Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On tattling clients

All they do in session is tattle on each other. Also, none of them is able to admit to being angry or upset about anything or with anybody. So what’s a way to work with this family?

You already see their process. Now create interventions that use their process.

Accelerate the process means to invite the process even more.

Invite them to do more tattling, more focusing on the past, or more denial. Invite them to pay attention to themselves as they do or don’t do what you suggest.

Direct them all to talk at once about every bad thing the others have ever done. While they are talking, direct them to throw tissues at the person they are tattling on. While they are engaged in the talking and the throwing, walk around and remind each of them that it’s against the family rules to get angry or upset.

Decelerate the process means to invite the process to slow down. The invitation is more apt to be taken when you offer an immediate alternative behavior that can be practiced in the moment. For example,

Tattling is a passive-aggressive attempt to make someone else uncomfortable without having to take any of the responsibility. Direct the tattler to talk directly to the person they are tattling on. Invite them to use language that takes ownership of their experience.

“Tell Joe directly, ‘I still feel resentment when I remember the time you … The thing that scares me the most is …’”

Maintain the process means to invite them to continue doing whatever they are doing but to do it with awareness.

“Say that about her again. This time be aware of what you hope for and what goes on for you internally as you say it.”

Okay, so how do I decide to accelerate, decelerate, or whatever?

Keep in mind that you don’t decide what the client does, only what you do. When you invite client connection with self, the client either takes your suggestion or he doesn’t. As a facilitator of awareness in session, there are two things you can do.

• Something
• Nothing

Whichever you decide to do, let what you do be an invitation. Let go of all the hopes you have that your client will be impacted in any way by your interventions. As to invitations, there are only three you can issue:

“Do what you are doing less.”
“Do what you are doing more.”
“Continue doing what you are doing.”

If you will let go of the outcome of your intervention and resolve to focus on and work with the Other Guy’s response, then all three of the foregoing invitations are equally useful. If you invite a process to accelerate, do it because it occurs to you. It is no more the right thing to do than asking a question, telling someone to stop, devising a solution, active listening, or doing nothing at all. In general, we suggest you pay attention as to which interventions invite your particular client to go deeper into his work and which tend to bring him out of his work. Then you can tailor you interventions accordingly. ¯

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