142-144 Oxford Road, Temple Cowley, Oxford OX4 2EA
How to spot it and what to do next - a step-by-step recipe book (for processing the therapist’s dilemmas)
Three things stood out from a recent OTS training workshop and the work we did in the small groups (as born 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 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 usually feels like we’re losing our therapeutic position and 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 'eliciting further information' or ‘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 being 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.
Format of the day:
Lunch: As usual we will arrange a bring and share lunch in the week before the event.