How can you maintain unconditional regard if you direct a client in some way, impose an intervention on him, or do anything besides listen and reflect?
Reflective listening is a powerful therapeutic tool because it is structured, as are all therapeutic interventions, to call a person’s attention to their own process.
Unconditional positive regard is not about what you do. It is a fundamental attitude from which you operate, a conscious valuing of Other that you have in your heart. If you can, intervene in any way: listen, reflect, reframe, ask questions, make guesses, take a history, interpret, direct enactments, set up structures, invite introspection, observe, tell stories, suggest options, or use guided imagery. If you do so within a spirit of full acceptance and high regard, you will automatically treat other people with respect. You will not be imposing on them.
Similarly, countertransference is not about your behavior. Countertransference is about your attitude and your underlying motivation. If you are individuated and have let go of your expectations, if you have no need that other people be different than they are and want nothing from them, then no matter what your behavior, you are not countertransferred.
Be able to be with someone for the length of a session without judging him, having an agenda for him, wanting something from him, or needing him to be different. If the only way you can accomplish these things is to restrict your actions to listening intently and reflecting back what the client says, then reflective listening is one of your therapeutic tools of strength. Use it. Do not interpret, guess, notice, share, or direct any enactment, structure, exploration, or experiment unless you understand at a fundamental level that what you are doing is inviting, not imposing. And do not invite unless you can do so without expecting any particular outcome, including that the person will attempt or cooperate with your intervention.
Even “What’s happening now?” becomes a demand if, when you ask it, you expect that the person will answer. On the other hand, “Go stand on your head” is only an invitation if, when you say it, you are not attached to outcomes, you have no expectations, and it is not important to you whether the client does it or not.
Well, why would you ever tell him to do something like that?
In order to work with his response – as opposed to working with the content. Keep your attention on how he responds, whether, positively:
You: Go stand on your head.
Him: Okay (Does it.)
You: “What do you notice about yourself right now?” or negatively:
You: Go stand on your head.
Him: No. I don’t wanna do that.
You: (Pick one of following or make something else up)
• What do you wanna do?
• What else don’t you wanna do?
• What do you notice about yourself as you say, “no?”
• Scrunch up your face like that again. What are the words your face muscles are saying?
• Alright, I’ll tell you to do a bunch of different things and you tell me you don’t want to do them.
• Oh, you take good care of yourself with me. How do you stop yourself from taking good care of yourself with your wife?
• How come you give yourself permission to take care of yourself in session, but not where you work?