Tag Archives: therapy session

Thinking, Feeling and Therapy

By Will

I want to leave therapy knowing that I have done the work. I want to leave having covered all the bases, spanning right back to my early childhood. I want to leave therapy blossoming, knowing that I understand myself so much more. This notion of mine is probably the reason why I haven’t left therapy and why I am now approaching 5 years with my current analyst. Part of ourselves can trap us in this search for perfection and complete understanding. How can we possibly know ourselves fully when we are continually changing. We cannot ever know ourselves fully, and searching for some kind of ‘completion of oneself’ is a form of controlling behaviour, as part of us is not willing to accept that life is chaotic. The mystery of life is acceptable as far as the heart is concerned, but the head will always try and think it’s way around the bumps and curves, and for the mind this constant thinking exercise will be never ending. You can’t blame the thinking mind for doing what it does as that is it’s job. You could say that all that is real happens in the heart, and all that is not happens in the mind. However, the mind has to think sometimes so that we can complete certain daily tasks and our heart may need to stay out of the way, especially living in Western society. A harmonious balance between both worlds feels correct.

My thinking and philosophical mind has certainly expanded and deepened over the last 5 years, and in my therapists words he has said; “You are an extremely creative thinker”. I left that particular session (thinking once again), that if I am a creative thinker, I must spend much of my time thinking and not feeling, which is what I tend to do. Thinking is very protective. Thinking can shroud our emotions and feelings like a non-porous membrane. An obvious example of this constant thinking is when we think of a person in our lives who is dear to us. We can all be guilty of attempting to work this person out by thinking about the thousands of possibilities they may be thinking or feeling. What is more important is how that person makes us feel. Once again the mind is trying to control things, it even attempts to control another’s thinking and feeling.

The reason I entered therapy in the first place is that I was lost. A part of me had overshadowed another part and I was out of balance, lop-sided and anxious. At that point in my life I needed some help and support and our therapeutic journey began. However, by staying with a therapist, teacher or master for a long while, on some level we are enabling the kind of self talk that got us into difficulties in the first place to continue. We are once again engaging in another pattern of reasoning and debate, focusing on our sad and bad issues. I am not saying that therapy is damaging or that it is not conducive for awareness and happiness. What I am saying is that too much of anything can be counter productive, and the difficult part of our therapeutic work is knowing when both the heart and mind need to move on and go it alone. Perhaps when we leave, that is where therapy really begins.

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Growth and the Search for Oneself.

By Will

Staying with very difficult and stormy feelings is about as testing as it gets for man. Sometimes a kind voice from another can gently nudge you out of these dense and believable feelings. Staying with the pain and recognising it and investigating it is very hard. We may find that the hurt is old somehow, in as much as it seems familiar, and we may get the sense of our unease having been around before.

When we are surrounded and somewhat engulfed by our sensations we may lean towards keeping them inside as they can be viewed as ‘dangerous’ feelings. The thought of sharing them with others may annihilate the listener or may lead us to believe that we may be outcast or abandoned by the other person. We also have a tendency to believe that we should not be feeling or thinking such thoughts which creates a divide inside of how we should be feeling against what we actually are. Self soothing and acceptance can help and personally I find it helpful to share these feelings with others.

The American psychologist Rollo May said “We are more apt to feel depressed by the perpetually smiling individual than the one who is honestly sad. If we admit our depression openly and freely, those around us get from it an experience of freedom rather than the depression itself.” Another quote from Rollo May which may give our emotions a sense of purpose is “One does not become fully human painlessly.”

If you are working towards a greater understanding and acceptance within yourself with the help of therapy, old stories and ways of viewing the world and ourselves are slowly eroded away leaving a sense of emptiness. When this happens not only do we feel a sense off loss, we may also be left wondering about our purpose in life and who we really are. We may realise that our old patterns of behaviour may have not served us well in the past and it makes sense that we need to grieve and say goodbye to them. It takes courage to say to the world, this is me take it or leave it. It is much easier to conform to ourselves and society and this is what most people tend to do. We may be in limbo with anxiety, who’s purpose is to keep us away from discovering our true selves, but when we can manage to live with anxious feelings by our side, our next step is to face what is underneath, which is yet another difficult and painful task, but a task that is necessary for our personal growth and freedom within.

“Steady, patient growth in freedom is probably the most difficult task of all, requiring the greatest courage. Thus if the term “hero” is used in this discussion at all, it must refer not to the special acts of outstanding persons, but to the heroic element potentially in every man.” ~ Rollo May

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Michael

By Will

He spoke with hurt and I chose him,
This unfortunate soul becomes ego’s friend,
Father’s boundaries adhered never challenged,
His patience tested on a radius of denial,
Whose crib does he sleep that man in consciousness,
All earthly answers lie creased under pillows,
While the boy rides his bike with tendency to fall,
Caught in sympathies yielding nest,
Growing pains heard from mountains afar,
Gods dream, ripped apart thorn by thorn,
A man is born like a calf with unsound legs,
Who now walks alone under his full moon.
 
Only the wounded healer can truly heal ~ Irvin D. Yalom

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The Guessing Game

By Will

Orthodox confession is the only relationship that I can think of that mirrors therapy in as much as we have no concrete evidence regarding our analysts or our priests personal life. Are they married, are they straight, do they have children? Even your thoughts about their life are projections from the self waiting to be interpreted. It is both peculiar and familiar that after 3 years I still, very occasionally, ask a direct question. The questions I ask are hinged with sarcasm and knowing as I may say “Well I have worked out that you are straight by now.” These feeble attempts always bring a wry smile to my therapists face and the enjoyment for me is studying my analyst and watching him trying to hide any evidence. It feels very child like but I think he enjoys it just as much as I do. It’s as though we both secretly and humbly get the gig.

So all we are left with is our own projections regarding our therapists life. This in itself is so crucial and the lesson can be applied to so many relational situations we encounter every day. The example that leaps out at me is “I can’t believe he/she has done that”. “I” being full of  preconceived notions of how things should be done. “Can’t believe” My beliefs are fixed and different from yours. Taken to an extreme we can be continuously surprised and angry at how others behave, think or even feel.

When this lesson has been understood we can then apply this concept to the different parts of our own psyche which may enable us to be more kind to ourselves. “I can understand why that part of me would feel threatened by this or that situation” or “I am not surprised I have kicked myself in over this”. This kind of empathy shown to oneself can be simply put as learning to laugh at yourself but I think that it is more complex than that. It’s being able to laugh, cry or be anxious at yourself. The important thing is that you are there for yourself.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense ~ Buddha

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Time is Up

By Will

The clock is seen by two and watched intensely by one; fearing those dirty words approaching, “time is up”.

I hear the little boy inside say “I want to stay with you”, but my lips are muted by adulthood.

The practised joker in me plans to fake a fall, anything to stay with the connection.

“You can’t do that” the sensible one claims, “he will think I am mad”.

The punisher steps in “Well, you are mad” and my eyes look up and catch a smile from my master.

“What happened there Will”? he says; “I don’t know” I reply, and I turn again to gaze at the clock.

It’s 1pm, and all I have left is the seconds I see winding away.

“Say it”! demands one voice, “there isn’t time” is cried in defense.

Words pour out without prompt from either side, “I want to stay with you”.

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My Therapeutic Introduction

Jade

By Jade

Training to be a therapist is a hard job, especially when your as young as I am. Being 19, carefree and a rebellious teenager is alot of hard work. Training to help people in worse situations is even harder. Having to think and act like an adult sometimes has its advantages, you get taken seriously and people see you for you and not some silly little kid. I found out from my course that I have to have 40 hours of therapy. I immediatley felt sick, what on earth can I take to therapy, I dont want to talk to a stranger about my problems. Then I sat back and laughed at myself, how can I expect clients to come and talk to me if I cant even take myself to a therapist.

I booked myself an appointment the next day for the following week. Every day went by so quick and before I knew it the day was here. All day I thought about what I could say and remembered to try and act “normal”. I walked up to the building (it looked normal enough), the sign was small so no one knew I was going in for therapy and I didnt even get a chance to knock on the door when I was greeted by a small plump lady with big rosey cheeks. I felt the colour come back into my face.

We walked up the stairs and into a cosey beige room with a big red sofa. I plonked myself down and tried to get comfortable. The therapist was called Helen, she looked like such a lovely person, even sounded like one. She sat down on the other sofa and got a book out of her pocket, this was for taking notes. Next thing I knew I was getting bombarded with questions.

Age, date of birth, sleep patterns, eating, sex drive, health problems, family health, mental health, suicide, self harm, drugs, what i’d have on my grave stone ect. This felt like way too much for a first session. I noticed that I zoned out of the room and ended up going back to having counselling in secondary school with a women who would constantly ask me questions and then judge me. Helen clicked her fingers and I came back into the room, I apparently zoned out for about 5 minutes staring at a painting. I explained to her about my past history with counselling sessions that werent even real, how it felt, how it’s impacted on me now ect. It was really strange being there and I felt very uncomfrtable after that.

My OCD kicked in with the room once I got agitated and I cut the session short and left. I havent been back to her since. It wasnt that she was a bad therapist, I just felt that it was too much too soon, she did ask quite alot of me.
I have now found myself a new therapist whom I know as she was my tutor in university. I trust her 100% and i’m sure I will be able to write something interesting from her therapy. Im quite excited about this journey with her… I shall let you know.

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An Interview with Peter Wilkin

An Interview with retired Psychotherapist Peter Wilkin.

During this interview, I have attributed my own gender to the ‘therapist’ & the female gender to the ‘patient’, purely & simply to try & reduce any possible confusion. I have also used the term, ‘patient’, to refer to the person in therapy, though neither this label nor any of the other common alternatives have ever sat that comfortably with me. However, ‘s/he who has come to explore & make sense of his/her difficulties’ is just a tad too cumbersome to repeat throughout an interview.

I once said, “I sense that Peter is one who has been fully analysed, and is therefore able to analyse others” A while after writing this I came to the conclusion that it is not possible to be ‘fully analysed’ or ‘fully enlightened’. What are your thoughts on this?

I agree entirely. I did enter into therapy before I began my psychotherapy training, purely to comply with the course requirements. Although I did not feel to have any huge issues that needed addressing I was aware of several recurring problems that I intended to share & work on with my therapist. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that those problems went a lot deeper than I had anticipated. My therapist, who worked psychodynamically, was a very astute man who always knew if I was avoiding facing up to difficult feelings and, although he was gentle enough, I knew there were no real hiding places.

Once the course of therapy had finished (2 years) I felt the benefit both as a practitioner and in general. However, I still experience difficulties in certain areas of my life, just like we all do – but if I were to enter therapy for the rest of my years I would never come anywhere near being ‘fully analysed’. Nor would I want to. There are certain little foibles and defence mechanisms that I would prefer to hold onto.

Do you believe that in order for a therapist to help someone, the therapist has to be ‘helped’ during the process too?

Yes I do. I strongly believe that to practice as a therapist without receiving regular supervision from an experienced and qualified supervisor is both irresponsible and potentially dangerous. All therapists are susceptible to reacting back to their patients’ *transference reactions (*transference in psychotherapy is an unconscious process where the attitudes, feelings, and desires of our very early significant relationships get transferred onto the therapist) and it is vital that there is someone whom they can trust who is capable of identifying and interpreting such reactions. As therapists, we all carry our own agendas & we are all susceptible to projecting them onto our patients. Additionally, we are also prone to accepting & carrying our patients’ projections. Supervision provides a safe and confidential space where the therapist can sit and analyse his work whilst also feeling supported.

How did you deal with frustration, in regards to the time spent with a client, where the client was unable or reluctant to change. Do you feel that your frustration should be voiced during the session, or does this depend on the person?

That’s a really good question. I think I learned to deal with such frustrations much better as the years rolled by. In a way, this question links to the previous one. In reality, there is no logical reason to feel frustrated if it is our patient who is resistive or reluctant to change. But, of course, we still do – which can result in us either feeling angry with our patients or, alternatively, over-sympathetic & desperate to ‘make things better’ for them.  All such feelings are fine if we remember to sit & work out where they are coming from – but we do not always do that. Instead, we fail to separate our own issues from our patients and become embroiled in a messy and unproductive relationship with them.

A good example is the patient who has brought an issue of loss to therapy but who seems to be avoiding and sabotaging all attempts by the therapist to help her develop insight and move on. The therapist begins to feel frustrated and begins to lose patience with the patient. Having taken the issue to supervision, the supervisor discovers that this therapist suffered a broken relationship that he had never recovered from. He had never managed to accept the break-up & still grieved for the loss of his partner. Consequently, he had been projecting his own frustrations at not being able to work through his grief onto his patient.

As for voicing such frustration during the session – yes, I think that’s fine … but, of course, there is a particular way of doing it. The rule of thumb is that any such frustrations should be aired in a way which is likely to help the patient develop insight. The other rule, just as important, is always be tentative – in other words, always give the patient a ‘way out’ if they are not ready or unwilling to accept your hypothesis.

For example, the therapist might say: ‘I’m very aware that, whilst you were explaining to me about your partner’s reluctance to talk about his illness, I began to feel my stomach tightening … I can actually feel a huge knot of tension in it … right here *points to his stomach & taps it with his fist* … you know, I could be entirely wrong about this, but … I wonder if I’m feeling some of the frustration that you felt when your partner refused to let you in … you being unable to tell him how that made you feel?”

If the patient is ready to hear the tentative interpretation, a response might be: “I desperately wanted to let him know how frightened I was about losing him … but he just didn’t want to hear. I used to feel so angry with him (begins to cry) … & so wound up that I couldn’t eat.’

What are your thoughts on individual and creative therapy, which may be quite unorthodox, in terms of extending the 50 minute hour or adults taking part in play therapy or even switching seats with the therapist?

Ah! Well, if the therapist is practised in such ‘alternative’ techniques (e.g. in Gestalt therapy) & the patient has been fully briefed about the mode of therapy, then I am all for it. I used to employ similar strategies myself when working with families. I remember a specific session of ‘couples’ therapy when I asked one person to turn her chair round & direct all her answers to the wall. She was baffled at first, until she realised that this was how it felt for her partner when he tried to talk to her, as she never seemed willing to listen to him.

So such creative switches in therapy can work well, although I’m not sure about extending sessions beyond the agreed ‘hour’. For me (working within a very structured timetable) it would have caused problems & inconvenienced people with later appointments. And I believe an hour is ample time at one sitting to address the issues that need to be discussed. Giving a time boundary helps to contain a session by informing the patient that she has a specific amount of time to go wherever she needs to go. If the patient is inclined to wait until the last few minutes before ‘dropping a bombshell’ then this needs to be addressed by the therapist, as it most likely represents a ‘boundary’ problem that needs working on in therapy.

Do you feel it is necessary to share your personal experiences with the client, or again do you feel that this would depend on the person?

Generally speaking, no. I believe the more a patient knows about her therapist, the more that information is likely to pollute the therapy process. To illustrate, if I were to disclose a particular faith or religion, that might prevent the patient from sharing a negative feeling towards that faith or religion. Or if I was to highlight a particular personal difficulty (an illness, a relative’s struggle, an anxiety), that might generate concern & worry for the patient. I know that some person-centred counsellors do share certain personal experiences as a way of empathising but, for me, I think it is inappropriate to do so. There are surely better ways of demonstrating empathy as opposed to revealing personal details.

How important were your initial instincts on first meeting with a client?

Extremely important for two reasons:

Firstly, I trust my instincts. Almost thirty years of clinical practice has honed them to a point where they are pretty sharp at forming an accurate profile of a person.

Secondly, they are a wonderful source of counter-transference for me to explore, either on my own or with my supervisor. Instincts always surface from the unconscious and, on occasions, I will be unwittingly projecting my own beliefs onto the patient. If the therapist is able to identify these counter-transference reactions it can provide him with a rich source of information about himself and his patient.

For example, I may feel inexplicably cool towards a patient in the first assessment session. The reason might be a very simple one, in that she reminds me of someone I know – & if that’s the case I will surely work that out quickly. But at the other end of the spectrum there may be no discernible reason why I should harbour such a negative feeling. So, I would have to explore my instinctual feelings until an explanation surfaced.

A possible explanation might go something like this: the patient lost her mother when she was only a child. She had no father figure to turn to & this caused a multitude of problems for her. Throughout her adult life she has had a string of very brief relationships & only one longer relationship that lasted just over two years. Whilst she insists that she yearns to be in a loving & caring relationship she is also frightened of ‘losing’ any figure that she may get close to. Consequently, she unconsciously projects a rather austere persona that is inclined (& unconsciously designed) to deter people from trying to get close to her.

During therapy, how important are the unconscious or the darker sides of the Psyche. For example, with my analyst, we have adopted a name for the part of me that seeks drama, darkness etc?

What a wonderful question! Very important, I would say. According to Jung the Shadow is an archetype that reflects deeper elements of our psyche. It is, by its name, dark, shadowy, unknown and potentially troubling. It tends not to obey rules, and in doing so may discover new lands or plunge things into chaos and battle. It has a sense of the exotic and can be disturbingly fascinating.

We may see the shadow in others and, if we dare, know it in ourselves. Mostly, however, we deny it in ourselves and project it onto others.

In therapy, if we face up to our shadow side it can help to vitalize our lives. Those fears & anxieties that we suppressed many years ago, when confronted & understood, can lead us to places that we would, otherwise, never have discovered. The negative messages we receive in childhood all contribute towards constructing our shadow sides. If a person is told that they are stupid, or clumsy, or even unlovable, those messages live on in the dark side of the psyche. Shining a light on them is usually perceived as a fearful & risky thing to do. However, exposing them to the light in therapy provides an opportunity to see them for what they really are (hurtful and inappropriate comments) whilst, also, unwrapping potential that, otherwise, would have laid dormant.

For those who would like to learn more about their shadow, there is an excellent article by Denise Linn entitled: ‘Facing your Shadow

Have you ever given a client advice?

Within a contracted course of therapy, never (as far as I can recall). For me, doing so goes against the whole ethic of offering the patient ‘cues’ (in the form of interpretations & hypotheses) so that she may find her own way through her difficulties. Offering solutions by way of advice disempowers the patient by taking away her potential for finding her own answers.

Of course, if the patient asked me: ‘Is there a train station nearby if I’m ever unable to travel by car?’ then I would answer their question. But suggesting various coping strategies runs against the grain of psychodynamic therapy & may even imply that you have no faith or trust in the patient to find her own way out of her difficulties.

Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to address such thought-provoking questions, Will. Having been retired for several years I had to put my thinking cap back on in order to provide what I hope will be satisfactory answers.

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