Matthew Harwood

Jungian Analysis, Psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems

Pesso Boyden Psychotherapy ….

The Pesso Boyden method of psychotherapy is powerful and effective. It helps you to access the hidden emotional processes and limiting patterns (based on experiences of the past) that continue to influence your present-day emotions, attitudes, expectations and decisions.

Clients who experience a structure frequently report surprise at how quickly and gently the process leads them to the root of the problem. And then, recognising that insight alone isn’t enough, the process moves imperceptibly to the second stage: supplying symbolically, through mild ritual & role-play, an emotionally-charged healing experience which remedies the deficits of the past. This enables you to re-frame the problem or issue, expand your awareness and take one or more steps further towards developing your full potential.

This is what Albert Pesso describes as ‘the endless act of becoming’.

Groups & Individual One-to-One Sessions ….

Pesso Boyden psychotherapy is primarily designed to be practised within the context of a group setting. However, with imagination and ingenuity, it may also be integrated into conventional ‘one-to-one’ psychotherapy with effective results. One observer has described it as ‘speed dialling the unconscious’.

Five Distinct Characteristics ….

(1) Micro-Tracking – This is a technique whereby the therapist tracks the minute physiological reactions of the face and body in order to discern the underlying feelings and then reflects back those feelings to the ‘client’ using the device of an imaginary ‘witness’. This is what gets the ‘client’ into the nub of the problem so quickly.

(2) Reflecting Back ‘Voices’ – Another technique which is deployed is to reflect back to the ‘client’ their habitual negative belief patterns or scripts – these are called ‘voices’ in the PB terminology. Again the device of an imaginary ‘witness’ is brought into play in order to amplify the experience and heighten the ‘client’s’ conscious awareness.

(3) Mild Role-Play – This is where members of the group are invited to role-play ‘ideal figures’ to supply emotional correctives to what didn’t happen, or otherwise went wrong, in the past. These are often ‘ideal mothers’ and/or ‘ideal fathers’ – but you can also have ‘ideal siblings’, ‘ideal teachers’, ‘ideal friends’ etc.
This part of the procedure makes the session look a bit like psychodrama – but there are significant differences. The main difference is that the role-players do not have to improvise as in psychodrama – they simply hold a pose and speak the lines which they are given by the participant or the therapist – lines which emerge spontaneously through the process.

No acting ability is required!

(4) ‘Holes-in-Roles’ – This is the name given to work which is done with members higher up the family tree in order to undo ‘burdens’ carried by the ‘client’ in respect of things that went wrong in previous generations that still impact upon the ‘client’ now.

It’s not quite the same as ‘family constellations’ therapy – but there are similarities. The fascinating insight is that, once these burdens have been undone, the ‘client’s’ stuckness is often freed up.

(5) Following the Client – The Pesso Boyden method is precise, systematic and safe, and respectfully follows the client’s own unfolding process at all times. The natural self-healing tendency of the psyche is spontaneously invoked. Nothing is done without the consent of the client. And it goes without saying that strict rules of confidentiality are agreed at the beginning of the workshop and scrupulously observed.

‘For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.  We can make the best of the worst of it.

I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.’   (Benjamin Button)

Albert Pesso

Albert Pesso & Diane Boyden ….

Pesso Boyden therapy was pioneered about 40 years ago in the USA by the late Albert Pesso and his wife Diane Boyden.

It draws on all the latest insights from neuroscience and attachment theory. In particular it activates the limbic system providing a powerful experience of healing reaching deeply into the hinterland where psyche and body come together. For further information see www.pbsp.com.

Each Session is Known as a ‘Structure’ ….

When Pesso Boyden is done in a group context each ‘stucture’ typically lasts somewhere between 50–75 minutes. It is led by the therapist who sits somewhere in front of the ‘client’. The other members of the group sit in a circle so that they can spectate and offer themselves to be available for role-play if required – and if they are willing.

A ‘structure’ starts in one of two ways. Either:-

  • The ‘client’ brings a particular issue or problem which they wish to work on and starts by sharing that with the therapist, or
  • The ‘client’ has no idea what they want to work on and waits to see whatever it is that the psyche wishes to bring up.

In the latter case, the ‘client’ is asked to do no more than to report to the therapist whatever is in the forefront of their mind in the present moment. Aided by the therapist’s careful micro-tracking (see above) the dialogue naturally & quickly leads into the deeper work.

Compatability With The Jungian Approach …. 

As a Jungian Analyst I have found that the method enriches my work with my one-to-one clients and is entirely compatible with the fundamental concepts of Jungian psychology.

Finally I would like to quote from Prof Bessel van der Kolk, an international authority on working with trauma, who has written:-

‘Over the past 40 years, Al Pesso and Diane Boyden-Pesso have perfected an extraordinarily effective technique…. providing people with experiences that were missing during their growth and development. The artistry of a Pesso Boyden ‘structure’ can be a unique and profoundly life-altering experience.’