Therapist Self-as-Context and the Curative Relationship

Abstract

This article discusses how the way the therapist relates to his or her personal responses to client material during the session contributes to making the relationship with the client an effective tool for treatment. Ideas from third wave behavior therapy are used to describe aspects of therapist involvement in the relationship and modes of therapist awareness of inner responses. In two vignettes, negative client reactions to an intervention bring problematic therapist material to the fore. Both cases highlight how the stories the therapists spun about themselves as professionals and persons could easily have limited their effectiveness in responding to the material. The vignettes also illustrate how clinicians can overcome personal meanings and judgments to access a more productive mode of interacting with the feelings a critical incident in the relationship evokes in them. It is argued that observing their own content from a psychological distance makes it possible for clinicians to use their feelings without getting caught up in them. These same feelings may then help the therapist perceive how the incident relates to the client’s daily life problems. The therapist’s engagement in a sense of self-as-context is described as a therapeutic stance that provides the psychological distance needed to help overcome alliance ruptures and other potential gridlocks and which may transform the therapist’s inner response to client content into a tool for addressing important client issues.

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Correspondence to Luc Vandenberghe.

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Vandenberghe, L., da Silveira, J.M. Therapist Self-as-Context and the Curative Relationship. J Contemp Psychother 43, 159–167 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-012-9230-8

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Keywords

  • FAP
  • ACT
  • Mindfulness
  • Self
  • Third wave behavior therapy