a Resource for Clients & Therapists
2019 Tidbits & to-Do's - morsels to spark curiosity
Resourcing the Heart and Soul of the Therapist: The A-E-I Framework for Self of Therapist Exploration ~ An Overview
The therapeutic relationship has often been considered a very important part of the treatment process. Leading experts such as Salvador Minuchin, Virginia Satir, Carl Whitaker, Daniel Siegel, and Harry Aponte, presented and utilized important facets of use of self and mindfulness of the therapist. Alliance and therapist utilizing him/herself in the process, along with theoretical principles and sound interventions, integrate to provide optimal treatment outcome. These concepts are often referred to as Self of the Therapist, Use of Self of Therapist, and Person of the Therapist.
Oftentimes in the treatment process as we access our client’s experiences and emotions, our own humanness comes online, which can be challenging to understand and navigate, as well as greatly beneficial. Understanding our self in the context of our work and learning to skillfully use our self with our clients makes the therapeutic experience rich and rewarding, for both client and therapist.
“Clearly, it is through our own humanity that we can connect with, intervene, and help transform the work with our clients” (Aponte, 2009). As we open our self to our own life story walking alongside that of our clients, we learn that our own views, emotions, experiences, etc., become an important intervention in the work. As a therapist learns to better understand his/her own world, he/she learns to better utilize what Salvador Minuchin referred to as the greatest asset to treatment – the therapist (Minuchin, 2013). And in doing so, the added benefit is becoming our own resilient self!
Theoretical Framework for Self of the Therapist
Resourcing the Heart & Soul of the Therapist: The A-E-I Framework for Self of Therapist Exploration, is a three-phase process, organic in nature, allowing things to evolve in a sequence, while also recognizing that growth and change do not happen in a linear fashion. The 3 phases are:
Phase 1 – Awareness and Acceptance of Self
Phase 2 – Exploration and Expression of Self
Phase 3 – Integration of Self Back into the Work.
In this framework, Self of The Therapist definitions, concepts and misconceptions (i.e., transference/countertransference, blocks as problematic) are presented and discussed. Participants walk through a framework that includes a series of exercises progressing from awareness and understanding of our self and our attachment style/coping strategies in the context of our work, to exploring the therapist’s history and how this informs our work, to learning how our story can be utilized to great benefit for the treatment. Exercises are progressive in nature, while also being circular, as each part weaves with other aspects.
An important distinction is recognizing that while this is considered more consultation work for a therapist, it may at times feel like it is therapy. It is important to be mindful this type of consultation is done in the context of work, and may overlap family history. SOT mentoring is not traditional therapy; however, it is a therapeutic experience. Appropriate referral for deeper therapy work is always an important consideration for the therapist and consultant, and should be discussed openly and candidly throughout the process.
Reading Reflection: What thoughts and feelings are evoked as you read this segment? Please feel free to comment, or write in your private journal.
Next Up ~ Phase 1 - Awareness and Acceptance of Self - key elements, an exercise for self exploration (Part 1 of 2 blogs for phase 1)
As an intern in the Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s Program at Fairfield University in Connecticut, I often felt confused, frustrated and overwhelmed in the clinical aspect of training. I would at times experience feelings with my clients that felt familiar to ones I experienced in my family of origin. As normal as this is for a therapist, it was incredibly challenging for me. My body would respond in a similar way as when I was young; I would shut down and numb out, or my brain would freeze, making it very difficult to learn how to be a good therapist.
For example, when working with a very loud and angry mother, I felt like I was in the room with my own mother and siblings during arguments; I would become quieter in sessions, much like I did as a child. In another instance, I began having nightmares associated with an individual client, activating personal trauma history I wasn’t aware of; this made it confusing to focus on the client. In another scenario, I was facing limitations in the couple’s work due to a familiar dynamic with the male; I responded in similar caretaking ways as I did with my father growing up.
Through the years, I sought out many supervisors and therapists, all very validating and helpful. I explored underlying issues and understood many connections; yet, what remained unresolved was a mechanism that allowed me to bridge the gap between my supervision and my therapy for lasting change. I continued to grow and evolve. I continued to get stuck in my work.
Eventually, it became very clear that I wanted to bridge the 2 worlds together in a more intentional way. I sought out and was finally able to connect with a supervisor who was willing to bridge these two worlds with me. Because of this work, as well as my continued therapy, trainings, and self-development pursuits, I began to make major shifts in my work that continue today. Today, I can remain more present during anger, can regroup and redirect when confusion arises (strong FOO issue), and feel confident in my ability to work with most any client who walks in the door, making sense of any thought, feeling, or behavior presented.
I began to organize and capture my experience of growing and healing through poetry and journaling early in my journey (circa 2004). I eventually organized my process into a 3-part attachment based framework for SOT exploration. In 2011, I created a workshop presentation, and finally introduced my work in 2013 at a brief seminar in NYC. I have since shared it with many therapists at EFT trainings, SOT workshops, in small groups, and individual consultation. And now, through this blog, I hope to continue to share my journey, and those of others, in an effort to help therapists reap their own benefits, through exploring themselves in the context of their work.
This framework is the result of more than 18 years of growth as a therapist, supervisee, and supervisor, case analysis with self-reflection, workshop participation and facilitation, and my supervising many growing therapists. It is based upon the combined works of attachment theory, as learned through Emotionally Focused Therapy, Harry Aponte’s Person of the Therapist Model, EMDR, Brené Brown’s shame research, and Tara Brach’s Buddhist teachings, as well as many other wonderful resources, Bible studies and learning I have encountered on my journey. Additionally, it is the culmination of over 57 years of being a human being - learning, growing, and healing.
Reading Reflection ~ Consider what your learning process has been like as a therapist and/or supervisor. Note any thoughts, feelings, memories that emerge in your private journal, or feel free to share in the comments.
Next Up ~ Resourcing the Heart & Soul of the Therapist: The A-E-I Framework for Self of Therapist Exploration ~ An Overview
I have been considering the evolution of this blog, and the many starts and stops along the way. It’s been a little frustrating, however, there are always good reasons for behaviors. Having compassion for this therapist’s self in her process has been a great learning opportunity!
After a few years of a very full schedule of work commitments and travel, I decided to lay low the past year or so. I have been enjoying summertime ~ sunny days, time with my family, managing my light work schedule, taking time for exercise. It has been, by far, one of the more peaceful summers I have experienced in many, many years.
During this time, I have been clarifying my intentions for this blog and my professional goals. Given that one of my most passionate interests is, of course, self of the therapist exploration, I wrote a few articles to publish my framework. I began wondering what I wanted to gain from publishing, and decided I would simply like to help others experience a process that I have found helpful; I would like to pay it forward.
And so, here I begin, again, with my SOT blog... and I am motivated to keep this momentum growing.
My game plan ~ I will initially share a bit of my story and how SOT became so important to me. I will then present an overview of a framework I organized during my SOT exploration, breaking down specific aspects of this framework each week.
There will be case examples, as well as exercises for readers to explore, and a final section of each blog, Reading Reflection, encouraging you to pause and consider what you have read and how you might apply the information. Questions and topics from readers will be incorporated along the way.
Time to get started.
First up ~ Historical Significance for Development of a Framework – Author’s Experience
Hi and welcome to my blog! I am excited to have this endeavor underway. It has been many years in the making.