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The Therapy Journey

The Therapy Journey

Written By: Rebecca Dallard, Principal Psychologist

 

I have found trees to be brilliant for my soul. Capturing my attention despite the darkest of moods. There is something compelling about images such as the one below.

Multiple paths overgrown with trees could be seen as a beautiful metaphor for the therapy journey ahead. It is hard to see too far in front while making your way to your destination. There are obstacles and cars potentially coming the other way. Requiring you to navigate around them. As in life I guess.

The roads may symbolise new “goat tracks” for you in your life.

Goat track [3] being a great term for our tendency to head down the path ‘most’ accessible to us at the time – this path often created as we navigated our way through childhood. Even if this path is not the most constructive. It is my hope that you will find your way along the path to psychological insight and awareness.

Remaining with the goat track symbolism – you may need to move things out of the way, get uncomfortable, experiment with different routes, make the effort to clear the path. Thus, with dedicated pursuit, you may find yourself with multiple different pathways in front of you. On your way to greater choice, and more flexibility in your thinking and behaviour.

On the Couch

You may experience fear and anxiety, vulnerability. This is pretty normal. The expectation one is expected to “open up” can be uncomfortable. Many of us make ourselves vulnerable quickly and then are left feeling unsafe. It is as important to learn to protect yourself in relation to the environment in which you find yourself. Part of my job is to notice when you have appropriate self-support and when you don’t. To provide enough support so that you can make the necessary changes to face the challenges in your life. Growth is possible in contact with oneself where there is sufficient self-support and support in the environment.

Your reactions and experiences in the present moment (in therapy) provide clues to your process and opportunities for insight and self-awareness. Your job is simply to notice; that is much of the work in this kind of therapy. The thoughts, attitudes, feelings and memories that show up for you in the moment.

This kind of therapy allows all that is present in the moment to be potentially explored – whatever shows up is the therapeutic work. This way of working has the therapist strive to stay with what is happening to you in the present moment. To help shine a light on what is for you and how you organise yourself around what is for you. Learning to stay with what is and discover your authentic self.

This approach calls on you to be mindful, to look closely at what you are doing in the present moment, the way in which you are doing it and how you alter yourself in response.

Social Expectations

It is possible explore the therapy relationship in ways that are unconventional according to many culturally ascribed rules of social engagement. You can examine the “should’s” or introjects that guide you in life that may be outside of your awareness. In the interest of getting to the whole self this approach to therapy introduces the idea “that there are no social rules”. Although, this is a rule in and of itself. Rather it is more likely that together the therapist and client make their own rules of engaging in the therapeutic process and work at navigating the space between sameness and difference. That is how are you like me and how are you not like me and how do I make sense of those things. As in any relationship it is an exploration of being in contact with difference.

 

Language

Much difficulty in relationships with others comes from a different understanding of language. used by one person may not actually mean the same thing to the listener. We ascribe meaning to all kinds of things based on our lived experience. We can find ourselves fighting over whose perception of reality is the correct one and we use words to communicate our perspective.

Recently this came up for me in a discussion regarding the ‘danger’ that may result from use of the term “being a man”. The interpretation of what this actually looks like out in the world can be very different. It may mean ‘act tough, don’t cry, don’t appear vulnerable’ or it may look like Rudyard Kipling’s definition of being a man in the poem IF (I would love to be this way in the world even as a woman). https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/if-by-rudyard-kipling

The point is that – people carry different interpretations of such words. They are therefore likely to think and behave differently from one another based on that interpretation. The technical name for this process is phenomenology. Differences in language highlight variances in perspective and creates a wonderful opportunity for discussion.

 

Valuing and accepting the self

The process of therapy works towards bringing clients closer to self-acceptance. To get a sense of where you are at – without being interrupted by what you should or ought to be doing, thinking or feeling. To explore how you show up in the moment and to become more aware of your authentic self.

This paves the way for transformation to occur via the ‘paradox of change’. [1] Essentially, this mean that change happens when one becomes what he IS, and not when he tries to become what he is not. It is about a letting go of striving for things to be other than how they actually are. To notice what is and where you are, only then does change become possible.

M Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled provides a great example as to how this concept works:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Clients then can experiment with finding out “WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THEY DROPPED THE MASK”? In session and then perhaps even out in their world.

 

“The therapeutic space we provide for our clients is a safe place to stop pretending”.

 

What kind of therapy am I talking about?

The therapeutic approach described above represents my current understanding of Gestalt Therapy, as it stands today. I received my initial training at the Gestalt Training Institute West Australia http://www.gestaltwa.com/ [2].

I imagine that my interpretation will continue to evolve and change as I learn and develop over time.

I am so privileged to be able to work with people from so many different walks of life. I learn so much about myself and other people. I love when clients can finally let go and “just be”. To become aware of what is driving them and to give themselves the freedom to do something different.

Discover the road to personal insight… get in contact and explore what is possible.

 

Look out for Future Articles on:
• The Present Moment and Mindfulness
• Gestalt Therapy
• Self acceptance and letting go
• Self-support
• Being in Contact
• Authentic self
• Phenomenology
• Difference
• The Paradox of Change
• Interruptions to Process

  • Introjects
  • Deflection
  • Projection
  • Confluence
  • Retroflection

 

REFERENCES

[1]  The Paradoxical Theory of Change. Arnold Beisser, M.D.

[2] Gestalt Training Institute West Australia http://www.gestaltwa.com/

[3] I came across this term a while ago and I cannot find who coined the term. It was in reference to dealing with difficult behaviours in the classroom. The importance of understanding that a child may need that “difficult” behaviour at home to cope. And rather than attempting to remove it – aim to add new behaviours so that the child has options (new goat tracks) in a different environment. If anyone knows the reference, please let me know. I would love the original content.

[4] Gestalt Therapy: An Introduction. by Gary Yontef, Ph.D.

[5] http://zencaroline.blogspot.com.au/2009/07/gestalt-processes-explained.html

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