3 October 2012
Introducing Angela Monti Fox
The upcoming episode of The O Show, which I set up in response to the Performance Matters theme of Potentials of Performance, was intended to highlight the relationship between performance and therapy in a number of ways.
Firstly, it was a response to current debates around the efficacy of different forms of therapy, specifically psychoanalytic/ psychodynamic versus cognitive/rational emotive behaviour therapies (CBT/REBT). In other words, I was wondering how these therapies “perform”; how they succeed at “curing”, and which ones work best for which clients. Secondly, the episode also aimed to explore the ways in which performance/action and creativity itself can be therapeutic. As a performer who has gleaned therapeutic benefits from my work – specifically in the form of what some therapists call shame attacking – and as someone who has also experienced the two “competing” types of therapy (psychodynamic and cognitive), these are personal concerns, not just intellectual ones. With 20/20 hindsight I now see that this was perhaps too much material to address in a single episode.
I am currently in the process of editing the three hours of footage into 45 minutes that will premiere at P o P in October, having shot the show in front of a live audience in late June. I had carried out pre-interviews and prepared my questions in advance, but at the same time it felt very much improvised and open-ended; I didn’t know where these “debates” and admissions would lead. At the end of the shoot, I was thrilled with how it went – so excited, I hardly slept that night. Returning to the footage has been both rewarding and daunting.
I recently had the opportunity to watch the raw footage with my mother Angela Monti Fox, who is also The O Show’s staff psychologist. She has over 30 years of experience in the field and has trained in a number of different techniques and methods including traditional Freudian psychoanalysis and REBT. The following are her astute observations about the show:
Each guest becomes adamant and fiercely passionate in defending their perspective on the therapeutic value of the treatment they received or are practicing and very much hold to the notion that another form of therapy would not have come close to doing the job. Much of what each defended, however, rested on only a cursory knowledge of the different schools of thought that guide either REBT or psychoanalysis, reflecting frequent misconceptions and stereotypical views of their “opponent’s” form of therapy.
Sam Rumbelow attributed major life changes in his personality, career and life goals to an intense, 12-year long analysis with a traditional Jungian psychoanalytic psychotherapist. He is candid and to me the most interesting guest. During the “debate” he seems fairly open-minded, acting as a sort of middleman between the two women who are more hostile towards one another’s views.
Liz Bentley seems to imply she was “rescued” from destitution by the warmth, caring and availability of her therapist who she thought was practicing some form of psychoanalytically based psychotherapy. However, as Liz describes her relationship with her therapist, it was clear that the therapist did not follow the “form” that would enable this therapeutic experience to be defined as psychoanalytic (i.e. for example, she didn’t lie on the couch in the first year). Liz also reveals that she was homeless at the start of her therapy. This is an interesting fact to consider in that Freud himself would have most likely refused her analytic treatment in that his brand of therapy required some form of economic stability. In Liz’s case, CBT might have been a more effective approach to get her life together by engaging her rational mind, rather than “holding” her in an exploration of her primary bonds and what she calls ‘remothering’. Freud’s development of psychoanalysis took place on a fairly stable ego intact population. Had he been confronted with what we would classify today as a borderline or bi-polar personality disorder clearly he might himself have invented REBT or some form of cognitive therapy.
Bernadette Ainsworth, who trained only in CBT/REBT, has little knowledge of psychoanalytic work and clearly refutes the benefits of introspection and focused attention on the past, interpretation and analysis of transference, by referring to this form of therapy as “naval gazing”. She touts her ability to immediately engage and develop a rapport with patients and unwittingly ascribes this practice to REBT alone, when in fact many studies on the effectiveness of different forms of therapy have shown that the therapeutic potential each have in common is the ability to develop a rapport, to listen and respond so that the patient feels understood. Clearly Sam and Liz experienced intense connection with their therapist and felt respected, heard and understood regardless of their different approaches. The question of which form of psychotherapy “performs” best (and for which patients) remains very much up in the air. What is clear, however, is that each of these guests has found performance to be a cathartic and at times therapeutic endeavour in addition to the therapies with which they’ve engaged.
Angela Monti Fox L.C.S.W., Staff Psychologist for The O Show
photo: Alex M. Fox