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Archive for the ‘Individual Therapy’ Category

I’ve been asked how much therapists really ‘get it’ about how much they effect their clients’ daily lives with what they say and do. I say it depends on the quality of the therapist. It doesn’t hurt if the therapist has been in therapy themselves and experienced the power of transference.

Good therapists know very well how significant they are to their clients, certainly want to avoid their clients’ losing them, and pay attention to what they say and do. Good therapists put themselves into a “good parent mode” when they are working, and are careful about balancing nurturing and challenging interventions that are intended to promote growth.  Even the way a phrase is delivered can make an important impression.  It’s part of the therapist’s job not to be overly tired, and certainly not irritable, from their own life.

I often feel as it I have the ‘client’s life in my hands’ knowing full well how powerful my words and actions can be for them. Doing therapy is not a casual business. That’s why therapists are tired after a day of sessions. They have been working hard, mentally and emotionally, to give each client their best.

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I have been asked by clients what to do with their feelings of attraction to their therapist, past or present.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling usually, and often makes a client feel one down –  because an ethical therapist won’t reciprocate and the client feels alone in their attraction. The therapeutic relationship is a natural place for clients to sometimes develop romantic feelings for the therapist. After all, the client is being listened to deeply, possibly understood more fully than ever before, and hopefully truly helped.

The informed therapist doesn’t take the client’s feelings personally, and is most concerned with treating the client respectfully about their feelings, and also reassure the client that the relationship will always remain therapist/ client. It’s important for the client to know that the therapist will never take advantage of the client’s feelings and allow any other kind of relationship to develop, besides therapeutic, in session, either during therapy or afterward.

Feeling  attracted to your  therapist is often a part of positive transference.

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Most people want to believe their parents are good people and were good parents to them. To keep this belief is to keep your world stable and good.    If your parents were normal people they made mistakes that have affected you. Some parents are so injured themselves that they, for the most part, weren’t good parents at all. Some parents are downright destructive and their children are lucky  ( or marvelously resilient) to come out of their childhood relatively intact. Some children don’t.

The truth  is there are no perfect parents. There really aren’t.  People not willing or able to see their parents’ limitations and mistakes lose out in understanding and forgiving themselves for their own limitations, and often feel bad about themselves.   They make excuses for their parents, seeing them so much as victims of their own situations and therefore not ultimately responsible for what they did – or didn’t do – to their own children. So the adult child inwardly makes themselves bad to protect the parent from responsibility for their own behavior. For these people the parent must remain good, or at least not as  faulted/limited  as they were. When in therapy, these adults lose out on what they might learned about who they are and why they are the way they are.  They can’t overcome the  mistakes or cruelties from their parents; you can’t fix something that didn’t happen. And you can’t find out what did happen if you aren’t willing to  be open to what you find when you look.

People who protect their parents and lose out for themselves are often relying on the parents to make them feel OK, instead of taking it on themselves to make themselves feel OK. This is a growing up process that many times people resist. Of course we all want our parents to love us, but if they screwed up and our self esteem is lower than it could / should be, it’s time to take on the work of finding out how to validate and love yourself. That’s therapy.

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One way to do inner work is to have an ongoing conversation with your child self. It’s tricky to really do it correctly, though.  You can’t decide what you want the child to say, you have to “let it happen”.  If you do, you will find remarkable insight into your own unconscious, because it is from the unconscious part of your mind that your imaginary child self will speak to you.

So how do you “let it happen”? Some people can do this easily (and some people are probably best off doing their inner work another way, because it is virtually impossible for them to allow their mind to flow as is needed here – which is fine since there are other ways to do internal work).  But when you can let it happen – it is comparable to a day dream that is progressing on it’s own, without an agenda, and can be very useful.

So here’s an example of “letting it happen”. In a fantasy, go to your childhood home and look for your young self in your old bedroom. When you open the door, look around, is there anyone there? Is it a younger you? About how old is this part of you? (Here’s where you don’t decide – you look to and see.)

One person I know looked everywhere and couldn’t find her child – the room was empty. (That was a perfect message from her inner child – she had no relationship to herself in this emotional way). Eventually the person found the child hiding under the bed – backed away and facing the wall. By the time she had eventually gently coached the child away from the wall – she had learned a great deal about how frightened she was of her abusive family, even at a very young age.

Another example is a person finding a young teenager self in the backyard by her old swing set. She tried extending to the young girl self, only to have the teenage self blow up at her, furious, “If you don’t stop pushing me and making me work all the time, I’ll go kill myself. Then you’ll be sorry! You never let me have a any fun. All you care about is money!” The adult in this situation did over work and rarely gave herself  down time, no less time for fun. The adult was running from emotional self, and her internal pain with over work and busyness. The wisdom she needed came from her teenage self.

The goal of this kind of work is to get in close touch with your feelings and if possible, re-parent yourself. I have said to men clients “You be the good father  that your inner little boy never had, and if you get into places where you don’t know what to do or say, you can always check with Grandma. (That’s me, therapist and Grandma.)

Hurtful self talk is revealed here – as the adult may not know what is nurturing and supportive, if they rarely got caring or supportive words from their real parents. “Grandma” can intervene and teach the adult how to be a good parent.   Learning how to be a good parent to yourself can lead to positive self talk. You can practice it intentionally during these sessions with your inner child self, and kinder, more useful self talk will start to happen naturally.

A very powerful conversation with one’s inner child can occur after a relationship has been formed through several sessions of work. At this point the adult can ask the child to leave the hurtful, often abusive home “and come and live with me.” It is often very touching how gratefully and enthusiastically the child responds to this offer.  Some people make elaborate rooms for the little child in their imagination,  others prefer to simply visit the child in their new, safe environment and re-parent  him or her.

Some of my clients have picked up on this approach and done a wonderful job of learning much about their family of origin and what needed to be learned and unlearned in order to have a satisfying life as an adult.

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