One of the most pointed to common factors of psychotherapy is emotional change. As human beings we have inherited a high-speed emotional system to help us thrive in life. Working with emotion in psychotherapy may be a quintessential process for human improvement, change, thriving, functioning, interpersonal relating and anything else you might consider important for the work that we do when we try to help others. People seek treatment because they don’t like the way they feel and want to feel differently. As a result, we all must become more comfortable with and knowledgeable about how to work with emotion in order to help others.
And let us underline this issue of others. Although one can make a good argument for emotional functioning being universal, at the same time emotions can also be uniquely experienced by people. Belonging to different genders, ages, and cultures, many individuals have unique relationships with emotion that we might be wise to consider. Diagnoses can also have a particular impact on emotional suffering and how we work with emotions. Furthermore, the methods we use to study or work with emotions can also impact both research on emotional change and treatments that we offer to help clients in psychotherapy.
Optimal emotional functioning is more than being free of depression, anxiety, and worries. Reducing suffering alone does not ensure mental health. Happiness and emotional wellbeing are complex. Psychotherapy integration can advance itself by exploring the forms that emotional health can take and by developing interventions to facilitate optimal emotional functioning, not simply the reduction of symptoms and pathological processes. The theme for the SEPI 2021 conference, Working with Emotion in Psychotherapy: Clients, Diagnoses, Methods will seek to explore optimal human emotional functioning from integrative perspectives while recognizing the importance of addressing both optimal functioning and problematic diagnoses related to psychological functioning in psychotherapy research and practice.
Presentations will cover the following topic areas:
- Exploring optimal emotional well-being from an integrative perspective: SEPI has encouraged the development of various models of psychotherapy that each propose innovative and particular ways to help people facilitate emotional change and improvement. We still can gain from clarifying from various perspectives and what we believe it means to emotionally suffer. Also, from various perspectives we can better articulate what we mean by optimal emotional functioning. We welcome submissions that explore this complex dialectical relationship between emotional suffering and optimal emotional well-being from various perspectives.
- Beyond pleasure and pain: Our world is filled with binary thinking such as good and bad, vulnerability and resilience, unification and diversity, suffering and flourishing, optimism and pessimism, etc. We are beginning to envision optimal functioning as requiring going beyond this binary thinking. We need to be angry or afraid or sad at times and stopping ourselves from feeling these necessary emotions can be problematic We welcome submissions that feature creative (even new methodological) ways to go beyond binary thinking that can limit our conceptualization of well- being and emotional pain.
- Emotional diversity: In understanding what suffering and well-being both mean, the knowledge of diverse ways of addressing different clients suffering from different diagnostically based pain, be it hopelessness, anxiety or traumatic pain, is invaluable. Also, there are various cultures with different attitudes to emotion that is also important to explore and can be invaluable to know about. In order to be effective therapists and researchers and scholars of therapy, we must explore and affirm the cultural diversity of patients and the practitioners they may see. We welcome submissions that highlight cultural factors and feature presenters from different countries and/or cultural backgrounds. We also view family cultures playing a role in emotional wellbeing. We welcome any submissions that address these emotional issues.
- Transforming pain: Much of psychotherapists’ work is to help transform their clients’ suffering into well-being or at the very least some kind of ‘improvement’. This can be sometimes like alchemy but several approaches to well-being suggest that emotional transformation is possible and can occur in less magical ways too. If someone is highly dependent, they may flourish if they learn to be angry and assert themselves, if someone is extremely self-reliant, they can find relief accessing their vulnerable needs for others. We welcome submissions that highlight therapeutic methods that transform suffering by various means and also the research examining the mechanisms of such transformation.
- Emotional change as a common factor in psychotherapy: Last but not least, we welcome submissions that focus on emotional change as a common factor of change. After all, many of us go into therapy because we want to change how we feel. Finding a model of emotional change that can be transtheoretical is also a SEPI goal.
University of Lausanne