Case #154 - Don't overestimate me

A therapy session can, from a dialogical point of view, start with the therapist’s experience and feelings first. When this is in the form of a relational statement, it can be an excellent beginning to a session.

So sitting with Miranda I told her that my experience with her contained two elements - warmth, and caution. I asked her about her experience with me…she spoke of feeling uncomfortable. As we explored that, the figure that formed was she was uncomfortable with the thought that I might misunderstand her. I wanted to know just what that might mean, between us. As we explored this, it became clear that she was afraid that I would expect too much of her. This was related to the family she grew up in, and the expectations that were often unrealistic and created a great deal of pressure for her.

So the synopsis statement that I helped her come to was this ‘don’t overestimate me’. This then made perfect sense to me - as I realised my caution was related exactly to this - I was aware that the way she presented did not always represent her actual capacities. It would be easy for me to come to believe that she had more capacity than she actually did, because of her confident manner.

So this was a statement of her vulnerability, her creative adjustment (to over-promise, and over extend herself), a core relational issue, and a very grounding request. Gestalt can work very quickly in this way, arriving at core issues by using a combination of present-centred awareness, non-directive enquiry, and relational exploration. It also points to the importance of not over-focusing on the client’s experience. The experience of the therapist is an essential ingredient in a dialogical exploration, and we don’t have to ‘make sense’ of it, but rather just notice, and then perhaps report it.

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther