Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On client resistance

Both a family and two separate individuals generally refuse or resist my ideas for enactments. What do I do then?

Whether your intervention is to ask a question, suggest an enactment, validate or reframe a point of view, interpret behavior, set up a structure, wonder about something, join with empathy, or simply sit there watching, attend to and work with the response to whatever your intervention is.

What response?

Pay attention to actions. As you describe it here, the “response” seems to be either refusing or resisting.

When they tell you that what you have thought of is not a good idea, agree. “Oh. Okay. Show me what is a good idea.”

“Okay, now you suggest something for me to do and I’ll refuse.”

“How is it that you refuse to do what I suggest but when so and so asks you to do something, you do it right away?”

“Stand up and make a circle. Make sure I’m unable to get inside.”

“What is it you fear?”

Say, “I’d like you to stand up for a minute. This is my picture is of what you (or you-guys) guys are doing in this session.” Then pick up a big pillow or chair cushion, hold it in front of you and tell the Main Refuser to push you away by pushing on the pillow. If there are others in the room, suggest they help him.

Afterwards say, “And this is my picture of what I am doing in this session.” Put some small objects on a book and offer it like a tray full of desserts. “These are the things I have to offer. Which ones would you like?”

Understand that it is not you they are resisting. You are a stand-in for someone else. In family work, start by guessing that the someone else is a member of the system.

You: (intervening by making some sort of suggestion)

He: I don’t want to do that.

You: Say those exact words to your wife.

He: (to his wife) I don’t want to do that.

You: a) What do you notice about yourself now that you’ve said that?


b) So Sally, what’s your response?

Pay attention to verbs.

She: I don’t want to do that.

You: Tell Jim what you Do want to do.

Pay attention to adjectives.

Teen: That’s silly.

You: Possibly so. Now tell Mother what else is silly.

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