Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On playing please-the-therapist

I thought she was so easy to work with; she does everything I suggest. But I wonder lately why nothing ever gets resolved.

You suspect this person has been playing please-the-therapist and stockpiling resentment every time she agrees to do what you suggest. This is quite possible. The habitual placater is nice to be with, but too often the niceness is at their own expense. Consequently, they are usually angry underneath that pleasant demeanor.

I have a theory that it is often a person’s displayed behavior which cries out, “Notice me. I’m the personality part that is unresolved and I’m the part that needs completing.” In this case, consider that because this woman displays an eager to please demeanor, underneath any neurosis she really is a cooperative, pleasant person. Imagine that the problem is she does not believe she is nice. So she lives her life acting nice and has little or no opportunity to connect with her niceness and learn that she really IS nice after all.

  • Invite this person, to begin by connecting with her anger in session.
    • “Before you do what I just suggested, take a minute and tell me about the part of you who doesn’t want to do it.”
    • “Now say all the other things you don’t want to do. See if you can experience that not-wanting-to-do-it feeling as you speak.”
  • Invite her to connect with any emotion. Work with her response.
    “What’s going on for you right now?”

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