Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On exploratory psychotherapy

She has no idea what she wants from psychotherapy. The probation officer wants her to work on setting limits and establishing boundaries.

Her two choices appear to be a) doing what the probation officer wants or b) exploratory psychotherapy to discover what she wants.

If she decides to do what the probation officer wants, here are some ideas.

Invite her to explore how she puts herself in the position where other people decide what she should do with her time.

Facilitate “setting limits and establishing boundaries.”

She stands in the middle of the room encircled by some rope or yarn (representing her boundaries). Stand apart from her, then move closer. Invite her to report her response. Move a little closer. Direct her attention to her response. Each time you move toward her boundaries, invite her to introspect. Suggest she tell you to “Stop!” when you get too close. Wonder out loud why she doesn’t do it. Keep practicing as she vacillates between getting more comfortable or more uncomfortable as she stands up for herself or she doesn’t.

Do what amounts to the same thing by moving your chair toward and away from her.

Ask her for or to do something. She can practice saying, “No.”

Set up roleplay/sandtray/art projects/furniture sculpts, etc. that represent her various relationships and their lack of limits and boundaries.

Invite regression work to facilitate her exploration of how she learned that setting limits and maintaining boundaries was not a safe thing to do.

Okay, but exploratory psychopsychotherapy? What is that? How might I do it?

I dunno, I just made it up. Let’s define it as you inviting her to explore what she wants within a psychotherapeutic frame.

How about a family history, exploring generational attitudes, attributes, patterns, and messages. She might bring in old photographs to use as stand-ins for family sculpts.

The two of you might wonder about the family patterns relative to the issues that got her mandated to therapy: abuse, victimization, anger, poor limit setting, and the non-establishing of boundaries. (Hey, the probation officer isn’t stupid!)

Suggest work in the sandtray. You don’t need sand, a tray, or formal objects. Get enough yarn to make a circle on the floor. She can use the objects in her purse, objects in a desk, or found objects from out in the parking lot, or in the kitchen.

“Make (with these objects) a representation of the way it is. Now make a representation of the way you’d like it to be. What’s the difference? What steps have to be taken to get from the way things are to the way you’d like them to be?”

Suggest she use the photographs as memories to jump-start regressive work.

She could tell stories about her childhood and work out how they might relate to her present life.

Encourage her to pay attention to all her different parts, converse with her projections, participate in guided imageries, keep a journal, introspect, play, bring and work with her dreams in session, or simply free associate until she discovers a problem area or a pattern she might like to explore more deeply.

1 Get her permission to use psychotherapeutic techniques you would like to know more about. Invite her to learn with you.

1 Invite somatic work where “introspection and connection with self” includes the physical body. Think bodywork such as Hakomi, bioenergetics, etc. Start with simple head, hands, arms, and leg movements.

“I notice your left hand just flung itself outward while you were talking. Do that again, this time in sloooow motion. Let your hand speak. What does your arm have to say?”

“What do you notice about yourself as you. . . (move in some way)”

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