COMPANION

Psychology

As F. M. Alexander maintained that the human organism is a psycho-physical whole, he did not specifically address psychology separate from the use of the self or what generally today is described as mental health issues. However, later (from the 1980s onwards) some teachers of the Technique have argued that teachers should have some knowledge of psychology or psychotherapy in order to better deal with emotional and mental issues arising from teaching.

For individual psychotherapies (and for Alexander criticism of psycho-analysis), see Psychotherapies.

Surveys

  • ‘The Alexander teaching practice’ by Elizabeth Atkinson, Katherina Kohler, Brigitta Mowat, Jane Saunderson, Aubrey Baillie reports on a small scale questionnaire investigating Alexander Technique teachers’ attitude towards counselling and psychotherapy.[1]
  • ‘Situations of wellbeing: Psychological experiences of learning the Alexander Technique’ by Jocelyn Armitage and Lesley Glover,[2] reports on the results of five interviews with Alexander Technique teachers and ten interviews with Alexander Technique pupils. They were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Six themes emerged, and they supported general anecdotal evidence that practising the Technique reduces stress and anxiety and improves sleep and relationships. It also showed that the Technique brought up psychological issues which in some case were difficult to deal with.
  • ‘Important psychosocial changes linked to the practice of the Alexander Technique’ by Maria Vahervuo, Ellen Bierhorst reports on the results of an online survey of the psychosocial changes experienced by teachers of the Technique linked to the practice of the Technique. Of 190 responses received, 75% reported important psychosocial changes.[3]

Psychological impact of touch

  • ‘Some different viewpoints on an Alexander lesson’ by Elizabeth Atkinson considers the power of touch and its implications from a project in which she interviewed 14 psychotherapists about their experiences of using touch.[4]
  • ‘The use of touch in an Alexander Technique context’ by Brigitta Mowat; on the power and meaning of touch, that touch may evoke strong psychological and emotional reactions and that the subject is still not addressed in the Alexander community.[5]

Research on the psychological impact of touch

‘Exploring the psychological processes underlying touch: Lessons from the Alexander Technique’ by T. Jones, L. Glover reports on research explored psychological processes underlying touch through the Alexander Technique. Six individuals who had received AT were interviewed, and 111 completed surveys. Interview data suggested an incompatibility between touch and the spoken word, which was understood through the way touch lacks verbal discourses in our society. The largely simplistic and dichotomous verbal understanding we have (either only very positive or very negative) could help understand some of the societa-level caution surrounding touch. Touch was seen also as a nurturing experience by interviewees, which influenced inter-personal and intra-personal relational processes. Developmental models were used to frame the way touch strengthened the pupil–teacher relationship and the way pupils’ intra-personal psychological change seemed linked to this relational experience.[6]

Psychology – General

  • ‘The Alexander Technique and psychotherapy’ by John Naylor[7] argues on the need for students to be given ‘a much clearer insight into the relationship between psychological and developmental problems, psycho-somatic symptoms and an Alexandrian view of “misuse”, so that they are able to distinguish these phenomena in themselves and in their pupils . . . .’ [8]
  • ‘How do you feel about being an Alexander Teacher?’ by Robin Möckli-Cowper; on the importance of acknowledging emotions as part of the training to be a teacher, and in teaching situations.[9]
  • ‘Boundaries in the Alexander context’ by Brigitta Mowat; on three types of professional boundaries: physiological, psychological, and practical (such as establishing a clear agreement between teacher and pupil re fees, lateness, etc.).[10]
  • ‘The impact of psychotherapy and counselling on the Alexander Technique’ by Brigitta Mowat is a summary of a thesis of the same title. It reflects data collected from twelve Alexander Technique teachers who have undergone a minimum of two years’ training in psychotherapy and/or counselling. She argues that teachers need to learn from certain types of psychotherapy and counselling to gain a deeper understanding of why pupils react as they do in a lesson.[11]
  • ‘F. M. Alexander’s adaptive response’ by David Harrowes considers the Alexander Technique as an adaptative process, which has much in common in with the concepts of ‘flow’ and ‘presence’.[12]

Transference

  • ‘Pain and countertransference’ by Geoff Lamb; on countertransference and dealing with pupils in pain.[13]
  • ‘Good fences make good neighbors’ by John T. Maltsberger; on the professional relationship between a teacher of the Technique and the pupil, in particular on the issue of transference, speaking from his experience as a therapist.[14]
  • ‘Transference – An Alexander perspective’ by Gill Wilkinson explains transference and how it may occur in an Alexander lesson.[15]

Other

  • ‘The process of growth’ by Robin Skynner argues that any system that helps the self to grow can also be used as a way of resisting growth.[16]
  • ‘Movement in context’ by Patrick D. Wall describes fundamental behaviour activities: arousal-alerting, exploration and alerting, and displacement activity (ritual behaviour).[17]
  • ‘Teaching from the heart’ by Sue Pepper explores what is the connection between our bodies and our thoughts and feelings, and between present experience and the story of our past.[18]
  • ‘The road less travelled’ by Jonathan Whitaker ponders some psychological benefits of the Technique, especially reflecting on the Technique as a method for how to reconsider some belief or viewpoint.[19]
  • ‘Pleasure, Meaning, and Neuroplasticity’ by Karen DeWig emphasises the need and importance of focusing on positive experiences and suggests practices for building positive associations.[20]

See also Psychotherapies, Emotion, Fear.

References

[1] ‘The Alexander teaching practice’ by Elizabeth Atkinson, Katherina Kohler, Brigitta Mowat, Jane Saunderson, Aubrey Baillie in STATNews vol. 6, no. 5 edited by Ann James (STAT, September 2001), pp. 12–13.
[2] ‘Situations of wellbeing: Psychological experiences of learning the Alexander Technique’ by Jocelyn Armitage, Lesley Glover in The Alexander Journal no. 24 edited by Paul Marsh and Jamie McDowell (STAT, 2014), pp. 3-11.
[3] ‘Important psychosocial changes linked to the practice of the Alexander Technique’ by Maria Vahervuo, Ellen Bierhorst in The Congress Papers 2018, Advancing Global Perspectives edited by Paul Marsh (STAT Books, 2019), pp. 109–20.
[4] ‘Some different viewpoints on an Alexander lesson’ by Elizabeth Atkinson in The Alexander Journal no. 22 edited by Francesca Greenoak (STAT, 2008), pp. 13–18.
[5] ‘The use of touch in an Alexander Technique context’ by Brigitta Mowat in The Congress Papers 2008, From Generation to Generation Vol. 2 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2009), pp. 175–87.
[6] ‘Exploring the psychological processes underlying touch: Lessons from the Alexander Technique’ by T. Jones, L. Glover in Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, vol. 21, issue 2,  (March/April 2014), pp. 140–53.
[7] ‘The Alexander Technique and Psychotherapy’ by John Naylor in Adam Nott (editor), The Alexander Journal No. 9, 1988, p. 25.
[8] ‘The Alexander Technique and Psychotherapy’ by John Naylor in Adam Nott (editor), The Alexander Journal No. 9, 1988, p. 21-26.
[9]  ‘How do you feel about being an Alexander Teacher?’ by Robin Möckli-Cowper in The Congress Papers 1999, An Ongoing Discovery edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (STATBooks, 2001), pp. 292–98.
[10] ‘Boundaries in the Alexander context’ by Brigitta Mowat in STATNews vol. 6, no. 8 edited by Ann James (STAT, September 2002), pp. 19–21.
[11] ‘The impact of psychotherapy and counselling on the Alexander Technique’ by Brigitta Mowat in The Alexander Journal no. 21 edited by Francsca Greenoak (STAT, 2006), pp. 44-52.
[12] ‘F. M. Alexander’s adaptive response’ by David Harrowes in The Alexander Journal no. 27 edited by Paul Marsh and Jamie McDowell (STAT, 2019), pp. 11–13.
[13] ‘Pain and countertransference’ by Geoff Lamb in STATNews vol. 4, no. 18 edited by Malcolm Williamson (STAT, June 1997), pp. 12–14.
[14] ‘Good fences make good neighbors’ by John T. Maltsberger in AmSAT News issue no. 44 (Spring 1999), pp. 22–26.
[15] ‘Transference – An Alexander perspective’ by Gill Wilkinson in STATNews vol. 6, no. 9 edited by Ann James (STAT, January 2003), pp. 20–21.
[16] ‘The process of growth’ by Robin Skynner in The Alexander Journal no. 3 edited by Edward H. Owen (STAT, 1964), pp. 8–10.
[17] ‘Movement in context’ by Patrick D. Wall in The Congress Papers 1991, A Spirit of Learning Together edited by Jeremy Chance (Direction, 1992), pp. 53–58.
[18] ‘Teaching from the heart’ by Sue Pepper in Connected Perspectives edited by Claire Rennie, Tanya Shoop, Kamal Thapen (HITE, 2015), pp. 39–47.
[19] ‘The road less travelled’ by Jonathan Whitaker in The Alexander Journal no. 28 edited by Paul Marsh and Jamie McDowell (STAT, 2021), pp. 22–24.
[20] 'Pleasure, Meaning, and Neuroplasticity' by Karen DeWig in AmSAT Journal issue no. 19 (Spring 2022), pp. 6–8.