Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On being confused

I find it confusing to stay in the room with a particular client. His truth changes.

Make that a sentence about you, only.

(after a couple of tries) I want other people to be logical, and I confuse myself when they’re not?

Makes sense to me.

Rather than commenting on the content, direct his attention to his experience. Invite him to introspect.

“Say that again. Pay attention to your internal experience as you say it.” “Now that you’ve said that, what’s your response?”

As his truth changes, tell your truth.

“I’m confused.”

He storytells and has a million tangents.

Access your inner dim-witted self (yes, you have one; you know that you do) and every time you get confused, ask him to slow down and explain it again, possibly in a different way.

“I don’t quite understand,” (as you bring out the sandtray, art supplies, or found items in the room) . . .“show me.”

Invite him to notice his experience while he is telling the story. That includes both the pictures that are going on in his head and what his body is doing while he is talking.

Explore with him (or make a guess at) the common thread weaving itself through all his stories.

Wonder out loud if he is as confused as you are. Alternatively, ask him to let you know when you have passed his trustability test.

Wonder if other people have as much trouble following him as you do.

Consider referring him for a medical and/or psychological evaluation. He may be a bit thought-disordered even though he seems to be functional at work and at home.

Ask him to draw or fiddle with clay while he tells his stories. One part of his brain can distract him while another part can show you what he means.

Invite him to make a chart of his stories, as he tells them. Have a pad of newsprint and crayons or markers handy for all clients.

Sidestep his story. Work with him non-verbally: drawing, painting, sandtray, movement. Invite him to work in imagery or with his dreams.

Let go of your need to understand. Proceed as if all his truths are true. ¯

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