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The Rolfer™ and Psychology

Before this afternoon, I could have sworn that psychoanalysis is dead. Freud’s essays charting the vast unscientific realm of his huge creativity remain, and his ideas permeate our culture, but mostly it seems we have wondered off into all kinds of derivative works.

Some study of one of those derivatives, Gestalt therapy,  is almost required if one is interested in the history of Rolfing® structural integration.  Ida Rolf spent a lot of time at Esalen with Fritz Perls, working with him and his students, and a few movie stars along the way.  In those days everyone who had aspirations toward “personal growth” and “human potential” was structurally integrated.

Most of those who became students of Ida Rolf at that time were at first the students of Perls.  From talk by the old folks still around, it sounds like there was a lot of mixed up boundary stuff going on.  Thusly, there is some truth in this following movie clip in terms of the script writer’s funny ideas of boundary issues between structural integration and psychotherapy.  This, from that time from the 1977 movie, “Semi-tough”, with Lotte Lenya playing Ida Rolf.

Mind you, both Burt and Kris in this movie had been structurally integrated with Ida Rolf.

Back to today, though: invited by a speaker to the Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis (PSoP), I went over with the idea of going to a museum of ideas.  As in, Oh my these poor people, the culture has sucked all the good out of Freud and spit it back out as myriads of methods that are short enough to be covered by insurance, and these people are spending all this time and effort on something which is just not practical anymore, if it ever was.  (quoth she, the Rolfer™, haha.)

For starters, Stephen Ellis, the incognito head of the school (no name in his intro of the program, and no name on the website or the programs at the event), introduced the  presenters, saying that they represented work with the populations which Freud called, “a nuisance to psychoanalysis”.

This group included speakers from the school’s clinic, itself a repository of City of Philadelphia contracted trouble, the City of Philadelphia school system, a prison, a drug and alcohol treatment center, and an Early Intervention (age 0-3) case worker.

One could say, a middling to lush amount of modern hopelessness, not just a nuisance.

Bobby Zellworth, a student at PSoP and a social worker in the Philadelphia Public School System, talked of her work at her school.  Yikes, so many homeless, no phones, serious behavior problems which are (attemptedly) addressed by a burdensome Functional Behavior Assessment which is seriously a shortcoming.  At the front lines are the school nurses, the police, and a few psychologists.  Like the other speakers, she could make direct connection with her audience, and we cared about her and what she said.

As the first speaker, she exemplified all of them in that she showed spunk, connectivity, emotional honesty, and problem solving of a high order, and was articulate about it all.

Kate Walsh MSW and a student at PSoP,  spoke of her work with the government Early Intervention program from birth to age 3.  It seems that the parent idea that “Children are our external egos, a representation of our whole selves” kind of gets in the way of parent-child attachment.  When asked in the question period, Kate offered this for a starter intervention:  Expression and Gaze.

I immediately thought of an eye/gravity exercise that I can make more powerful for my clients from this input that she offered.

The last 2 speakers, Mike Chevaux and Janet Castellini spoke of their work respectively in prison populations and in a drug and alcohol treatment center.   It was clear that in the face of big trouble they could use the patient-therapist relationship itself as a tool of treatment.

All in all, there was a lot of hope, probably 50 or 60 invited psychoanalysts at the Sofitel who are intent on changing the world of hopelessness and helplessness that is out there just beyond most of our ken except what we read in the paper.

Here’s the link to the school, and all of those speakers can be reached through the school.
(Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis)

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