Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On setting up enactments

When she remembered . . . , I got a figurine and did an enactment for that. Then she said . . . , so I set up some balls and pillows and did an enactment of that. How could I set up an enactment for . . . ?

Enactments often include the use of objects, but the essence of an enactment has nothing to do with stuff, and they do not always need to be “set up.” The lovely thing about an enactment is that it is an experiential way to invite process into awareness.

The concrete nature of a physical metaphor can present options which might otherwise remain quite obscure. Remember, too, that a person’s process is being enacted from the moment she walks in the room. How she enters the room, how she sits down, where she puts her focus, her internal experience, what she says, the topic she chooses, and the tone of her voice are all holograms, all representations of herself in every aspect of her life. Similarly, how she relates to you is also an enactment of an issue she is working on. And this between-the-two-of-you enactment is happening every moment of the session, whether you notice it or not.

Everything you do in session is an intervention, and all your interventions are enactments. For example, as you reflectively listen you are also in a roleplay (an enactment) of how the person listens, or does not listen, to herself.

A memory is an enactment too, a re-creation in imagery, of a past event. Inviting this woman to connect with her experience while she remembers something is inviting a re-enactment of how she related to that event. She will also be enacting how she responds to people who invite her to do something.

If you choose to work with enactments that are more structured, then get out the bears and chairs. That’s fine with me. But remember that the point of all your interventions is to invite the client to attend to and connect with her process as it manifests (enacts) itself in this moment.

And once she is connected to and experiencing herself, step back, occasionally invite her deeper, but generally stay out of her way. If you constantly present her with yet another ball, another pillow, another empty chair, you may be inviting her out of the deeper work.

Some people don’t need you to invite them to do very much at all. A therapeutically available client with high intentionality can move into her experience and, with minimal encouragement from the therapist (perhaps a few sentences total, all session), do a piece of work to resolution by herself.

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