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The Therapist's Conflict: how to spot it and what to do next - a step-by-step recipe book (for processing the therapist’s dilemmas)
After previous training days ('How To Work When Therapy Isn’t Working?' as well as ‘Relational Dilemmas of First Sessions and Initial Assessments' ) we have had several enquiries and requests to take the topics further and deeper. There was a clear sense that we needed further workshops, and it was understood that Michael’s principle that “the client’s conflict becomes the therapist’s conflict” is just the first step in exploring the connection between the client’s and the therapist’s inner world in the context of the working alliance.
Three things stood out from the work we did in the small groups, as borne out by some of the feedback:
- as therapists we don’t always know when we are in conflict;
- when we do know, we often hit a blank wall - what to do or how to understand what’s going on;
- in order to avoid the discomfort of the conflict, we take refuge in default therapeutic interventions, routine manoeuvres and habitual stances, i.e. mechanisms which dilute the necessary charge and tension in the relationship - in doing so, we unwittingly abort the therapeutic process or precipitate ruptures in the alliance
Some of the feedback was: ‘It is scary to feel like you don’t know what to do as a therapist, so it can be a relief to not know you are in conflict.’ (this is rather reminiscent of Bion’s statement: “In every consulting room there ought to be two rather frightened people.”)
Being aware of and acknowledging our internal (countertransference) conflict as therapists feels like we’re losing our therapeutic position, and a sense that we are failing. In order to avoid the inherent sense of feeling powerless and vulnerable, we resort to our ‘habitual position’ as therapists, trying to shore up our shaky therapeutic position. One of the most common manoeuvres is to ask more questions of the client in the hope of ‘getting somewhere else’, where we can feel on safer ground. However, in doing so we then manage to fall into two further pitfalls:
- by trying to ‘move on’ or ‘hold on’ to our therapeutic position, we give the implicit message to the client that we can’t bear their pain, and can’t sit in it with them;
- because we are doing so defensively, prematurely and without awareness or preparation, our interventions precipitate us further into enactment: we fall down on one or the other side of our conflict, and fail to ‘hold’ the conflict, or to catch the rupture we are entangled in.
This training day will develop your capacity to be aware of your conflict as a therapist and learn to ‘sit in it’ without dissociating or going unconscious through overwhelmed by pressure, fear or shame. It then becomes more possible to extract the precious information which the therapist’s conflict contains about the relational dynamic and the client’s inner world.
What you can expect to learn on the day …
- register significant and charged moments in the relationship
- understand these moments in the context of the three kinds of contact
- attend to your internal process and sense of conflict in moments of intensifying charge
- collect in these moments bodymind information which would otherwise remain subliminal
- link these moments to the client’s habitual relational patterns
- perceive the ways in which the client’s wounding enters the consulting room
- process the charge and pressure impacting on the therapist
- begin to consider interventions for relieving or intensifying the enactment pressure
Format of the day:
Lunch: As usual we will arrange a bring and share lunch in the week before the event.