By intensive or non-permissive counselling, I mean the kind of counselling of the client that picks up every relevant cue and hones in precisely on accessible distress material the client may tend to shy away from. It is the sort of counselling the teacher uses with beginners when working with a client in front of the group, since the client is not yet in a position to be effectively self-directing. It is also an important option open to experienced co-counsellors at the request of the client to help the client deal with chronic patterns and occluded or avoided material. Intensive counselling has the following features - which overlap and interact:
- It enables the client to get attention out, get ready for work.
- It picks up relevant verbal and non-verbal cues in the client and converts them into suggestions for client work.
- It enables the client to get right into distress material and stay with it, to hold a direction discharging uncomfortable distress feeling, to go back in again.
- It enables the client to shift level, to cut from the superficial presenting restimulation to its genesis in early material.
- It enables the client to catch and verbalise sudden thoughts and insights, to re-evaluate past events, to express understanding of how past trauma and present problems have been interlocked.
- It enables the client to appreciate, celebrate, delight in her being.
- It enables the client to action-plan for sensitive, rational, distress-free living now and in the future.
- It enables the client to come back into present time, away from distress.
- It has certain primary qualities, outlined below.
What follows is a sample of verbal behaviour analysis of typical sorts of counsellor interventions under each of the above headings. This sort of analysis is in many ways misleading. Bunching the verbal behaviours under the different headings gives no idea of how a real sequence of counsellor interventions will move around creatively among the different headings. Again, the form of words to be chosen for any one intervention has many subtle variations: there are many different ways of expressing the same basic intervention. The analysis can give absolutely no indication of the great importance of timing and tone of voice. Headings 1 - 4 all interweave and overlap in practice. Despite all this, experienced co-counsellors have found it useful to do this kind of behaviour analysis as a backdrop to practical training in intensive counselling. I am indebted to participants in several recent advanced co-counselling and teacher training workshops for help in compiling the following.
1. Enabling the client to get attention out, get ready for work
- "Describe my face ... the room ... what you can see out of the window ..."
- "Describe your journey here ..."
- "Do some celebratory movement (OR body shake with sound release OR some meditation exercises OR relaxation and reverie) ..."
- "What did you have for breakfast ..."
- "What good experiences have you had over the past week ..."
- "What would you like to celebrate about yourself today ..."
- "Describe some pleasant places you know ..."
- "What are for you the simple pleasures of life ..."
- "Tell me about some minor, trivial upsets over the last few days ..."
2. Picking up verbal and non-verbal cues
- "Say that again ... and again ... louder ..."
- "Say again ..."
- "Repeat that slip of the tongue ... and again ... louder ..."
- Echo the client's word/phrase/statement and give free attention.
- "Say that without qualifications ..."
- "Try saying '...' (give contradiction, qualification-free statement) ...lightly and brightly ... with your arms out ... and add a 'Hurrah' on the end ..."
- "Try contradicting that ..."
- "Repeat that in the first person singular 'I ...'"
- "Say it directly to him 'You ...'"
- "Say just one word to him ... What's the one word you need to say to him ..."
- "What's the statement behind your question ...?"
- "Say that again and change 'Have to ...' to 'Choose to ...'"
- "Say that again and change 'Can't ...' to 'Won't ...'"
- "What movement goes with what you have just said ..."
- "Express that non-verbally ..."
- "What are you thinking ... What's the thought ..."
- Just look at and give attention to the client's gestures, movements, postures.
- Mimic the client's non-verbal patterns.
- "Exaggerate that movement (gesture, posture, facial expression) ...Let it go ...What sound goes with it ?...What is it saying? ... To whom? ... What have you got in your hand? ... What's your hand doing? (etc)"
- "Try contradicting that movement (gesture, posture, facial expression) ..."
- Offer client a non-verbal contradiction: "Try this (movement, posture, etc)"
- "Stay with that breathing ...deepen it...faster...let sound come with the out-breath..." (See also below).
3. Enabling the client to get right into material and stay with it
- "Describe the scene in the present tense and in the first person ...What's happening in it ?...What are people saying and doing?... What are the sights, sounds, smells?..."
- "Describe the scene again ...Go over it all again ..."
- "Enter the scene, imagine you are in it now ...What do you really need to say to X that you didn't say at the time, that express the feelings cut off and denied at the time ?...Speak to X directly as if he is here ... and again ...louder ..."
- "Try saying '...' to X". Offer a statement based on client cues.
- "Stay with that feeling... Accept it ...Own it ...Work with it ..."
- "Try saying '...'" Give the client a self-acceptance statement that affirms the hurt child within, the distress feeling, the frozen need, e.g. 'Daddy, I'm ten years old and I need your love'.
- "Act into that feeling ..." E.g. of anger, fear; show the client how. The client may need an anger training session to help loosen up repressive controls on sound and movement.
- "Imagine you are killing off X ... Act into it ... " Counsellor does negative accommodation to elicit primitive rage: agonise on the floor and time screams to coincide with client blows on the cushion. Encourage client to stay with it until the rage is really out.
- Give the client a powerful well-aimed anti-chronic pattern direction, and keep bringing her back to it. In general, when the client is using a verbal direction, movements, or a statement to some key figure, and this is producing copious discharge, keep bringing the client back to it again and again - as long as it works - so that she doesn't veer away from it and close up prematurely.
- Use physical interventions to symbolise client statements about psychological pressure or social pressure: so that the client can get more readily into the psychosomatic reactions to such pressure. So press on shoulders when the client is working on "Get off my back ..." with respect to old oppressive authority.
- Use other members of the group to create psychodramas which either recreate the bad scene, or enable the child within to fulfil a frozen need, to do now what in the repressive past was never allowed. Both can aid catharsis.
- "Loosen up your breathing, let your breathing go, release the restriction ..."
- "Stay with that breathing ...let it develop ...let it go ...a little faster ...find the sound on the out breath ...louder ...". The skilled body work counsellor can combine this with physical interventions. Encourage the client to stay with, go back into, start over again, these physical processes as long as they produce copious discharge. Working with the breath will often produce a shift of level. So this is also part of the next category.
4. Enabling the client to shift level, to get to key early experiences
- "What's your earliest available memory of that type of situation?..." When the client is talking about some current problem.
- "Scan over your life from the beginning and pick up instances of that type of situation ..."
- When the client is talking about a current problem or pattern, invite her to use the regression with reverie technique to get down to its early genesis.
- "Try having a phantasy about it ... Imagine freely what is going on ...". This for some inaccessible occluded event the client wants to work on. She may suspect it occurred, or have positive information from others that it occurred, but cannot recall it.
- "Who are you really saying that to ?.. First thought ...". When the client is discharging on some statement she is making to someone in psychodrama about some situation in her adult life.
- "Who are you doing that to?... First thought ...". When the client is exaggerating and acting into some non-verbal cue (movement, gesture, etc) you have picked up, while she was talking about some adult life situation.
- Invite the client, at the appropriate moment, to do active body work: to hyperventilate, let out the sound, thrash the limbs, the head - on a mattress, extended over a stool, standing. This will often precipitate early distress. Can be combined with physical interventions from a skilled body work counsellor.
- Invite the client to lie down, relax, enter reverie and verbalise, then counsellor applies massage, from light and gentle to deeper and more probing as material starts to surface out of the reverie.
- Invite the client to use regression positions: thumb sucking, on the potty, in the cot with knees up and thighs open, at the breast, lying curled up dependent in mother's arms, and so on.
- Invite the client, at the appropriate time, to do birth work, re-enact birth. Then follow through into infancy and childhood. You can start with a current life problem of the client, invite her to trace instances of that problem backwards through time to early childhood, then re-enact birth, and see the problem echoed in the birth-script. Or re-enact birth, and bring the client forward at five or ten year intervals, picking up memories of life situations that echo the birth-script.
5. Enabling the client to catch and verbalise thoughts and insights
- "What's on top? ... What's coming up?... What do you want to work on ?..."
- "What are you thinking? ... What's the thought? ..." A fundamental intervention for all those innumerable moments when little behavioural cues show that a sudden thought, awareness, insight, memory, re-evaluation, has arisen in the client.
- "First thought ..." Another fundamental intervention, to be used after many questions put to the client.
- "Who are you really saying that to ?... First thought ..."
- "What incidents/associations are coming to mind about that? ..."
- "What are your early memories of that? ..."
- "What are you realising about then and now?..."
- "How did you 'choose' to survive then? ... Is that 'choice' still with you? ..."
- "What scripting did you pick up from that experience? ..."
- "Scan over your life for instances of acting out that script"
6. Enabling the client to celebrate herself
- "What would you like to say/celebrate/appreciate about the real you"
- "Say it to them ... into their eyes ...". Indicate the other group members.
- "Say '...'". Give the client a celebratory statement.
- Validate and appreciate the client.
- Invite members of the group to validate and appreciate the client.
- Invite the client to celebrate herself in movement.
7. Enabling the client to action-plan for rational living
- "What's your immediate plan to step outside that pattern/compulsion/piece of scripting? ..."
- "What's your rational choice about it ?... When you think clearly about it, outside old distress and old scripting, what plan do you come up with ?..."
- "What intelligent plan makes the fear rattle and shake within you ?..."
- "What risks are you going to take about it ?..."
- "How are you going to give more expression to the real you over the next few days and weeks? ..."
- "What joyful activities are you going to introduce into your life ?..."
- "How are you planning to make your life a celebration? ..."
8. Enabling the client to come back into present time, away from distress
- As in 6. above on celebration. But also:
- "Describe that Kleenex box/vase of flowers/picture on the wall ..."
- "What can you see around you? ... Outside the window ?..."
- "What can you hear right now ?..."
- "What are some of your favourite foods/flowers/music ?..."
- "What are you looking forward to doing over the next few days? ..."
- "Run through the twelve times table backwards ... What is thirteen times seventeen? ..."
- "Are you here, back in present time? ..."
Finally here are what seem to me to be some of the primary qualities of really effective intensive counselling
- Timing. The interventions move swiftly, surely, right on the mark, entering the chink in the armour just at the right moment. Sometimes they work with immediate client cues. Sometimes they seem to come out of the blue. Timing is of the essence.
- Deftness. The interventions are light, elegant, quick, with nothing lugubrious and heavy about them.
- Non-attachment. The counsellor isn't attached to her interventions, doesn't feel possessive about them, doesn't feel they must work, that the client must respond to them. They are given away freely, without attachment. The counsellor rejoices when they work, doesn't worry when they don't.
- Trial, success and error. If one thing doesn't work, the counsellor quickly tries something else. The counsellor has no certain knowledge about what is going on in the client, what the client needs. From the client, there are hints, clues, signs. In the counsellor there are theoretical presuppositions, guesses, conjectures, tentative hypotheses, generalisations based on prior experience. Trial, success and error bridge the gap. The counsellor tries something out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
- Midwifery. The counsellor is helping give birth to an autonomous being. It is liberation work: launching a person into intelligent and sensitive self-direction. Client autonomy is paramount. Intensive counselling is helping from without a person who is struggling from within to loosen the chains. The client is never crowded, pushed or rushed in her work.
- Caring. The client, the true person, gives birth to himself in response to being loved, cared for, deeply respected.
- Free attention/empathy. The counsellor is tuned in to where the client is coming from; has an imaginative grasp of the total gesture of the client' being in space and time; has a global sense of how he construes and responds to his world both at the conscious and the unconscious levels.
- Acceptance. In one way or another the counsellor accepts, doesn't negate, deny, repress, invalidate, the feelings of the client.
- Transcendence. The counsellor is always outside the client's compulsive, distressed estimate of his own distress, difficulties and problems. For every piece of compulsive misery and heaviness and self-deprecation, she has a surprisingly light, elegant direction instantly on offer.
- Firmness. The counsellor holds gently but uncompromisingly to interventions that hone in on core material. She never lets go of them prematurely, but enables the client to stay with it, and hang in there for the full period of unloading.
Copyright John Heron, November 1998
South Pacific Centre for Human Inquiry
11 Bald Hill Road, R.D.1 Kaukapakapa, Auckland 1250, New Zealand