Opening channels #11

Skills practice – Emotion Focused Therapy (Greenberg)

Four questions to reflect on following skills practice where I was working with G.

1. What was the experience like as a listener?

I found focusing difficult, especially listening out for process markers – those tiny points in a person’s narrative that say that s/he is ‘working’ or at least ready for looking at what is going on.  We were to look out for strong or vivid descriptions or words, or variations in vocal tone, or facial expressions, gestures etc. that show the processing of emotions in the present.  Calling these emotions forward and inviting the client to look at what is going on felt risky – I kept checking in to see if this was me or G.  The job of trying to create an empathic connection felt to me like trying to catch a bubble on the end of my finger; the very act of trying broke the moment, or so it seemed.  I felt awkward and consequently conscious of my awkwardness and when I tried to focus on G’s emotions but check in on mine, I may as well have been trying to pat my head and rub my stomach simultaneously.  So I stopped ‘doing’ and just ‘was’ with the hope that G would lead me along his process

2.  What were the challenges of working in EFT?

It felt like a really exquisite balancing trick – I wanted to dig into emotions but needed to remember G’s right to alight where he chose; I wanted to feel but wasn’t ever sure whether what I was experiencing was my connection with G or just my own bits of stuff.  I guess I need to get better at asking?  More than anything, I didn’t want to just take over – I know I have a role in therapy, but, just for once, it isn’t all about me.

3. What emotions arose in you?

Fear – I haven’t worked with G before and wasn’t sure what he would bring.  He has been open about his experience of therapy and I felt the ghosts of previous practitioners waiting in the wings to be compared against.  Awkwardness – just the feeling of trying on new boots.  Classical person-centred listening is relatively comfortable now and I am expected to try a more directive approach.  What would happen if I got it wrong and what would G think of me?

By the end of my skills time I found myself feeling real sadness and loss and because I risked asking here, I found that that this was G’s experience and I had been successful in linking to this.  I made that empathic connection!

4. What was the experience like as a speaker?

G was open and genuine so I felt that I owed him the same. Letting loose a little.  Irvin Yalom in his own inimitable way, tells his experience of unpacking a woman’s handbag in Elva’s story “I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me” (Yalom, I. D. (1989) Love’s Executioner and other tales of psychotherapy).  Tonight I got some bits out of My Bag – the Biro that doesn’t work, the crumpled tissue, the old hairclip…stuff that is well used, useless now but still carried around.  When I started to rummage a little though, I found a Bunch of Old Keys and I’ve no idea what they might unlock so they can stay in My Bag a bit longer!

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