My client wants something but he doesn’t know what it is.
Instead of listening to him talk-about the thing he wants, invite him to talk-to or talk-with it.
Pull up an empty chair. Ask him to sit in it. Say, “Imagine you are still sitting in that other chair, Repeat after me, ‘I represent the thing you want. I don’t know what I am exactly. But what I notice about myself right now while I talk to you is….”
Invite him to imagine something that represents “wanting.” Once he can describe it, invite him to dialogue with it.
Pick any object in the room. Hold it in your hand toward him, and say some version of, “This represents the thing you want.” Pay attention to his response (he takes it, he doesn’t take it, he says he doesn’t want it, etc.) and work with what he does or doesn’t do.
This seems like the perfect issue to explore non- verbally: imagery, collage, breathwork, etc.
As a child, he had a relative by whom he felt loved. As an intervention, I took that person’s role. For the most part, I guessed at the words and said what I figured she would say.
During a psychodrama piece, whenever you are verbally representing another person or part-of-a-person, attempt to use only words you have heard the person attribute to the part you are playing. They can be phrases you have heard that very day or words you recall from previous sessions. Matching the tone, accent, cadence, sound, and melody (whine) too, will invite the person even deeper into his work.
Since your client did not tell you what to say, guessing seems like the only workable option. Should the words you say turn out to be incomplete or wrong, he will find a way during his work to let you know. In fact, hearing you saying the “wrong” words is often how the client discovers the “right’ words.
After you have spoken for the relative for awhile, suggest the two of you switch roles.