Embodied Pathways Towards Resolving Impasses, Breakdowns and Enactments
This is a workshop I have been running over recent years, in different places, for different audiences, for therapists from across the approaches and modalities. It introduces the underestimated complexities and paradoxes of the working alliance in an accessible way, drawing attention to the rupture-and-repair cycles that occur throughout the therapeutic process, and the inherent coming and going of the working alliance.
Therapy can be a hazardous, adventurous journey - what happens for you when therapy isn’t working, and how do you cope as a therapist?
- When the client seems to be stuck, resistant and uncooperative, or refuses to turn up or to pay, breaks boundaries or undermines the therapy - what are your tools and options ?
- When the client’s commitment is faltering or petering out, when their process reaches a plateau, stops deepening and they cannot see the point of continuing therapy - what are your strategies ?
- When the client gets under your skin, challenges your therapeutic position and competence, and you start feeling like a failure - how do you survive ?
- When the client ‘gets worse’ in therapy, has negative reactions, threatens suicide or uses other practitioners against you - how do you respond therapeutically ?
Many counsellors/therapists interpret such problems as their own lack of therapeutic skill, understanding or competence, or as their ‘own stuff’. However, such reactions fail to do justice to the relational meaning and purpose of these difficulties.
What is the relational purpose of impasses & enactments ?
The more the therapeutic process touches the depths of the client’s patterns, the more the therapist tends to get entangled in the painful and problematic dynamics which bring the client to therapy in the first place. Difficulties in the working alliance can then be a manifestation of profound and necessary involvement on the therapist’s part rather than a sign of incompetence.
So is there a way of making therapeutic use of such dead ends, vicious circles, complications and break-downs in the working alliance ?
Embodiment: attending to non-verbal communication
As modern neuroscience is confirming, right-brain-to-right-brain attunement and subtle non-verbal messages constitute the central foundation of our work.
Traditionally neglected and overlooked by the talking therapy’s bias towards verbal and mental communication, these realms of the relationship are usually considered inaccessible and subliminal.
But that is where most difficulties in the working alliance originate and where our own sense of embodiment can make a radical difference. Let’s start there ...
See also the related post: The Therapist’s Conflict – a precious ingredient in the therapeutic encounter