The Institute of Somatic Psychotherapy (IOSP) aims to bring a new approach to Somatic Psychotherapy training to Australia. We provide add-on training at a post-graduate level, and professional development for current mental health practitioners looking to incorporate the relational somatic aspects of psychotherapy into their practice. With our unique Somatic Psychotherapy Training Program, we aim to train the next generation of Somatic Psychotherapists.
The “Institute of Somatic Psychotherapy” (IOSP) was established in 2020 by Veronik Verkest and Ernst Meyer, two Sydney-based somatic psychotherapists. IOSP training considers the following as differentiating factors from current offerings:
- Utilising significant aspects of the “European View” of Body (Somatic) Psychotherapy. The “European Association for Body Psychotherapy” (EABP) supports the view that psychotherapy is a profession in its own right; i.e. that their practitioners “are” psychotherapists. This contrasts with some European countries and a more USA (American) view whereby only academically trained medical or mental health specialists are able to “practice” psychotherapy.
- Emphasising the therapeutic relationship between the practitioner and client/patient, which is at the heart of all psychotherapies. Somatic Psychotherapy is therefore seen, and practiced, primarily as a relational process. This is very different to an “expert” somatic practitioner “doing” body-related exercises with the client/patient.
- Establishing a comprehensive experiential training program in somatic psychotherapy that can be delivered on-line, because of the lockdown and social distancing limitations enforced on us because of COVID-19.
The IOSP launched in 2021 with an online training program, suitable for fully trained psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, social workers or psychotherapists looking to shift clients at a deeply felt and embodied level.
Find out more about the Full Somatic Psychotherapy Training Program 2022.
Ernst is a Sydney-based somatic psychotherapist in private practice. He works with survivors of abuse and neglect, and in recent years has specialised in seeing first responders (former police and ambulance officers) who carry a diagnosis of “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD).
He is a clinical member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA), a full member of the European Association for Body Psychotherapy (EABP), and an international council member of the International Association for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology (IASPA).
Outside of the therapy room he is interested in philosophy, politics, and history.
Veronik practices as a contemporary somatic psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney where she welcomes individuals to share their embodied experience irrespective of their journey, sexuality and cultural background.
In her sessions she brings in her training in self-psychology/inter-subjectivity, neurobiology, attachment & trauma theory, infant research, meditation to attune and attend to her clients’ deeply felt or buried unresolved trauma which is frequently held in the body.
Veronik is a Clinical Member of PACFA with a Diploma of Contemporary Somatic Psychotherapy, Master of Counselling & Applied Psychotherapy, an MBA, BSc (HON I Biochemistry) and extensive experience in the corporate world and life. She is also trained as a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher and an AcuEnergetics TM practitioner who combines the traditional Chinese Meridian System and Chakra System in a relational embodied manner to shift subtle energies. Find out more about Veronik on her website: www.aboutheart.com.au.
The IOSP Story
IOSP is the brainchild of Ernst Meyer and Veronik Verkest who met in 2009 in Sydney whilst completing a three-year training course in contemporary Somatic Psychotherapy with Jeff Barlow at the now defunct Australian College of Contemporary Somatic Psychotherapy. Not only was this the start of a transformational journey for both of them, it was also the beginning of an ongoing personal friendship and professional partnership.
Veronik, originally from Belgium, has a background in science and has previously worked in the corporate space. Ernst, originally from Germany, has held careers in the police force and the IT industry. After they graduated in 2012, both went into private practice as somatic psychotherapists, staying in touch as colleagues and members of PACFA (Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia). Their paths crossed again at the Jansen Newman Institute where they both completed a Master of Counselling and Applied Psychotherapy in 2014 for Veronik, and 2015 for Ernst.
By that time, Somatic Psychotherapy found itself in an existential crisis as there was no longer an available accredited training program in Australia. In 2016, the crisis deepened when the Association of Somatic Psychotherapy Australia disbanded, and the annual conference and regular professional development events dedicated to somatic psychotherapy ceased to exist. Somatic psychotherapists were now registered under the umbrella of the PACFA, as a modality within the College of Psychotherapy. Somatic psychotherapists no longer had their own association and were no longer an entity in their own right – a tradition that had been established in Australia since the late 1970s.
This decline was both untimely and ironic. As the importance of preverbal experiences and the devastating effects of trauma on the individual started to be recognised by researchers and mental health practitioners around the world, both Veronik and Ernst noticed an increasing interest In Somatic Psychotherapy in Australia. It seemed that, right when the demand and requirement for somatic approaches to psychotherapy was growing, the practitioners with the appropriate training were starting to disappear.
That was the situation in 2017 when PACFA asked for volunteers to establish a leadership group for the Somatic Psychotherapy modality. As the previous leaders of the field – after long years of hard work – had largely withdrawn or were unavailable, Veronik and Ernst answered PACFA’s call and together with two Melbourne-based colleagues established the leadership group of the Somatic Psychotherapy Modality.
Both Veronik and Ernst agreed that the most urgent need and biggest requirement to keep the tradition of Somatic Psychotherapy alive in Australia mid to long term is to establish a training program. For that purpose, they created the “Institute for Somatic Psychotherapy” (IOSP). Small-scale online training (initially via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions), will be made available as of early 2021. They are both hopeful to see a comprehensive training program to be delivered possibly as early as 2022.
Guest Seminar Trainer – Doug Sotheren
Doug trained in Gestalt models of therapy with individuals and couples in the 70s. In that process he became increasingly aware of the significant body changes that he was observing with his clients. This opened the way for initial reading and then further training in somatics as a core therapeutic modality.
He has run training workshops in somatic counselling for over 30 years and has acted as consultant for various agencies and Government departments in the areas of Relationship Counselling, Palliative Care, Grief, Mental Health, Eating Disorders, Intensive Family Preservation and Clinical Supervision
His commitment to the primary goal of a somatic therapist is the creation of a therapeutic relationship that evinces a deep mutual attunement and resonance with clients. Allowing each person the space to free themselves from whatever obstacles are blocking their embodiment from achieving full potential within the times and culture of which they are a part.
Guest Seminar Trainer – Kathrin Stauffer
Guest Seminar Trainer – Gill Westland
Gill Westland is founder and Director of Cambridge Body Psychotherapy Centre and a UKCP registered Body Psychotherapist, trainer, supervisor, consultant and writer. She is a full member of the European Association for Body Psychotherapy. She is a co-editor of the journal Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy. She is the author of Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication in Psychotherapy (Norton, 2015) and various articles and book chapters.
In 2012, she wrote UK Body Psychotherapy Competencies, with Clover Southwell & Michaela Boening. More recently, she has written on Healing trauma through embodied relating: Re-establishing rhythms of relating. (Routledge, 2020), and Beyond Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Using body awareness and mindfulness meditation practices to research body psychotherapy. In The Art and Science of Embodied Research Design: Concepts, Methods and Cases. (Routledge, 2021).
Student Coordinator – Kimberley Lee
Kimberley is a PACFA registered counsellor (Graduate Diploma in Counselling) and certified meditation teacher (1 Giant Mind) who believes everyone has the ability to heal with support and care through the healing process. Kimberley has lived experience with adoption and an interest in working with adopted people and their families. She also has experience working with LGTBQI+ issues, dating and relationships, people who work in the sex industry, and helping people understand repetitive self-soothing behaviours, like drug and alcohol use.
Kimberley is also a communications consultant with a BA Communications (Honours) working with corporations, government agencies and not-for-profit organisations in a variety of industries and sectors.