THE PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC CONVERSATION
The Psychotherapeutic conversation and how therapy cures
- Psychoanalytic psychotherapy aims to develop self awareness through the experience of a new and different relationship with the therapist that allows the client, through telling their story, to develop and integrate previously unknown or suppressed aspects of self. Parts of self become “lost” or suppressed through an experience of not being understood, seen or heard or through hiding parts of self due to traumatic experiences.
- The unconscious motivations and expectations that often lead a person to repeat negative or unhealthy patterns in relationships and life slowly becomes conscious through the therapeutic conversation. Within a safe and warm setting the client is encouraged to tell their story and I listen for unconscious expectations and motivations that often give one’s life familiar patterning and outcomes. Often I will also hear the parts of a client’s story that has not been lived yet (as in the wish and longing for something or someone new and different).
- A therapeutic conversation is healing in that I aim to listen to the client in a way that allows the client to feel optimally heard and understood through deep empathic immersion in their story, listening from within the client’s perspective with a non-judgemental attitude of curiosity and interest that facilitates a deep exploration of the story. This type of listening also encourages the client to be curious about their own story. Often the client feels listened to and believed in a way that they have not previously been. This type of listening creates a sense of collaboration between client and myself whereby the client’s telling of the story and my listening is now jointly held in mind in a way that allows the client to feel deeply understood and psychologically "known".
- When the client does not feel understood by me, as sometimes happens, he or she is gently encouraged to let me know so that he or she does not feel shamefully misunderstood or compliantly accommodates to my point of view. This can be very difficult to do for many clients who are only just beginning to say how they feel, especially when they have an experience of being misunderstood or not heard. This is an important part of the therapeutic conversation as it leads to an experience of inner strength - being able to get one's needs met. This is part of healthy self assertion and building self-esteem and resilience.
- The therapeutic conversation is always deepened through non-verbal face and body language, eye contact, tone of voice, humour – the backdrop of sitting together for an hour over time. I aim to bring the client's awareness to his/her bodily sense of being in therapy as this helps integrate feelings and the new experience facilitates embodied self-awareness. For example, a client may feel tension in a certain part of the body and over time bringing awareness to this tension may be elaborated to describe for example a social anxiety or fear of embarrassment. Each person is different and how they relate to another within their body will be different.
- Once a person starts to develop a reflective capacity, make connections and appreciate the depth of feeling and meaning of their story, patterns become known and a person is able to move into conscious living with self awareness, mindfulness and compassion. He or she will be able to choose from a range of responses how to react to others and situations. He or she may feel freed from a constricted prison that may have felt limiting and suffocating.