Syros Summer Workshop

by Effie Layiou-Lignos, Athens
photos by Marie-Ange Widdershoven-Zervaki

Yet another successful Syros Summer Workshop!

The biannual workshop takes place the last weekend of May (or the first of June) in the Cycladic island of Syros, hosted by the Municipality of Hermoupolis , at the historic Town-Hall building. It is organised by the Hellenic Association of Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy under the auspices of the European Federation for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (EFPP).

Starting from the first Workshop in May 1998, EFPP and IPA members from all over Europe have been joining the event in this sunny and picturesque Greek island of the Aegean Sea.

This year there were psychotherapists and psychoanalysts (Child, Adult and Group) from Cyprus, Greece, Israel Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, U.K., gathering together once more in Hermoupolis, (the city of Hermes, the ancient Greek God of commerce) for the 8th Syros Summer Workshop. The particular eye-blinking Aegean sunlight is associated with all the Syros Workshops, except the previous one in June 2010 (our 7th Workshop) when a summer thunderstorm prevented us from swimming and leisurely walking down the town’s small streets. This time the weather didn’t play tricks to us and allowed us a full programme: a quick dive in the sea early in the morning before our 9.00 o’clock start and a full swim in the afternoon, followed by the grilled fish at the sea-side tavernas.

Inside the Town-Hall we had three full working days of high quality scientific exchange in a friendly atmosphere. Creative dialogue reached high points in the small discussion groups, following the exposition of the plenary presentations. Once more colleagues from all over Europe gathered and proved that we share a common language to debate our differences.

Prof. R.D. Hinshelwood, psychoanalyst (Centre of Psychoanalytic Studies, Essex University) opened the works of the Workshop with a theoretically dense presentation ‘Countertransference: For Better or Worse, Reverie or enactment’, in which he revisited ‘countertransference’ as a normal intersubjective process between analyst and analysand, seeing it as reverie (for better) or in its corruption as enactment (for worse). He elaborated on the subjectivity of the analyst, as a tool for treatment and research, but also as the root of wild analysis. He tried to disentangle the good from the bad, demonstrating the dangerous usefulness of the countertransference by using clinical vignettes. He focused on the risk of the analyst’s subjectivity becoming insightless, giving way to enactment. In his words: ‘Whilst we should respect the use of countertransference, we must also accept the violent effect on our open reverie that comes from receiving those subjective experiences arriving like missiles from our desperate and often tortured patients’.

The speaker of the second day was Ricky Emanuel (consultant child and adolescent psychotherapist at the Royal Free Hospital and teacher at the Tavistock Clinic, London). In his paper ‘Psychotherapy with children traumatised in infancy’, he explored the nature and consequences of trauma in infancy by presenting full clinical material. He examined trauma and resilience from different perspectives, using psychoanalytic theory, attachment theory and neuroscience. Through the detailed presentation of the case material and the sequence of vivid drawings of the therapy of an 11-year-old boy, he demonstrated the transference-countertransference movements. Among numerous other issues, his paper raised the question: ‘Can an experience of containment change a child’s attachment status?’

An inspiring clinical paper full of detailed case material from her work at the was presented the third day by Dr. Louise Emanuel (consultant child and adolescent psychotherapist, also Tavistock Clinic, London) about a brief therapeutic intervention model of the Tavistock Clinic called ‘Under 5’s Service’. Under the title Working in the ‘here and now’: theclinician’s use of the Counter-Transference in work with parents, infants and young children” she demonstrated that attending to the counter-transference experience in the ‘here and now’ of the session can facilitate transformative processes in the clinical work with parents, infants and young children. She elaborated on the transference and countertransference phenomena and the transformative moments, the “turning points”, in this brief form of intervention. She highlighted her presentation with two wonderfully worked through clinical cases, in which she illustrated how transformative moments can occur when the therapist is able to use the countertransference experience.

The Workshop came to a close leaving us with fond memories of our discussions, the many courses of ‘mezes’ of the dinner we had at Maritsa’s, the beautiful blue sea, the purple-orange sunset. We haven’t decided on the theme of the 9th Syros Summer Workshop, but we know that it will be in June 2014.


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last modified: 2012-09-03