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Mirror Neurons, Embodied Empathy and the Boundaries of the Self
The art and science of deep therapeutic connection

Friday (eve) 10 and Saturday 11 January 2014

Friday (eve) 10 January 2014
18.30   Registration and drinks reception
19.30   Dr Jean Knox

Embodied empathy and mirror neurons- their impact on the therapist's role
The implications of mirror neuron research may feel like a threat to our therapeutic expertise: the therapist's specialised insights into and interpretation of the patient's unconscious process are being seen by many as less important than the therapist's style of relating to the patient, their verbal, facial and bodily communications and the mirroring processes between them. Openness to our embodied responses means that the therapist needs to experience and relate to unbearable states of mind, such as shame, communicated in this way. I shall discuss some of the ways in which therapists may defend themselves against this kind of experience of embodied empathy, often by a defensive retreat into theoretical constructs and authoritative interpretation.
20.15   Dr Vittorio Gallese

Empathic bodily selves in relation: from mirror neurons to embodied simulation
The discovery of a mirror mechanism for action, emotions and sensations suggests an embodied approach to simulation - Embodied Simulation (ES). ES provides a new empirically-based notion of intersubjectivity, viewed first and foremost as intercorporeity - the main source of knowledge we directly gather about others. By means of ES we do not just "see" an action, an emotion, or a sensation and then understand it through an inference by analogy; we can map others' actions by re-using our own motor representations, as well as others' emotions and sensations by re-using our own viscero-motor and somatosensory representations. ES provides an original and unitary account of basic aspects of intersubjectivity, demonstrating how deeply our making sense of others' living and acting bodies is rooted in the power of re-using our own motor, emotional and somatosensory resources. The notion that a theoretical meta-representational approach to the other is the sole/main key to intersubjectivity will be challenged and a second-person approach to intersubjectivity will be proposed.
21.00   Jon Sletvold

Embodied empathy in the clinical context: Empathy, subjectivity and reflexivity
Traditionally psychotherapy has relied mainly on verbal communication. Here, I will present an approach to psychotherapy that additionally focuses on embodied communication, particularly embodied empathy. This approach integrates three interrelated aspects of embodied experience. The first concerns the experience of our own body and the bodily foundations of the self; embodied subjectivity. The second involves the embodied basis of empathy and intersubjectivity; simulation and imitation of the emotional body states of others. The third aspect concerns reflections over similarities and differences between our own state and that of others; embodied reflexivity (mentalization). The theoretical underpinnings of this approach, aimed at integrating experiences of self, other and interaction, will be briefly outlined. I will also review research supporting the clinical usefulness of focusing on these embodied aspects of the therapeutic dialogue.
21.45   End of evening

Saturday 11 January 2014
09.30   Registration and coffee
10.00   Dr Jean Knox

Embodied empathy in working with borderline patients - The Conversational Model developed by Russell Meares
Embodied empathy can be expressed in the prosody and form of language the therapist uses. Russell Meares has developed the 'Conversational Model' for working with borderline patients. Meares argues that the therapist needs to develop a style of conversation that is called 'analogic relatedness'- a reciprocal shaping or picturing of the immediate central and emotional experience of the other, especially when the patient is in a dissociative state. The therapist represents their shared experience of confusion by a simple but very skilled responsive mirroring of the patient's verbal expressions . The protoconversation that takes place between mother and baby is a model for this approach, in which the therapist uses language that is nonlinear and associative and that reflects a certain kind of mental activity, found in reverie and underpinning symbolic play. This provides the material out of which the individual's own narrative of self is eventually constructed in therapy just as it is in parent-infant interaction. Some illustrative clinical transcripts will be given.
10.45   Coffee
11.15   Dr Vittorio Gallese

The minimal bodily Self: behavioral and neuroscientific evidence
"Self" is a complex, multilayered notion. From a phenomenological perspective three levels of selfhood have been identified. First, there is the implicit awareness that this is 'my' experience. Such pre-reflective level of selfhood is sometimes referred to as the 'basic' or 'minimal' self or as 'ipseity'. Second, there is the more explicit awareness of self as an invariant subject of experience and action. Such reflective level of self-awareness assumes the 'minimal' self. Finally, there is the social or narrative self, which refers to personality, habits, style and other characteristics of an individual. The concept of minimal, pre-reflective, or "core self" is currently under debate. It is not clear which empirical features such a self is presumed to possess and which kind of experience occurs in shaping it. It will be proposed that beside searching for the neural correlates of a pre-defined, explicit and reflective self-knowledge, empirical research should perhaps first investigate which kind of experience allows (and how) an implicit, pre-reflective self-knowledge to emerge. Empirical evidence shows that the multisensory integration leading to the experience of our body as our own, far from being the outcome of a mere visual-proprioceptive perceptual association, is conditioned by the possibility - or not - to perform actions with a given body part. I will present behavioral and neuroscientific evidence showing the crucial role of the motor system in enabling the distinction between our bodily self and the bodily self of others. The bearing of such implicit distinction for psychoanalysis and psychopathology will be discussed.
13.15   Lunch break (Lunch not included)
14.15   Dr Jon Sletvold

Using embodied empathy in your practice: making unconscious relational experience conscious
Via live supervision, this presentation will demonstrate a method for training our attention to embodied empathic experiences and subsequent communication. In this model, the therapist is asked first to explore her embodied subjectivity; then to assume physically the position of her patient and from this position to explore embodied empathy in depth. At the end of the demonstration the therapist is asked to move to a third position for reflecting upon the experiences in the two preceding positions.
15.45   Tea
16.00   Panel Discussion
17.00   End

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  • Whole event: £160
  • Friday evening only: £50
  • Saturday only: £130
  • Whole event: £220
CPD Hours

Certificates of Attendance for 9 hours will be provided at the event

Grange Fitzrovia Hotel
20-28 Bolsover Street

18.30 Registration and drinks
19.30 Start
21.45 End

09.30 Registration and coffee
10:00 Start
13.15 Lunch
17.30 End