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Personal Development Course Print E-mail
For those who are not interested in the formal training programme there is the possibility of joining a Personal Development Course. These are offered from time to time and are facilitated by Jeff Barlow, by some of the teachers from the training programme or by therapists invited to run specific courses. These groups are an opportunity for participants to engage in experiential and didactic learning processes related to the development of creative relationships, self development and to an understanding of the place of emotions and personal desire in social life. All courses focus on the embodied nature of human experience.


Please see the Workshops and Courses pages for a current list of programmes being offered by the College.


College Newsletter - Summer 2011 Print E-mail

Joanne Marsh "Enrolling in this course was a natural extension of my search for who I am. The breadth and depth of this course allowed me to immerse myself in the theory, something I love to do, while also providing practical hands on experience.  
It covers a vast range of topics that have provided me with a solid grounding in the history of psychology and psychotherapy as well as many related subjects. In particular I loved learning about attachment theory and human development. The study of trauma and how this can impact on every aspect of our lives was another subject that kept me wanting to know more.  

I found the style of study particularly suited me. It involved a combination of self directed learning, followed by classroom discussion and experiential learning. I have not experienced this learning approach before and truly enjoyed debating a topic with my fellow students and teachers.

The course is a serious study program and requires a serious commitment. But like everything that demands the best of us, we receive back many times what we give. Today I am happily married and happy with who I am. I see the best in people now and am able to enjoy them for who they are. All of my relationships have improved and I can now identify those people who are not good for me and establish appropriate boundaries to keep me safe.

Life no longer scares me and I look forward to the next chapter in my life. I will be forever grateful to the college for developing this course and to the teachers for sharing their knowledge, wisdom and humanity with me."

- Joanne, Canberra


Richard Murray "The course has been an extraordinary and enriching journey for me - which has continued my personal journey of self-discovery. The structure, combined with the real debate and interactions between the teachers and students, has made the whole experience the most awesome and enriching experience that I could have ever imagined.
The exposure to the broad range of both psychotherapeutic theories and practical skills, and the opportunities to gain practical experience in counselling are invaluable. Experientially it is also very broad, introducing techniques from a number of different schools of therapy, highlighting their relevance to the work of a psychotherapist.
As part of the course, you need to work on yourself and be in one-on-one therapy. For me, therapy has been life changing. It has helped me to 'drop down' instead of 'holding up' so much in the world and to build from within rather than looking for something outside to fulfill me. As a consequence I feel more 'real' and available to be in relationship than ever before.
I am very grateful to all the excellent teaching and administrative staff of the college who have guided and supported me so warmly and professionally. It has been an experience in its entirety that will stay with me forever”.

- Richard, Canberra

Sounds interesting? Further testimonials from our graduates can be found here.



Gena Fawns - Teacher profileGena Fawns

* What is your history with the college?
Actually, I trained here myself in the 1980’s when I was a social worker! I started my practice in 1989 and joined the Australian Association of Somatic Psychotherapists. I also went on to study couples therapy and psychoanalytic group therapy. I then began teaching at both the Sydney and Melbourne campuses of the college in 2004.

* What subjects do you teach?
I teach therapeutic touch and biodynamic massage skills - and how to integrate touch into an attuned psychotherapy relationship. I also teach body process work, with an emphasis on integrating verbal and relational experience with direct experience in the body.

* What do you most enjoy about teaching with the college?

I enjoy working with students over a three year period and seeing how much they grow and change in that time. It is a privilege to share students’ journeys in the group environment as they practice their skills and share their personal learning. 

* What do you think is unique about the training?
I think the depth at which students are able to learn is quite unique, because we allow space for theory to be related back to personal experience, and skills to be practiced in a supportive environment. Respect for individual autonomy and providing safety in the group allow people to communicate authentically with one another.

* What sorts of changes do you see in students over the three years you teach them?

Many students grow in remarkable ways over the three years. Deep areas of trauma, shame or grief are often shared and worked through, a process which is enriched by the students’ own therapy. I observe in students the emergence of greater self-acceptance, creativity and clarity about their goals in life, as well as vast improvements in their ability to relate to others.

* Why is it important that a psychotherapy training includes the body?

Not everyone’s therapy will necessarily involve touch or direct work with the body, but all of our graduates benefit from understanding the importance of the body in affect regulation and emotional experience. We help students develop an understanding of what it is to be in touch with their own sense of embodiment.

* What would you say to someone considering the training?
I think the course offers an opportunity for life-changing experience and the development of new ways of being in relationship with others. It also equips students with the theory and professional skills to help others on the same journey of growth and healing.



Note from the Director

One of the unique aspects of our training is our focus not only on the role of the body in psychotherapy, but on the role of our own ‘embodied experience’.

‘Embodied experience’ refers to the way in which we inhabit our own body and the impact that has on our daily experience.

Increasingly, research is showing that our own embodied experience can have a profound impact on the embodied experience of another. Where we may previously have thought of others as being physically ‘separate’, mounting evidence suggests our bodies are in fact connected and impacting on each other, all the time (see our book special offer for an in depth look at this by US professor of psychology, Louis Cozolino).

Nowhere is this neurobiological interconnectedness more evident than in the study of mothers and infants. Research shows that mothers transmit feelings and bodily states to their child – through facial expressions, postures, sounds, touch or simply by their energetic states.

When a mother is ‘attuned’ to her infant, her own calm neurobiological state can soothe a distressed infant and regulate it to its own calm. When a mother is excited, the child will experience the same physiological enlivenment and arousal. And when the mother is stressed, the child too will experience an increase in stress hormones, heightened blood pressure and so on. This right brain to right brain communication occurs between humans continuously – whether we are aware of it or not.

Understanding the potential impact of our own embodied experience on the experience of another, can shed new light on our day to day relationships at work, with family, partners or friends. Such understanding is particularly important for the psychotherapist. In the therapy relationship, the embodied experience of the therapist and that of the client, are involved in a complex interplay - providing an additional dimension to the therapy experience. In any given dyad, the client’s physiological state impacts the therapist and in return, the therapist’s state impacts the client.

As therapists we are thus able to use our very way of being to provide positive, or ‘new’ experiences for the client – whether regulating them in distress, providing an experience of groundedness, meeting them in their excitement, or attuning deeply to their sadness.

As Sara Lal, senior lecturer at the University of Technology’s department of medical and molecular biosciences says of research supervised by one of our own teachers, Alan Meara (see article top left) - “We now believe physiological alignment is required for successful therapy”.

Jeff Barlow






College Newsletter - Autumn 2011 Print E-mail

Jo Harris

2011 Graduate - Jo Harris

"The graduation event was a meaningful opportunity to celebrate with my peer group, who have shared such a rich learning journey over the past three years with me.  
The training has been provocative intellectually, with exposure to insightful and cutting edge therapeutic thinking and reading. It has been provocative emotionally, with the opportunity to engage in my own therapy and gain insight into my own ways of being in the world. And it has been provocative relationally, as within the course my fellow students and I explored what relationship means theoretically and also through our relationship with each other.  

We learnt critical skills such as the value of responsiveness and of our attention to ours and others’ affects - and we have brought those skills to how we are in the world - not just as beginning therapists but also as human beings in our lives more broadly.

I work in the corporate sector in organisational development. The course has enabled me to work in a deeper way in my professional life and has also given me a career path that enables a more flexible way of working in the future. This is critical at this point in my life, as I began the journey of parenthood in the third year of the course.

Now I am also volunteering as an intern at the Victorian Aids Council this year and am enjoying the opportunity to apply the learnings from our last three years with the clients there. I also intend to set up my own psychotherapy practice later this year.

The most unique thing about the ACCSP training is the rare combination of cutting edge theoretical learning in areas such as intersubjectivity and self psychology, together with a highly experiential learning environment and the requirement for one's own personal therapy. The training is exceptionally robust and designed to build the potential for becoming a therapist at a variety of different levels.

If you are looking for a learning program that will fundamentally challenge the way that you see the world and exist within it, then this program is it. You will have the potential to become a therapist at the conclusion of the training if you so choose. However, you will also have much deeper self awareness and an entire set of new frameworks from which to think about therapeutic practice."

- Jo, Melbourne


Alan Tinker 2010 Graduate - Alan Tinker

"When I first enrolled for this course I did so under two misapprehensions. The first was that after having done a lot of personal development work, I thought knew what the content would be. The second was that I thought I was doing the course to broaden my knowledge and understanding of others - rather than for any significant impact it might have on my own life.
What I found was a course that not only provided a broad coverage of various psychotherapeutic modalities, but one that was also able to map their separate contributions to, and inclusion in, what we know as contemporary somatic psychotherapy.
Although I have not yet started in private practice, my work places me with people experiencing bereavement and grief, trauma and emotions, on an almost daily basis. I can honestly say that the theories and techniques I learnt on this course have deeply influenced my way of being with the people I see.
The benefits from the course also flow through to personal and family life. With grandchildren ranging from toddler to teenager, the material we covered on attachment theory, early childhood brain development and life span development, provided me with appreciable insights on what might be happening emotionally and psychologically for them.
What I found unique about this course was the structure of the weekend workshops and the depth and quality of relationship that develops between students individually and the student group and teachers.
This is not a course for sitting quietly in a chair writing furiously, with facts pouring forth from an academically arrogant lecturer! The learning structure in the course is more about reading the theory, discussing it in your own small support group and then bringing all of that to the weekend workshop and discussing it again. It is through this type of discussion that the relationship with the group develops and, away from the group, it is the openness of these discussions that can be missed most.
This is a course as much about knowing yourself as it is about knowing and understanding others. For anyone in the areas of social work, mental health or the “helping’ professions, the course offers great benefits. This is a course about relationships that exist between people, how they form, how they play out, how they cause damage and how they are repaired - and as such it is a course that can be used by anyone."

- Alan, Sydney

Sounds interesting? Further testimonials from our graduates can be found here.



Graduate profile: Margie BraunsteinMargie

* When did you graduate from the college?
Our graduation ceremony was in 2006. I began seeing clients in my third year of training. I am now in my seventh year of private practice.

* What led you to study somatic psychotherapy?
My personal development started in 1988 and led to me becoming a senior teacher with a personal development organisation deeply rooted within a somatic framework. I completed a certificate of somatic therapy in 1991, then gave birth to my two children. In 2003, I enrolled in the ACCSP diploma program to complete my studies as a psychotherapist.

* How did you find the three years of training?

Academically rigorous and deeply challenging on a personal level. It was a wonderful continuation of my personal and professional development which prepared me well to commence my psychotherapy practice. 

* What were the key things you took away from the training?
My empathic stance, which I believe is at the core of some deeply attuned states I have been fortunate to experience with some amazing and courageous clients. It has been moving to collaborate in the illumination and transformation of long held patterns for these people. Also, the training strengthened awareness of my own process within the therapeutic encounter; how to work with trauma; the neuroscience of relationships;how to use touch and body focus; being gentle on myself as I practice and learn…

* Since the training, how have you applied what you have learned?

I apply my learning in every session I conduct in my private practice, in my professional counselling work with the Quest for Life Foundation and with the Cancer Council as a member of the Cancer Counselling Professionals. I recently completed a two year contract with a health centre where I was employed 30 hours per week as a counsellor and facilitator while maintaining my private practice two days per week. My ACCSP diploma was a very suitable qualification for gaining this rewarding employment.

* How has the training supported you to work with people with life threatening illness?

They are dealing with a broad range of issues like loss, cancer, grief, depression and trauma. So my skills of empathy, attunement and presence are fundamental to my approach. The neuroscientific perspective is very contemporary and I have continued to develop my knowledge in this area and integrate more neuroscientific information and mindfulness practices into my one-on-one and group work. I am particularly interested in psychoneuroimmunology, as I develop my interest in cancer counselling.

* Why is it important for a therapy or counselling training to be body-inclusive?
It never ceases to amaze me how intelligent our bodies are. The simplest process of leading a client into an awareness of their body sensations can lead to a profound intensification of emotions,followed by the resolution of deeply held tensions and old patterns of holding. I also use touch (when appropriate) with a client, to offer another means to experience relationship with me - at times this leads to deep attunement between us, which can be profoundly healing.

* What are your goals and aspirations for your future work as a psychotherapist?
I am content combining employment as a facilitator/counsellor with my private psychotherapy practice at present and continuing my professional development in areas that interest me. I intend to add hypnotherapy training, so that I can offer another method for clients to experience soothing of the nervous system and release of body/mind tensions.

* What would you say to someone considering the ACCSP training?
Consult your intuition and listen to your heart because your body/mind is a profound source of information, which can offer you richness and honesty about whether or not this is the path for you. On a more cognitive level, I think this training is professional and thorough and will form the foundation for a psychotherapy practice should you choose this career path. The training will probably be challenging both cognitively and emotionally but you will know you are alive!

* Anything else you would like to add?
I feel very grateful to the college director Jeff Barlow, for his dedication and determination to share his passion and intelligence; to all my wise teachers; to my brave peers who engage, as I do, in this adventurous work. And to each unique and beautiful client who inspires and moves me with their trust and vulnerability as they grow and explore the depths of their being.



Note from the Director

The graduation of our students is a deeply fulfilling experience for everyone at the college. It is a privilege to engage with the students over the three years of our program and to witness the extraordinary development that takes place in each of them.

By the time they finish the training, our students graduate not only with an academic Diploma, but with a great deal more besides.

Our wholistic psychotherapy training has been designed specifically to ensure that on graduation, our students have all the ingredients they need, to become a psychotherapist of the highest order..

The first ingredient is an extraordinarily sound academic understanding of the theory and professional literature of contemporary psychotherapy. This provides a solid academic foundation from which our graduates can continue to develop professionally throughout their career. Our dedicated team of teachers – each an expert in their field – brings the breadth and depth of theory to life. Our graduates are able to engage with confidence in clinical discussion with professionals from a wide variety of theoretical orientations.

The second ingredient in developing our graduates is personal development. Students embark on a profound journey of self-enquiry and understanding through participating in the interpersonal process of their training group, through verbal and body-based skills practice and through their individual therapy. This self-development process is critical in developing in our students a robust capacity to remain present with and helpful to clients, through a great diversity of emotional states.

Finally, the third key ingredient is the way in which our training brings both the academic and the personal development together through our unique experiential learning process. Through the continual interweaving of theoretical understanding with our students’ actual experience in the training, our graduates end their training not just with a cerebral ‘knowledge’, but with deeply embodied theoretical understanding, practical skills and emotional capacities – all of which are vital in the development of an empathic and effective and truly professional therapist.

I wish our 2011 graduates all the very best in the future!

Jeff Barlow







College Newsletter - Spring 2011 Print E-mail

Jo Harris

Graduate - Deborah O'Leary

"I have successfully completed the three year somatic psychotherapy diploma course - not only has it opened the door to a new and more fulfilling career as a psychotherapist, but it has also been hugely rewarding on a personal level.  
I was extremely impressed by the teachers and the level of knowledge, skill, wisdom and support that they provided. Although it challenged me in many ways, I really loved that the academic, the experiential, and the group process all combined to bring the theory to life - which enabled me to integrate what I was learning at a very deep level.  

I became a mother for the first time during the second year of the course, and I will be forever grateful for the knowledge I gained about attachment theory, human development and neurobiology as it profoundly and positively influenced the way I am raising my children. The course sparked within me a real passion for this work and has given me a very solid foundation to build upon. I am excited by the prospect of continuing to learn and develop as a somatic psychotherapist and am looking forward to the future."

-  Deborah, Sydney

 Sounds interesting? Further testimonials from our graduates can be found here.



Teacher profile: Dr. Paul Holman,
author of "Hawks, Doves and other Humans"


* What is the book about?
The book explores the idea of constitution, that is, the kind of physical and psychological make up with which we are born. I also try to make the point that the idea of constitution unites the physical and psychological realms and therefore hopefully provides a more unified perspective of human functioning.

* Why did you want to write it?
I had only solved some of my own health problems by realising that I was a particular constitutional type. I am thin and anxious, a type described by Hindu medicine as Vata and in western medicine as ectomorphic. Such a physiological type needs a high protein, low carbohydrate diet and this explained why I had such difficulty following a vegetarian diet.

* What areas does the book explore?

I am particularly fascinated by the almost universal agreement amongst traditional medical systems that there are three constitutional trends in human development: to be thin and anxious, muscular and psychologically robust, or plump and sociable. Evolutionary research supports the idea that these trends are to be found throughout the animal kingdom and that each of these broad biological strategies helps promote survival under differing environmental conditions. In the human context, it seems that we need a suitable balance of these differing types to promote group success. 

* How is this material significant for psychotherapists?
I think it is important for therapists to realise that many of our psychological characteristics and problems are innate to our constitution and are not necessarily the result of upbringing or other environmental influences. This idea is very strongly supported by personality profiling and brain imaging in identical twins. Such concepts somewhat change the emphasis of therapy away from the often futile process of exploring the past, towards the practical management of one's inherent traits and how they interact with the current social reality. For example, anxious ectomorphs are often greatly relieved to know that their sensitivity is a positive evolutionary development and that their so-called neurosis is partially the result of living in our over stimulating competitive environment. I think that the idea of constitution greatly simplifies talking about mind/body relationships.

* What do you hope it will change in the way therapists practice?

Most of all, I hope it will remind therapists to always consider the constitutional element as it has manifested from an early age in their clients. For example, it is important to remember that even minor traumas can make a big impact on sensitive children and that the recollection of childhood misery is often the product of the Vata individual's selective memory, rather than an accurate account of their dysfunctional family!

* What have these findings meant for the way you practice as a psychiatrist?

The idea of constitution is most useful in helping people to reframe their psychological suffering into a broader context. It also helps when individuals see the positive side of their constitutional problems and pitfalls. It is useful to know, for example, that for a highly sensitive person, creativity and resonance with the suffering of others are strengths that help offset the anxiety and low energy that they often experience.

* What do you hope the general public might take from reading your book?
I hope that people might think of themselves less as having psychopathologies and more as individuals with traits that do not always mesh with the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Paul's book can be purchased from The Open Centre Bookshop


Note from the Director

It is with great regret that we announce that our somatic psychotherapy training program will no longer be offered in its present form. The time has come for me to transition to a new stage of my professional life – the details of which will be announced at a later date.

A number of events have come together to make the closing of the current training program necessary. Most notably, the days of psychotherapy training being a ‘cottage industry’ run by specialists in the field, are passing.
Large multinational companies are rapidly taking over the smaller colleges and students are understandably attracted to these more mainstream programs. In this environment, a small boutique training like ours simply cannot compete.
I feel very lucky to have been involved in the training of psychotherapists for so many years. In 1977, I assisted in the first training programs in Germany and Austria. In Australia, I began teaching body-oriented psychotherapy in 1984.

The first version of the ACCSP training program begain in 1997 with just five students - and we have been graduating psychotherapists ever since.
Over the 14 years of operation, some 244 people have trained with us – 99 of whom graduated with the full Diploma of Contemporary Somatic Psychotherapy.
After 33 years of teaching, it is a sad moment to finally announce the closing of this training program which has had such a powerful effect on people both personally and professionally. This is particularly poignant as there are currently no other training programs in somatic psychotherapy, in this country.
So where to from here? We are currently considering ways in which to offer this important work into the future. I am very proud of the standard of training we have offered over the years, and of the graduates who have emerged as effective and transformational therapists and aim to continue to contribute to this work.
In the meantime, I would like to thank you for your support over the years. Although we have to say goodbye to the training program in its present form, I hope to be in touch in time, with some exciting ideas to keep our work alive into the future.
Till we next connect, I send warmest wishes to you all.

Jeff Barlow

New developments for College library

The College has an extensive library of texts and journals relevant to contemporary somatic psychotherapy and these are currently available to College students, graduates and teachers to search and to borrow items online.
We are now in the process of developing the library within a more user friendly and more sophisticated and professional internet interface with automated links to Google books and Amazon for more information about each of the items in the library. The search function is more detailed and borrowing profiles can be set up for each borrower with many more features to enhance the online search experience. Using the library will be an experiential learning opportunity in itself.
We will be testing the system very soon with a small number of current and past students and will keep you posted when you can access the library for your own use. Those who are not students or graduates will also be able to sign up as a library member to enable access and borrowing rights to the full library catalogue for a small membership fee and free borrowing. Stay tuned!!
- Sue Forbes,
College Administrator & Librarian

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Marg"I have an ongoing sense of gratitude about the course because I realize now how well it has prepared me for working as a therapist in private practice" - Marg

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