Book Review published in the Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy Volume 32 2017 Issue 2: 2017 Jan 12
Landscapes of the heart: the working world of a sex and relationship therapist, edited by Juliet Grayson
Chepstow, Sleeping Mountain Press, 2016, 255 pp., £12.99 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-9930306-2-8
Pages 244-245 | Published online: 12 Jan 2017
Simcha Dov Wolfe (2017) Landscapes of the heart: the working world of a sex and relationship therapist, edited by Juliet Grayson, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 32:2, 244-245, DOI: 10.1080/14681994.2016.1276554
In her new book, Landscapes of the Heart: The Working World of a Sex and Relationship Therapist, Juliet Grayson addresses two fascinating topics. The primary goal of this book is to offer the reader a unique invitation into her client sessions, where she shares her perspectives in psychosexual therapy and her attempts to engage and understand her clients. The second major goal of this work is to expound upon the therapeutic model called “Pesso Boydon System Psychomotor”, which claims to allow for emotional re-education or reprogramming for its clients.
Throughout the book, Grayson displays her unique training as an accredited (CORST) Sex and Relationship psychotherapist and supervisor, along with being one of the pioneers of the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP) in the UK. The author interweaves rich examples from her clinical practice along with a lucid presentation of her therapeutic models.
Grayson divides each chapter of the book into three identical stages. In the first stage, she presents a client with either relationship or sexual issues in the early stages of therapy. In this first stage, the author allows the reader a vivid glimpse into her unique style of psychotherapy. She explores how she attempts to understand what her clients are feeling in the session, as well as beyond the sessions, by stepping “into my client’s world and feel what it would be like to live there.” In the second stage, she presents the same client at a later point in therapy (ranging from 10 days to 10 months) and shows the effect of her interventions on the client, as well as how she manages the later stages of therapy. Finally, in the third stage, the author explains the theoretical models upon which the interventions described in the first two stages were based.
The primary therapeutic model presented is the Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor. The author, one of the few experts on the Pesson Boyden System, presents the model both in the form of individual or couples interventions as well as in a group setting. PBSP is referred to by the author as a “new memory shop”, where the therapist attempts to “repair” a hole in the fabric of the client’s history. The model relies on externalising the issue the client is experiencing by introducing an imaginary “Witness” into the therapeutic session. The therapist then speaks in the voice of the observer in order to externalise the issues facing the client. The clients are subsequently given the opportunity to replace any painful primary figure from their past with a new, hypothetical “Ideal Figure.” They are then encouraged to imagine how their interactions with their Ideal Figure would have been, as opposed to their experiences with their real primary figure. The client then “imagines how life would have unfolded if they had grown up with the good feelings provided by the antidote experience.” PBSP in the group setting relies on other members of the group to act as the Ideal Figures that the client would have needed in their real past.
Among the three stages presented in each chapter (understanding the client, intervening, and clinical explanations), the aspects that I found most compelling were the numerous therapeutic interventions that were often succinct and showed exactly what the client needed at that point. From a clinical perspective, for me, the greatest learning was from these interventions. However, I struggled to connect with the author’s belief that she could “step into their world” and truly understand what the client is feeling and subsequently act on that belief. Grayson expresses an ability to “inhabit their being for a moment, moving a part of myself over, as if I am stepping into their experience for a very short time.” While she explains how this methodology works through concepts of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), the idea that the therapist can simply put themselves into the client’s world is difficult to grasp. The author, in fact, says that in response to others’ questioning how she does this, her answer is that she does not really know.
Regarding the primary theoretical topic of the book, that of PBSP, the author expresses with great enthusiasm the reasons she believes this model works. She also describes at length two touching examples where PBSP was a helpful tool for her clients. For clinicians who read this book, the model offers some unique tools for helping clients stuck in their adult relationships due to unresolved issues from their childhood. However, what is not clear is how the imagining/acting out described in the model creates a strong and lasting change within the client.
Books that attempt to attract the lay person as well as the clinician tend to walk a fine line between being accessible while being intellectually stimulating. This book, with the author’s candour and down-to-earth style of writing, provides an easy-read feel. Grayson uses easy to understand terminology and writes in a fashion that makes the book enjoyable to read. However, the clinician-reader may find that the theories presented and the casual writing style cause a lack of gravitas in the book.
The gift this book offers to the general reader as well as to the experienced clinician is to be welcomed by an experienced and talented therapist who takes us on a journey through the help that she offers to couples and individuals as they navigate their way to emotionally fulfilling and sexually satisfying relationships. This is a fascinating book for the lay reader as it provides a window into the world of the therapist and how they attempt to understand the process that the client is undergoing, both during the therapeutic session and in their lives at large. However, it is important to note that the methodologies described are not appropriate for all therapists or all clients. While the theoretical aspects of the book may not speak to every clinician, I found that being exposed to this particular model and unique ways of treating clients was a wholly enriching experience.