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Psychotherapy and the Emotion Revolution

Living the Symposium Experience

Rich SimonBy Rich Simon The now 37-year-old Networker Symposium was born at a point in our field’s history when the ideal of the detached, eminently rational therapist helping emotionally overwrought clients tame their id-driven passions still held sway. Nevertheless, early on, the Symposium followed a different course, epitomized in the over-the-top song and dance opening performance that has become its signature. Although we would have been hard-pressed to explain why, early on we apparently understood that talk is not enough; it is experience that sparks change, and what better way to embrace emotion than in the company of a few thousand of your most like-minded, favorite colleagues?

This year’s Symposium—Engaging the Emotional Brain—brings into focus the emerging new synergies among neuroscience, artistic expression, mindfulness practice, and somatic therapy that are reshaping the face of our field. Among the 175 workshops surveying the latest developments in our profession, three presenters in particular stand out as indications of how far the therapy field has shifted from a Cartesian focus on words and reason, to a more embodied emphasis on experience and emotional engagement.

In her keynote presentation, “The Art of Listening,” Anna Deveare Smith, a theater legend renowned for her documentary theater projects in which she embodies dozens of wide-ranging roles in a single performance, will demonstrate her masterful ability to grasp not only a client’s words, but also the lived emotional experiences behind them.

In his keynote, “The Frontiers of Trauma Treatment,” Bessel van der Kolk, whose work to topple the monopoly of talk therapy continues to upset the status quo, will explore the latest advances in using somatic practices to help trauma survivors reconnect with their bodies. A pioneer of the kind of mind-body work that was dismissed by the academic community 30 years ago, Bessel will also present a workshop called “When Talk Is Not Enough,” demonstrating how clinicians can expand their expressive range and make themselves heard in new ways through body language and movement.

Barbara’s Fredrickson’s keynote talk, “What If Everything You Know About Love Is Wrong?,” focuses on the embodied nature of what she calls our “supreme emotion”—love. Barbara’s trailblazing research has deepened our understanding of how positive emotion can help clients bounce back from hard times. In her talk, she’ll draw on her own research into the moment-by-moment experience of love to show how therapists can make use of our new perspective on the micro-moments of love to enhance clients’ ability to feel tenderness, warmth, and compassion in their lives.

To get a bit of the flavor of what life feels like at the Symposium, just click here. Though I urge you not just to read about the Symposium or sample it long distance, but live it by joining us this year.

Just click here to register for this year’s Symposium experience, March 20-23 in Washington, DC. And please do it soon—Advanced Savings end midnight, Monday, February 24th, and workshops are filling up fast.

I look forward to sharing the beginning of spring with you this year at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

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