Re-parenting in Psychotherapy

I think therapists are re-parenting all the time they are in session with a client, and being keenly aware of that is part of using transference. Recognizing that transference is going on all the time in therapy allows the better therapists to be most effective. This is what is meant by “ It’s the relationship that heals,” not the particular therapeutic approach utilized.

It’s the therapists respect, interest, affection, effort put out to help; all of this and more is apparent to the client consciously or unconsciously. And all of this is saying “you are worthy, you are of great value as a person.” Your thoughts are interesting, your feelings matter, etc. etc. These messages are the ones the person should have gotten as a child are now being expressed by the therapist, overtly and not so overtly, verbally and non-verbally. That’s re- parenting. Knowing how to do this genuinely is an important therapeutic skill.

When I am meeting a client for the first time, I look to see what I label to myself as the “beauty” of this person. If I don’t see it right away, I consciously wait, because I know I will see it soon. If I can tell I am never going to like a person, for what ever reason, I don’t work with them. It happens very rarely. I know each person deserves to have their therapist like them and find them worthy.

How Do Therapists Stay Calm When the Client is So Very Angry at Them?

I think there are a couple of reasons. One is that we (us therapists) forgive ourselves for mistakes, and two, is that often we haven’t really done anything wrong at all and the client is angry because of misplaced transference. By the first I mean having confidence in the fact that we are 99 times out of 100 doing what is useful and if we make a mistake, we are OK with ourselves for not being perfect. The second one is about when the client is perceiving us as acting badly because they are seeing us as a family member who did act badly (transference), but we ( the therapist) actually hasn’t. Clearing that all up is called “working through negative transference” and it’s a very useful part of what can happen in therapy.

To explain further: If the client is having negative transference, they are seeing the therapist as harmful, as their parent or some important childhood figure was. They are then transferring the perception that this person is also going to harm them, onto the therapist. They are almost always transferring that onto other people in their lives also. So it’s great when it happens in therapy, and they get to realize that the therapist doesn’t mean them any harm when the therapist says “X” or looks at them “Y” – just like their mother ( or father or someone from childhood did). They may be completely right that the childhood person did intend harm and created harm, but the therapist isn’t doing that now. The therapist can explain what they meant by what they said or how they looked, or whatever.

That is so helpful to clarify. It clears up a lot of bad feelings this client may have been assigning to others in their world. It’s often hugely important.

The therapist recognizes, when the client is angry at them, if they’ve actually done something wrong and the client deserves an apology – and it’s very therapeutically useful to apologize and admit you were wrong at those times. The therapist also recognizes when the client is transferring motive, or whatever, to them and it’s not accurate, and listening respectfully and then explaining what they did intend, etc. is very powerful for the client to hear, and experience.

It takes skill and an understanding of transference to do this well with clients. It’s a perfectly OK way to use the therapist. It’s their job to help you make sense of what you experience and treat you with respect the whole way though

Have Clients Ever Straight Up Lied In Session? Can You Tell ?

Yes, clients do sometimes lie in therapy, and I’ve had my share. Here are a few examples I remember:

An alcoholic says she stopped using when she hadn’t. I had no way of knowing except by hunch, and you can’t confront someone for lying because of a hunch; it could be very disrespectful if you are wrong. By the time the spouse was able to see the lies, the alcoholic client in this case left treatment with me.

An unfaithful partner tells me and his wife he has ended an affair when he hadn’t. The truth came out eventually and I was able to say how it felt to me, and how much time and effort I had wasted, because of the lies.

A Narcissistic Personality Disordered person told me how useful I was being to him so he could tell his wife he had “been to therapy” and in hopes of keeping me from confronting him. It didn’t work, because this one I could see through.

I’m not very patient with devious people who waste my time. I usually ask them to leave, or offer a “one more chance” proposition when I think fear is the dominating motivation rather than straight up manipulation to avoid growing.

Do therapists ever get annoyed at or tired of their clients?

Yes, I think so.

The job of the therapist is to use yourself as an instrument, and be aware of how you ( your instrument) reacts. If you feel angry, irritated or bored with a client, very likely other people would also. So you use the information you’ve received, by your own reaction, in some manner that would be helpful to the client. The trick here is note your feelings to yourself, think about why the client is probably acting the way he is, and not express them as they are felt, for example – not speak angrily. The therapist’s job is to find a way to explain to the the client, so he can understand, how he is creating this reaction in another person without sounding critical. Then it’s the therapist’s job to help the client understand what is going on within himself.

Similarly, if, as therapist, you are “tiring” of your client, or getting bored, it is a signal (to me anyway) that the client is not being authentic, or is not going anywhere useful, i.e. being repetitive. This too can be communicated to the client without judgement and in a clarifying way to help the client in self awareness.

This takes skill, more than simple self control, because you as therapist have to know how to reach that particular client.

What you say may be experienced by the client as a confrontation but one that includes having the therapist’s arm around you, metaphorically.

Transpersonal Psychotherapy

I have been a psychotherapist for 40 years and have done energy work for most of that time. Now, as a Holy Fire III Reiki Master, I am letting the Madison community  know that I enjoy combining Reiki healing work with psychotherapy for many of my clients who are open and interested in both.

Usually people are happy to put forth “to my highest good” as their intention in their energy work, and therefore the energy work expands on the psychotherapy they are presently involved in and enhances their growth. Because the source of the information that is made available is beyond what I or my clients consciously are aware of, these sessions can be especially provocative and useful.

I have also been helpful for people have difficulties with illnesses, injuries and ongoing health problems.  I am happy to accept clients who are only looking for energy healing and not interested in taking on a  course of psychotherapy.

How do you know when it is time to leave therapy?

When you are ready to go it on your own, and you don’t want to keep going to see your therapist. You don’t have to be ‘completely done ‘ with growing and changing, or with therapy, you will learn and grow living your life without therapy too, and it is often very useful to do therapy in “chunks.” By that I mean , do a “chunk’ of time with a therapist and then leave and live on your own,. Then, when a need arises that is obvious to you, go back and do another “ chunk.”

I often suggest a few options to people that aren’t sure they are ready to leave : they can space out a few appointments to get a feel for what that is like, they can make an appointment a month or two into the future, knowing they could always call and get back in if needed, or they can say good bye for now, and know I will be there and they can always call. Often leaving therapy feels a bit like leaving home, and it’s important to know you can always come back, stop in for a little visit ( and support) or whatever feels right to you.

Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Pursuit

I think it is everyone’s job, everyone’s spiritual job, to clean up the human mess your parents left you and not spread any more dysfunctional hurt around to any other people. So I think it is your job to do your own personal therapy so you don’t continue the mistakes your parents made with you – and I mean this not only with your own children, but first and primarily with your own children. Then with everyone you have contact with in your life.

Another way of saying the same  thing is that I think  it is everyone’s spiritual job to be the best version of themselves that they can be.  I don’t (at all ) mean doing this at every minute of every day, with a perfectionist pressure, but rather to become the best person you can be. That creates  another very competent, moral, high functioning person (in whatever way that is for you), so that you are making your personal best contribution to the world around you. You might  then be the best man in a construction crew – doing very good construction work and  being a good human being, kind, honest and decent, to those around you. Or perhaps you are a lawyer and could be unscrupulous and out to make the most money you can, or you could be  touching people’s lives, or a corporation’s life, with integrity that profits everyone involved. The world and all the people in it, need those of us who are in  the lucky enough position of having the money and time to indulge ourselves in personal growth – to do it.

I realize that doesn’t have to take the form of psychotherapy. But it is one path.

 

The Hard Truth about Couple Therapy

Taking your most recent fight to your couple therapist is probably one of the least likely ways to get much of anything from couple therapy. The therapist is not there to be a judge and decide who is right in your struggles. The therapist is there to teach you new skills so you can both get the relationship you want.

You need to set goals for what you want your relationship to be and learn the skills to get it there. So many people come in to a  couple session and want the therapist to “fix” their partner. In fact, you need to look at what needs changing in yourself, and if both partners  will do this, real growth and change can occur.  You need to be willing to look at yourself and what you learned about relationships and love from your family of origin and see how that is getting in your way in your current love relationship.  All of this takes time, dedication, a willingness to take risks, and often, frankly, a touch of humility.

If you are up for all of this, you could really improve your relationship.  There are very specific skills involved in improving an intimate relationship, and for some people they aren’t  easy to learn. You will grow personally in couple therapy much as you would if you were in individual therapy. If you are interested in how you contribute to the struggles you have with your partner,  you could  gain  a lot and grow a lot and have a much more loving , close and satisfying relationship –  through couple therapy.

Why you care so much about what your therapist thinks of you.

Because you are in transference with this therapist. That means, you experience the therapist as if he or she is a parent to you, and all of us want our parents to love and approve of us. Your therapist is a stand in parent to you.

In fact, “working in the transference” means to a savvy therapist , that giving their support, approval , validation, etc, is very healing to their clients. Therapists should know this and do this. I keenly remember how much it meant to me to have my therapist value and like me. I have said that her words were “mainlined directly to the two year old in me.” That was so very healing, and I never forgot it, so I do the same for my clients. I work in the transference, meaning everything I say and do with my clients is with the awareness that I am a stand in parent and have the opportunity to re-parent, to heal, the child within the grown up who is my client.

So what you are asking about is pretty much true for all psychotherapy clients, and the stronger the transference, normally, the stronger the need for a loving parent to give the child within the adult client the esteem building care they needed and can still profit from. I hope your therapist understands this. It is why so many people say that in therapy “ the relationship heals.”

I have other blogs about transference. You might be interested in this phenomena since it effects everyone in therapy.

Good luck to you. I hope you are getting what you deserve.

Couple Therapy – Helpful Hints for Success

It is clear to me almost the first session which couples are going to get what they want out of couple therapy relatively quickly and who is going to be coming for a long time. It has to do with a willingness to be open to new ideas, a willingness to make changes and to learn new things, and a willingness to make the effort to have this happen.

Another huge piece is to stop blaming your partner and for what’s wrong in the relationship and look to yourself to see what you can do differently.

It takes a certain amount of strength in self, ego strength some people call it, to be able to do this without collapsing on the one hand or blowing up on the other. Good couple therapists know this and provide vehicles for the couple to build personal strength so that they can grow, as partners, in their communication and caring for one another.