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Existential Dialogues: The therapist in the mirror. Ten live dialogues between Prof Ernesto Spinelli and International Existential Therapists based on case studies illustrating key existential topics.

8 July “Play” with Prof Ernesto Spinelli and Dr Betty Cannon

“Play and an attitude toward life that I call the ‘spirit of play’ lie at the heart of my approach to therapy, which is deeply and specifically grounded in the philosophy of Sartre. As Sartre describes it, play is the ‘least possessive attitude’ — an activity that ‘strips the real of its reality and thereby allows us to take ourselves less seriously. It is deeply and intimately connected with our freedom. My favourite psychoanalyst, D. W. Winnicott, who was also a paediatrician, described the process of psychotherapy itself as ‘two people playing together’ — or, where one of them is unable to play, learning to play together. I agree. I view psychotherapy as a very particular form of play that invites the client (and perhaps also the therapist) to move away from what Sartre calls the ‘spirit of seriousness’ in the direction of the ‘spirit of play’. As I see it, it would be great if the whole field of psychotherapy could become more ‘playful’ and less ‘serious’ than it sometimes appears to be. In the vignette I will be discussing with Ernesto, my client is a very ‘serious’ but nice fellow who has forgotten how to play. As we eventually discovered, he had very good reasons for forgetting, going back to his earliest childhood. His inability to play and my reaction to it led to an impasse in the therapy. It was the same impasse that he experienced with women outside of therapy, which was his reason for coming to therapy in the first place. ” Dr Betty Cannon

Betty CannonBetty Cannon, PhD, is a licensed psychologist who has practised and taught in Boulder, Colorado, for over 40 years. She is Professor Emerita at the Colorado School of Mines, Senior Adjunct Professor at Naropa University, and the founder of the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute, which has trained mental health professionals in Applied Existential Psychotherapy since 1989. AEP is an existential-psychodynamic approach (founded by Betty) that also has roots in Gestalt therapy, humanistic psychology (espeillustratingcially the person-centred therapy of Carl Rogers), and body-oriented psychotherapy. Betty is a member of the editorial boards of three international journals: Existential Analysis, Sartre Studies International, and Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry. She is the author of Sartre and Psychoanalysis and numerous articles and chapters on existential therapy.

Prof Ernesto SpinelliProfessor Ernesto Spinelli was Chair of the Society for Existential Analysis between 1993 and 1999 and is a Life Member of the Society. His writings, lectures and seminars focus on the application of existential phenomenology to the arenas of therapy, supervision, psychology, and executive coaching. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS) as well as an APECS accredited executive coach and coaching supervisor. In 2000, he was the Recipient of BPS Division of Counselling Psychology Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Profession. And in 2019, Ernesto received the BPS Award for Distinguished Contribution to Practice. His most recent book, Practising Existential Therapy: The Relational World 2nd edition (Sage, 2015) has been widely praised as a major contribution to the advancement of existential theory and practice. Living up to the existential dictum that life is absurd, Ernesto is also the author of an on-going series of Private Eye novels.

Venue: Online Zoom

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