Getting Unstuck in Therapy

Every therapist gets stuck now and then when working with a client, unable to move things forward. While often this gets called "client resistance," doing so ignores the fact that the therapist is participating in the "stuckness" too. Quite actively. (Or passively, as the case may be.) While there are many ways to get unstuck, I regularly remind myself of things that help.

  • Are my verbal responses to the client predictable and repetitive? If so, do I attribute this to (i.e. blame) the client instead of recognizing my complicity? Am I able to change my responses in a way that disrupts the cycle of predictability? I find that when I am able to do so, the work shifts.
  • If I'm primarily a "talk therapist," do I find opportunities for somatic engagement? Feeling, sensing? Changing sensory channels relieves us from the confines of speech and language. This can be freeing for client and therapist alike. Sometimes I use props to accomplish this - objects that can be handled between us. 
  • Are we (the client and me) too fixated on The Problem? If so, we may be inadvertently sustaining the problem without even noticing. Shifting to a divergent focus will help, by offering options that might not have been considered. But shifting to a more diffuse focus is even more powerful, since it relaxes attention and eases the process.

Conceptualizing therapy as a shared, co-created dance helps reframe the work. Therapeutic dialog might serve as the backbone, but somatics, play, and ease open space for new discoveries.


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