We had introductory exercises - getting to know one another and sharing motivations for being on the course. Also, reflecting upon these communications.
The morning lecture was structured around the Pali Buddhist notion of Adhipati (translated as "predominance" in the Zen Therapy book). Here we took these characteristics as the prime features needed by a therapist.
|chandra – intention||- positive regard: deep respect
- unconditionality: safe space
|virya – energy||- matching – tuning in to the energy of the client
- deepening – sensing the full pathos of the life of the client
|chitta – attention||- acute: attention to every little change
- broad: attention to the context and meaning
|vimamsa – enquiry||- construction: investigation without leading, imaginative empathy
- induction: flowing into the clients world
Life as a dialectic between love and freedom. Coming into this life we are bound to love (people, things, ideas, projects, etc) and this engagement with the conditioned world enmeshes us in problems, tests and obstacles. At the same time, we experience freedom which also brings problems of choice and anxiety. Buddhism can be thought of in terms of prajna and karuna - wisdom/liberation and love/compassion. The therapist gives the client the freedom to investigate his life project.
Question & Answer
Q: What is relation between freedom and love?
A: Freedom is the state of living in prajna. Love/compassion is karuna. These manifest as upaya - skilful means. We can see how prajna, karuna and upaya - freedom, love and work - feed each other and express each other.
Q: When a client is expressing endless negativity, I find myself trying to cheer them up. Then I notice that is what I am doing and stop. What else could I do?
A: We explored the various scenarios that might be going on - games that go on in therapy. Why is the client saying this to me? Why me? Why now? what impression is he trying to make and what is the motivation for that? Does he want me to believe that he is incapable? Does he want sympathy? Does he feel ashamed? etc.
Q: In families, the best therapy can be non-therapy.
A: Yes, families are a different situation because of the long history that people have with one another and the complicated dynamics. It is mostly not wise to try to be therapist for your relatives. Sometimes, however, it is good to be a confidante (but if you receive secrets, what are you going to do with them?).
Counselling exercises in threes
Energy modes - client engaged with therapist, client in his own world, client disengaged from the work.
Questions are usually based on a hunch and the hunch is based on an observation. Rather than ask the question it may be better to share the hunch and rather than share the hunch it may be better to share the observation. If this is done in a non-judgemental way, the client can find his own explanation.
Counsellor meeting client is likely to experience some emotion. The necessary skill is to notice and inquire into this feeling rather than to act it out. "That's interesting, meeting this client I feel angry/frightened/sad/ bored/happy/ etc... I wonder what is happening to give me that feeling." There will be a reason behind the feeling. The reason may be something in the client or something in the counsellor but is probably some combination of the two. If we take an interest in it it will tell us important information about the client and about the relationship.
Client talked about relationship with daughter.
Examples of "cutting in" in order to express strong empathy.
Getting into the flow of the client's emotion; imaginatively experiencing the position of the various members of the family; sympathy for all positions gives force to the sense of anguish; the anguish is the client's koan; "walking alongside" the client in this dilemma, without judgement or pressure, but with energy.
Don't get bogged down in "the problem". Work with the strengths as much as with the weakness, then the weakness does not become a barrier but rather an expression of common humanity and builds a bridge between client and therapist.