by Wendy Palmer Patterson, LCSW, LMFT 

Underneath all of our defenses, reactivities, and unconscious impulses is the reality of basic needs – met and unmet.  When we understand that we all have basic needs and that some of them have been well met and others not, it makes it much more possible to have compassion for ourselves and for others.

I came to Imago with training as a Family Systems therapist, a T. A. and Gestalt therapist and a Psychomotor therapist.  My first experience with Imago delighted me with the intersections and commonalities I saw with Psychomotor (officially known as PBSP in honor of Al Pesso and Diane Boyden, the couple who created this wonderful model.)

Al and Dianne were dance instructors.  Neither were trained as therapists. They puzzled over what they saw in their studios because they concluded that their dancers were frequently physically limited because of emotional and psychological pain. Their creative use of movement, body awareness and group engagement to create a ‘Structure’ experience is, in my experience, some of the most powerful therapeutic intervention work I have ever experienced. 

Bessel van der Kolk and Al Pesso have done much collaborating about Psychomotor therapy to facilitate trauma healing in ways that are remarkable.  Al and Dianne always knew what we in Imago know, it takes interactive healing and requires relationship healing.  They taught a system of conscious accommodation as a mode to address unmet basic needs.  I have utilized this system extensively in all of my work with couples and groups.

One basic need Al and Diane identified is that of respect. A challenging place in my life has been my recognition that respecting others, especially men, has been a limited place for me. Psychomotor helped me understand and change. A few years ago Bob and I created a course called CPR for couples. C for compassion, P for equitable power, and R for mutual respect.  It became clear to us from observing our own relationship that these three elements were essential for full aliveness in our relationship.  

I credit Al Pesso with my knowledge of respect and my deep appreciation for the simplicity of knowing that: “Energy moves to Action, which moves to Interaction, which results in Satisfaction or Pain, all of which create Meaning”. This profound and simple formula sustains me.

So much of my shaping of my work within Imago is a result of my years with Al Pesso.

I write today in honor of his recent passing that followed closely on the passing of his beloved Diane.  They were another inspiring example of couplehood applied to healing.

I pay my respects. I have deep respect for Al Pesso, for his wonderful contribution to our field, and to my life.


4 Responses to Respect as a Basic Need: A Testimony to Al Pesso
  1. Wendy,
    This is a beautiful tribute. I appreciate hearing you articulate the concepts and beings that have made you the wonderful healer you are.
    Please keep sharing. And our condolences on the loss of your mentor.
    Rebecca & Henry

  2. Thanks for this tribute and for connecting his work to Imago. Some years ago I had a wondeful experience working with Al when he was in Atlanta. Unforgettable.

  3. Thank you Wendy. Reading this was like a visit with you!

  4. What a beautiful tribute. I never met him, but if he influenced and assisted you to become the gifted healer you are, then I give him gratitude.


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