This is the true meaning of integration and the difference between integration and eclecticism.
Mark Vahrmeyer is a UKCP-registered integrative psychotherapist working in private practice in Hove and Lewes. He is integrates psychotherapeutic approaches with neuroscience and the body in his work.