2010: Dr. Sally Denham-Vaughan “The Liminal Space: an opening to transformational shift”

Sally Denham-Vaughan took the opportunity offered by the lecture to reflect on how the theory and practice of gestalt psychotherapy has changed and refocussed since she trained with Marianne Fry (and Dr Malcolm Parlett), some 25 years ago.  She has experienced this change in a number of ways, including a shift from an ego-based approach to a more emergent ‘id’-orientated therapy, and from ‘masculine’ left-brain action towards ‘feminine’ right-brain receptivity.  Sally focussed on a theme that she has explored within her writing: namely, the move from a Fritz Perls-type of agentic therapy to a more relational, aesthetically orientated approach that increasingly works with structures of ground, and from “Will” towards “Grace” [see Denham-Vaughan, British Gestalt Journal, 2005].  She reconsidered the often-taught ‘cycle of experience’ in the light of these changes.

Sally demonstrated how redirecting attention from figure to ground, from doing to being and from action to stillness opens up an unexplored liminal space – an instant in being and time when the client is specifically contained and worked with while on the threshold of a change process, rather than mobilised or enabled into action. The liminal space is rich in possibilities and potential that could not have been thought of or anticipated.

Following the morning’s lecture and lunch, there was an experiential exploration of issues raised in the lecture, led by Sally Denham-Vaughan.


Dr Sally Denham-Vaughan, DPsych, UKCP Registered Psychotherapist, is a clinical counselling and coaching psychologist and gestalt psychotherapist, trainer, supervisor and writer. She holds a senior managerial position in an NHS.  At the Metanoia Institute in London she is a primary tutor on the Gestalt Psychotherapy Masters Programme, an academic advisor on the Doctoral Programme and joint course director of the Organisational Gestalt Diploma Programme.  She is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the British Gestalt Journal, Organisational Faculty Member and Board Advisor at the Relational Center in Los Angeles and International Faculty Associate at the Pacific Gestalt Institute.

Listen to the lecture (1 hour 14 minutes):

  • This lecture will be the subject of a published paper in due course, and listeners should appreciate that this is a pre-publication version of what will appear in that paper.
  • The music used at the end of the lecture was “The Great gig in the Sky” by Richard Wright and Claire Torry from the album “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd (EMI Harvest Records) (2003 remastered).  To respect copyright, only an extract of this is included in the recording of the lecture.
  • The music that introduced the afternoon session was “The Unfolding” by Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerard from the CD album “Duality” (1998)

« 2009: Dr. Judy Ryde "White Identity in Psychotherapy: Can dialogic, intersubjective psychotherapy help white people work more effectively in a racialized context?"

2011: Mary-Jane Rust "Double Vision? The Gestalt of Our Environmental Crisis" »