Question: What Are Some of the Basic Do's and Don'ts of Therapist Listening in Deep Feeling and Body-Oriented Psychotherapy?

(Notwithstanding his M.D. Dr. Vereshack is not a licensed physician)

I believe that one of the basic laws of deep psychotherapy is this:

"Client trust varies directly with the congruence
of the therapist to the client's process."

Without this trust no client can work effectively, and for many, the attainment of trust itself achieves much of the healing that is needed.

The following statements can create, or if incorrectly made, can harm basic trust in the client-therapist relationship:

    1. Accurate responses to content: e.g., "Did you become afraid the moment you entered the room?"

    2. Accurate responses to the feeling tone accompanying a comment: e.g., "I hear love in your voice when you speak of him."

    3. Accurate statements about what is almost conscious in the client's interchange, e.g., "It sounds like you really didn't want to go."

    4. Accurate statements about feelings that are almost conscious: e.g., "You seem to be feeling badly about that?"

    5. Requests for more information: e.g., "Can you say a little more about that?" - "Are you in a feeling right now?"

    6. Not interrupting the delicate flow of client free association with therapist agenda: e.g., "Let's not go there right now, your anger work is more important."

    7. Avoidance of therapist belief: e.g.. "When you get to your birth stuff this will become clear."

    8. Avoidance of false empathy: e.g., "I feel badly for you when you talk about this."

    9. Avoidance of accurate but wrong level responses: e.g., "This tells me that you hated your mother."

    10. The use of touch and holding that is not wanted will disturb rather than facilitate the flow of healing.

    11. Too much therapist interest in gory details.

    12. Not enough therapist interest in all the necessary details and the attached feelings.

    13. Inability to sense the language needed at the moment:

      a.) Matching childlike words and small sentences to the child within the client: e.g., "You hated him when he did that." as opposed to, "You had a deep distaste for your father when he touched you that way."

      b.) "You fought him off yet you liked the closeness." as opposed to, "When your brother wanted to become intimate with you, you resisted him even though a part of you liked the closeness."

      Always remember that language that is too adult and too wordy, ungrounds the client from his/her material and usually communicates therapist distaste for it.

    14. Do not sit or lie too close to the client. Remember that the client's mat space is sacred.

    15. Do not neglect to keep therapy relationship issues always in mind as, for example, in asking from time to time, "Is there anything about our work, anything at all, no matter how small, that you would like to comment on?"

    16. Always validate a client's intuition about therapist errors: e.g., "No I wasn't angry with you the other day," as opposed to, "Yes, I must admit that I was angry with you the other day when you were critical of me."

    17. Move towards the truth, at any time, no matter how scary or difficult it may be: e.g., "I made a serious error with you last week and I would like us to talk about it."

    18. Failing to walk our talk . . . like driving an expensive car when our clients can hardly afford to pay us or being dishonest in our personal lives, etc.

    19. Always gently anchor your client's processes to the body sensations of their feelings; returning to these at the end of a sequence so that the sensations can be seen to shift. This comparing of the before and after body states lets us know what is complete and what needs to be returned to. Feeling these changes in their depths also validates the method and this in turn greatly reassures all of us, especially beginners, that the method works.

    20. One of the greatest issues in our therapy is the issue of time. When we ask clients to lie back and centre in a feeling or body sensation we are moving both ourselves and them into what I think of as "Slowe Tyme."

    It takes time for the mind/body-conscious/unconscious axis to re-orient away from cerebral logic and daytime conscious thought.

      First, it takes time to locate the feeling, sample its location, and most importantly sample its qualities, and then it takes time to give ourselves over to merging with it.

      Second, it takes time for the feeling and or sensations to begin the all important action of becoming a magnet for deeper material.

      Third, it takes time for that material to emerge into consciousness.

      Fourth, it takes time to activate the body's skeletal muscles to find the right movement or position which will congruently externalise the inner issue.

      Fifth, it takes time to find the right voice, so that the sounds produced will become a congruent mirror of the inner state and thereby externalise the pain with exactly the quality that it is being felt.

      Sixth, it takes time for the upward movement of non-logical material to begin its continuous flow into the external world where the ears of both the client, who hears him/herself anew, and the therapist, who hears it for the first time, can receive it.

      Seventh, it takes time for the therapist's mind-body axis to hear and to align at the body level with the client's production, so as to produce the completely congruent responses outlined above.

    A client working at depth will produce usually only a few and usually very short sentences. It is crucial that the therapist not interfere with these brief communications. Their words are the breathtakingly fragile "bubble" which must be allowed to float in the winds of an arising consciousness without interference from the therapist.

    Time, and timing, is everything. Give your clients oceans of it, and yet be aware of when they come ungrounded and are merely lost in nonproductive reverie.

* * * *

I believe that the following basic principles emerge from all of the above principles of therapist listening and interaction.

The regression therapist must

  • Get sufficient training from a sufficient number of different therapists who have themselves been widely trained, in order to appreciate what is really happening in the clients as opposed to what we project onto them.

  • Have years of their own therapy, with many different therapists, so they can evaluate the many differing styles and interventions needed.

  • Allow the therapy to move slowly, letting things unfold at the timetable of the client and not as they might wish to have them unfold.

  • Phrase interventions within a gentle questioning tone. Clients can forgive inaccuracy in a question far more easily than they can in a statement.

  • Channel needs for potency into the most accurate and intuitive congruence with their clients that they can achieve. There is more than enough satisfaction to be had in this pursuit by itself. Whatever else they arrive at is strictly their stuff and should be left out of the therapy room.

  • Put truth above all else.

  • Operate from a caring and informed heart. Without caring the therapy becomes a "clockwork orange."

Paul Vereshack

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