Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 321–330 | Cite as

Tuning and Practicing the Therapeutic Instrument: The Therapist's Life Experience

  • Claudia M. Elliott


This article views the therapeutic use of self broadly as if through a wide-angle lens focusing on the therapist within his or her surroundings. These contextual features can be seen as projections of the therapist's self and therefore useable in treatment. Through an interest in alternative brain functions due to her own struggles with a neurological illness, the author arrived at the idea of utilizing her personal interests which naturally come into the milieu as therapeutic vehicles. Personal interests that are compatible with the patient's character offer alternative modes for experiencing, expressing and regulating affect states. These interests in the expressive arts together with the person of the therapist constitute a medium for rotating attention around unfamiliar parts of the mental landscape. Disavowed or dissociated affects can be unearthed, made conscious, put into language, and treated. This idea in practice nests neatly within recent thinking in psychoanalysis, neuroscience, and the philosophy of science. When language alone is not enough to move the therapeutic process forward, other working knowledge in the therapist's life can be brought to bear as a powerful evocative force for therapeutic change.

expressive therapies mind and body Parkinson's disease and psychotherapy neurology 


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© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claudia M. Elliott

There are no affiliations available

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