Volume 16, 1 (2007)


Volume 16, 1 (2007)


The British Gestalt Journal 2007, Volume 16, 1


Editorial - Christine Stevens 

Obituary: Petruska Clarkson - Peter Philippson 

Obituary: Petruska Clarkson - Juliet Denham

The Process of Presence: Energetic Availability and Fluid Responsiveness - Marie-Anne Chidiac and Sally Denham-Vaughan 

The Magic of the Between — An Experiential Account of the 'Between' in Relationship - Andrea Campbell and Jane Stringfellow

Radical Relationships: An Interview with Philip Lichtenberg- Christine Stevens

Depression — A Gestalt Theoretical Perspective - Jan Roubal

Being at the Contact Boundary with the Other: The Challenge of Every Couple - Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb 

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As I sit down rather nervously to write my first editorial, the words 'continuity' and 'change' keep moving in and out of my vision in an alternating rhythm, first one sharpening into focus and then receding and giving way to the other, and back again. Shuffling through my yellow stack of the thirty preceding issues of the BGJ, all fifteen volumes of them, old friends stand out, seminal articles that served me well in my trainee essays, coherent explorations of Gestalt theory, well-presented arguments from differing perspectives, original applications of theory to practice and well-informed Gestalt thinking on the most diverse but fascinating range of topics. It is in these pages that I have learned about the lives and work of the ancestors, the founding mothers and fathers whom I am too young to have met, but whose influence I have seen in my trainers and senior colleagues. These slim, yellow-bound volumes contain some of the best-written and most challenging contributions to Gestalt therapy on an international level since the Journal's inception in 1991, and they are a treasured part of my working library. 

Re-reading Malcolm's first editorial, I hear the concern being expressed then that there should be established a distinctive British voice in the Gestalt community to bring an English-speaking, European perspective to a predominantly North American field. Sixteen years later, although there are no grounds for complacency and Gestalt could hardly claim to be a dominant British modality, the fact is that there is now a well-articulated, written tradition of intellectual enquiry with the beginnings of a research community. Gestalt therapists are working within the NHS, Gestalt trained consultants are working within organisations, and these experiences and dialogues are being discussed within the pages of the BGJ. At a recent conference of directors of institutes, leaders, and trainers in Greece, I was struck by the strength of the European voice in Gestalt, and the emergent energy and excitement for Gestalt therapy, especially in Eastern Europe. Although in that first issue Malcolm wrote that 'occasional contributors from overseas' would be welcome, in fact the BGJ has always had an international voice, and the current issue continues in this important tradition. 

What I am also keen for the BGJ to continue with is its unashamed engagement with intellectual endeavour that was such a distinctive feature of Malcolm's editor-ship. Being on the cutting edge of theory and its application in practice is what has earned the BGJ its place in the Gestalt community around the world. This means that some articles will need to be chewed over to get at the meat rather than being bedtime reading, but there are rich rewards for this in terms of learning and professional development, particularly if some of the chewing is done in study groups with peers. 

And of course, there will be changes, especially as the dynamic process of producing the Journal in an ever-changing field reconfigures around a new editorial team. I conceptualise the whole thing as rather like a huge wheel. At the hub is a small editorial team; Brenda Luckock, Katy Wakelin, David Mann and myself who all live in or around Nottingham and are able to meet face-to-face on a regular basis, joined by Caroline Hutcheon, who as Editorial Assistant has had a central production role in the Journal for many years. As an Editor in the age of the Web, I take for granted the speed and facility of almost instant trans-global electronic communication, but in terms of relational contact, I deeply value the face-to-face, real-time meeting, tangibility and support of this small, multi-skilled group of Assistant Editor colleagues. Around us in a more virtual sense, are the spokes of the wheel; the Associate Editors who put in a great deal of work with individual contributors, especially with new or inexperienced writers, or with contributors for whom English is not their mother-tongue. Holding us all together in tension is the rim, the Editorial Advisors to whom we turn for support and advice and as an interface between the Journal and what is happening in the wider field, as many of them live overseas. As an international academic journal, the articles we publish are peer-reviewed, and for this we draw on a wide range of reviewers, to whom we are continually grateful. This is an anonymous process with neither author nor reviewer knowing each other's identity so that the feedback is made on the merit of the piece rather than the author's reputation or prior relationships. 

There will no doubt be other changes too, as we build on what has gone before. Malcolm was always encouraging of women writers, pointing out how disproportionately they are represented in published work in relation to their predominance as practitioners, and we, too, are keen to be as inclusive as possible in the voices we publish. We are particularly interested to hear from fresh writers, and would welcome submissions from the new generations of Gestalt therapists, and from the international community, especially European voices. Alongside the more traditional style of article for which the BGJ has been renowned, we would like to experiment with new forms of writing genre which not only explore Gestalt theory, but which also in some way embody it. This might, for example, include relational writing which is co-created in dialogue, case material, various forms of reflective practice, multi-voiced discussions, and research that informs clinical practice or that develops theory. We have an experienced and supportive team of editors who are able to advise and encourage new or tentative writers, so we hope some of you will feel inspired to get in touch. 

New technologies are opening up new possibilities for the Journal, one of which is that we have decided to experiment with a change of printers, which we hope will free up resources for other developments. Regular readers may notice some differences in typeface and layout. We will soon be developing the BGJ website to offer enhanced services, the opportunity to subscribe online, and we have some exciting ideas for more interactive projects in the future, so keep logging on and spot the changes! Newly available just as we go to press is the entire BGJ library from 1991 up to 2003 along with the Gestalt Journal, the Gestalt Review and the International Gestalt Journal produced by Joe Wysong on CD, and advertised in this issue. 

Continuity and change is a risky and unpredictable process, and the continuity of the BGJ as many of you know has always depended on its readership subscribing and in recent years on the generosity of the Friends. You can imagine our delight as an editorial team when manuscripts began to turn up, often unsolicited, subscriptions are being renewed and Friends are re-emerging with their essential and much appreciated support. It is perhaps not surprising that this issue has turned out to be all about relationships, considered from different perspectives and in some of the varied styles of writing I have been discussing above. 

We have a substantial article exploring the 'Process of Presence' by Marie-Anne Chidiac and Sally Denham-Vaughan, which builds on Juliet Denham's article on `The Presence of the Trainer' (2006), Vol. 15:1. They ask what we mean by 'presence' and whether it is a quality that can be taught. They argue that presence is the explicit use of authentic self process in moment-to-moment disciplined awareness, which maximises relational being. There is a fascinating correlation between this article and 'The Magic of the Between' by Andrea Campbell and Jane Stringfellow who explore the experience of being relational with great energy and commitment. We are pleased to be able to include this dialogic piece of writing from two trainees and hope that others will be encouraged by their example to take the plunge and experiment with writing in a lively and free way beyond the constraints of course requirements. 

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Philip Lichtenberg about his life and work in London last November just before Malcolm's Festschrift celebration. I have called the interview 'Radical Relation-ships' because I think that is really the leitmotif of his work, which has much to offer contemporary Gestalt in deconstructing the relationship between the personal and the political. I hope those readers who are not yet familiar with Philip's work will want to read and discuss it further. 

Then we have contributions from two European writers. Jan Roubal, a psychiatrist and Gestalt therapist, works in the Czech Republic where, for historical reasons, Gestalt therapists have found it easier to integrate their therapeutic approach with their Health Service role than is typical in Britain. Jan regards depression as a relational issue and discusses how he works with his patients' retroflected energy, exploring what is happening in the here-and-now between patient and therapist — how they are making the depression together. In her article, Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb looks at the challenge of long-term couple relationships using examples from her clinical experience and explores how the therapist can support the recovery of spontaneous creativity and the sense of the couple being alive and contactful with each other again. 

This is the first opportunity since the death of Petruska Clarkson for the BGJ formally to remember her by two appreciations. Petruska, as a member of the first teaching board of the Gestalt Psychotherapy and Teaching Institute, was one of the first publishers of the British Gestalt Journal, and it is fitting to remember her here in her giftedness and complexity for her contribution to the development of the British Gestalt community. In the letters section, we have Malcolm's response to the special Festschrift edition in his honour, as well as Susie Boynton's vivid response to the BGJ Seminar Day, and a point of clarification from Gary Yontef. We are grateful to John Harris for his comprehensive review of Bud Feder's forthcoming book on Gestalt Group Therapy, which looks a very useful and practical guide to working relationally in a group setting. 

Our autumn issue this year is planned as a special focus on Gestalt therapy approaches to working with children and young people; and in the autumn of 2008 we are hoping to focus particularly on Gestalt thinking and practice in relation to social change, ecological issues, and political action. We welcome your feedback, your subscriptions and Friendship, constructive criticism and, more than anything, new writing in whatever form it comes. 

Christine Stevens 

Letters to the Editor:

Response to the Festschrift - Malcolm Parlett

A Response to the BGJ International Seminar Day - Susie Boyton

Hellinger and Gestalt Therapy: A Response to Janet Gunn - Gary Yontef

Book Review: 

Enjoying Groups A review of Gestalt Group Therapy: A Practical Guide by Bud Feder - John Bernard Harris