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Bernard McDowell, lcsw
Psychotherapy & Couples Counseling    
811 NW 20th, Suite 104, Portland, OR  97209

Workshop Schedule

November 3, 2017

Sustaining the Gaze on the Other:
Toward a Model of Differentiating Dialogues for Couples in Conflict

Presenter: Bernard McDowell, LCSW
The first edition of identity crystallizes through mirroring from mom – the first ‘holding environment’.

Just as computers require updates for increasingly complex computing functions, our self-representations (what we call ‘I’ or ‘me’) must periodically reorganize if "I" can continue to participate in ever more complex relationship environments.
Volumes of research corroborate mirroring’s role in physiological, emotional and neurological functions. It’s also the downloading mechanism for each update of identity – for which mirroring comes through a series of holding environments (mom, extended family, grade school, etc.). In the process of downloading an update, there’s necessarily a “differentiation” phase in the reorganization from one stage to the next. A turbulent process, “differentiation” facilitates de-identification from the current holding environment and re-identification into the next stage which provides benefits including an increased capacity for "relationship to" and access to previously inaccessible capacities for perspective taking. 

That frames the Catch-22 adults encounter in a primary relationship: Both partners -- driven by the “developmental imperative” to gestate the next, more empowering stage of identity -- seek mirroring from a partner who may not have hatched to the stage with the capacity to provide that mirroring.  Grounded in research and illumined by literature, song lyrics, and biographies, therein emerges a foundation for understanding couples conflicts gone haywire. Finally, a bare bones model, called ‘Differentiating Dialogues’, is distilled out towards reaping the well-established benefits of healthy differentiation. Snippets of Gottman, Wile, Johnson, et al may be addressed in light of the model.

Differentiation Phases Between Stages of Identity Development June 7, 2013

Many theorists employ a concept of 'differentiation'—e.g., Mahler for child development, Bowen for emergence from “undifferentiated family ego mass”, and Kegan for stages of “meaning making”.

Many researchers place differentiation in the center of every three phased leap from one stage to the next. Synthesizing dozens of developmental researchers, Wilber named those phases 'fusion', 'differentiation', and 'integration'. Transitioning to each new stage of identity, phase shifts entail embeddedness in (fusion) and then progressive differentiation from self-representation (as mirrored and birthed by mother, peers, partners, and culture) before reorganizing (integration) at the next level of more empowered functioning. In effect, we periodically download an updated identity, a psychological GPS, needed to navigate a more complex world.

Rather than stage specific content, this workshop explores 'identity' and 'differentiation' through (1) a cross section of theories and (2) psychotherapeutic interventions. At the core of dramatic tension in literature and song lyrics, 'differentiation' is grounded in natural sciences: “Non-equilibrium thermodynamics” makes explicit an easily understood model of how any entity forms and internalizes energy that, in turn, triggers turbulence and differentiation until reorganization occurs at a higher stage of complexity. As anticipated by Piaget and Rogers, that elucidates stage development and other psychological phenomena; others find the very essence of archetypes in this model.

In light of recent therapeutic interest in meditation, we'll tour the conundrum several major developmental theorists (e.g., Maslow) faced when trying to map higher stages of identity than they had achieved: We'll sketch the possibility of differentiation into the transpersonal.

June 7, 2013  12:30-2:30 915 S.E. Hawthorne, Portland Or 97214

 Anxiety Management Classes in 2008
At Amrita Yoga studio, Barney McDowell, LCSW and noted yoga instuctor, Sarajoy Marsh, will co-lead a series of classes addressing anxiety with yoga and 'mindfulness' for cultivating a respectful, resilient, and, as odd as it may sound, a friendlier relationship to our arising fears.  Through specfic yoga asanas, guided meditations, and dynamic educational dialogues, we'll explore the transforming effect of inviting anxiety into the immediate experience of the present.
Mondays, 7:15 pm 9:15 PM
Winter series: feb 11, 18, 25 and mar 3
Spring series apr 28 and may 5,12, 19
Fall series sept 22, 29 and oct 6, 13
Cost, $120 for each series of 4 classes. Register by calling the Amrita studio at 5093-552-YOGA (9642)

October 11, 2006  "What is Depression?" 8 AM PST Radio Broadcast
"We Are All A Little Crazy" is a radio web broadcast dedicated to mental health issues.  Hosted by Debbie Bensching, LCSW, this show explores facets of depression.  Catch the broadcast at  Debbie Bensching's site may be viewed at

February 13, 2004   "Differentiation, Differentiation, Differentiation...and then?"
This presentation is sponsored by the Portland State University Graduate School of Social Work and Graduate School of Social Work Alumni Association.  This is a two hour Friday afternoon seminar for professionals who may receive continuing education credits.  You can contact the sponsor directly  to register at  Here is a brief description of the seminar.
Many researchers employ some concept of differentiation.  Margaret Mahler in early childhood development, Murray Bowen in family therapy, Jung in articulating the movement into the transpersonal realm.  Robert Kegan, e.g.,  traces development as a progressive differentiation from one identity (first embedded into mom) to the next more inclusive self representation (blurred into family, then peers, etc.).  With rich maps of how identity forms, Western therapies cultivate more adaptive identifications but with a ceiling of growth--our best hope is to be a little less neurotic!  In contrast, Wilber, Washburn, and Almass among others articulate stages of differentiation from identification altogether-as long held in Eastern psychology.  If this is valid, bold interventions come into relief and others are elucidated.  As Wilber elaborates, the West excels in detailing how a “somebody” forms from a “prepersonal nobody”, while the East emphasizes differentiation from a “somebody” stage to a transpersonal “nobody”.  In this inquiry, West to East, Freud to Jung, and object relations to transpersonal psychology are revealed on a continuum rather than in opposition.  
February 28, 2003  "Pragmatics of HIPAA:  Compliance with HIPAA for the Ethical Independent Practitioner"  
The new federal "privacy standards" under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] comprise hundreds of pages in the Federal Registry.  This workshop is geared to help professional psychotherapists and counselors fulfill the many practical requirements of HIPAA and to be aware of "the privacy risks inherent in these new rules".  Specific forms for compliance with HIPAA will be discussed along with discussions about the complexities of "psychotherapy notes" as defined by HIPAA. The American Mental Health Alliance sponsors this third in a series of workshops on HIPAA.  As a service to the Oregon community of psychotherapists and other professionals, I am co-presenting this workshop with Michaele Dunlap, PsyD.   Four hours of Continuing Education credit for professionals are possible.  To be held at the Grotto, nr 85th and NE Sandy, Portland 8:30am-12:30pm; call the American Mental Health Alliance to register at 503-222-0322 or call me for more information at 503-234-9904.
September 2001:  The Core Relationship Skill:  Boundaries that Breathe  Sponsored by Heatlhy Start of Clackamas County.  This three hour workshop for approximately 100 professionals offered  a model for keeping boundaries in interpersonal relationships especially with clients.  A similar workshop was repeated a few months later for a group of professionals at the Educational Service District of Clackamas County.
Thanksgiving Retreat:  Gratitude and Service :  Yachatts Oregon House Thanksgiving 2001  A joint effort of Barney McDowell and Sarajoy Marsh, a noted yoga instructor and director of The Sanctuary, this retreat was dedicated as a time of renewal and learning for people working in service positions.  In addition to two sessions of yoga daily, we explored the spectrum of the psyche's unfolding  from our habitual contractions that come with natural, inevitable but too narrow psychological identifications to  profound resting in the immediacy of the moment--simply basking in the present, the luxuriant unfolding of the day, and the radiant beauty of the coastal landscape.  Through a consecration to respectful group energy, playful processes, and dialogue, we examined how we get caught up in resistance to our work and life and, then, refined the psychological skills to meet those challenges.  
Novemeber 22, 2002 and April 17, 2002 The Pragmatics of HIPAA: The New Federal Privacy Rules.  These workshops sponsored by the American Mental Health Alliance of Oregon were the second and third in a series on this topic elaborated above (see Feb 28, 2003).