What is therapy?
Psychotherapy is a partnership between an individual and a professional trained to help people understand their feelings and assist them with changing their behaviour.
People often consider psychotherapy, also known as therapy, under the following circumstances:
They have strong feelings like anger or sadness that dominate their lives in spite of their efforts to push them down.
Their emotional difficulties make it hard for them to function from day to day. For example, they are unable to concentrate on assignments and their job performance suffers as a result.
When they have floating anxiety, which interferes with their living with ease.
Their actions are harmful to themselves or to others.
When they have a sense of being stuck and unable to move on.
Psychotherapy isn’t easy. But clients who are willing to work in close partnership with a therapist often find relief from their emotional distress and begin to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.
Some of the effects.
Healing of old emotional patterns.
Developing a more productive relationship with our inner world, which in turn improves the relationships we have with others and ourselves.
Understanding and coping with stress and stressful situations.
Greater ability to express and communicate feelings.
More access to feelings of joy and pleasure.
What is Integrative Arts Psychotherapy?
Integrative arts psychotherapy utilises many different schools of theory hence the word ‘Integrative’, but I mainly use a theory called Gestalt. Integrative arts psychotherapy is a powerful way of facilitating self-healing through the use of metaphor and the imagination. The images that emerge reveal the nature of what your unconscious sees as most pressing for you at that moment and it’s need for some attention.
As well as being listened to, as in other talk therapies, the client may be invited to enact or play out an event which may either be in the past, present or future; or to play out an image of something or someone real or imagined in the form of a carefully graded, client led experiment. By graded I mean finding a level of difficulty which the client is ready for at that moment. This means the client has a chance to test out different ways of behaving and getting in touch with unfamiliar parts of the self in the here and now.
The Integrative Arts Psychotherapist invites his clients to stretch his self concept by using a wide range of facilitation techniques which surface awareness, locate energy, generate self support and distil themes. The client is central to the process, he is the manager of his learning and knows best where he needs to go and what he needs to do. The skill and effectiveness of the Integrative Arts Psychotherapist lies in his ability to allow his client to develop his feelings and ideas as they spontaneously arise in him and to choose the right kind of experiment which might further develop those ideas and feelings. He needs to trust the clients process, let go of fixed outcomes and allow whatever unfolds to do so without judgement or interpretation.
What Is Gestalt?
Gestalt is a German word which has no direct English translation but has to do with completing that which is not complete and with the integration of mind, emotion and body.
Gestalt therapy is an exploration rather than a direct modification of behaviour and begins with the premise that each of us is the expert on ourselves and that each of us has the capacity to recognise what we need and a natural tendency towards health.
However, most of us have learned, through our life experiences, to shut down on meeting (or even recognising) our needs in certain situations. While moderating our behaviour is a valuable skill in some circumstances, habitual damping down (i.e. over many years) of bodily sensations, feelings, thoughts and actions can result in dissatisfaction with our lives and relationships, anxiety or depression, physical symptoms, and what we may call ‘dis-ease’.
The goal of Gestalt is growth and autonomy through an increase in consciousness; Rather than interpreting, you will be guided through active awareness work.
Awareness is a form of experience that may be loosely defined as being in touch with one’s own existence, with what is. Full awareness is the process of being in contact with the most important events for you as an individual in your current environment with full, emotional, cognitive and bodily support.
What is it that we are trying to be aware of in Gestalt?
Meaningful awareness is of a self in the world, in dialogue with the world, and with awareness of others — it is not an inwardly focused introspection but an awareness of yourself in relationship with others and the world.
Awareness is accompanied by owning, that is, the process of knowing one’s control over, choice of, and responsibility for one’s own behaviour and feelings. When you are fully aware you know what you are doing, how you are doing it, that you have alternatives and that there is some choice in you being as you are.
In Gestalt therapy there is a constant and careful emphasis on what you do and how you do it. What do you face? How do you make choices? How do you self-support or resist support?
The techniques of Gestalt therapy are experimental tasks. They are entered into as a means of expanding direct experience. For example you may be invited to stand tall if your tendency is to look down as you walk and then afterward reflect on any thoughts and feelings that arose as a result. These experiments are not designed to get the client somewhere, to change the client’s feelings, to recondition, or to foster catharsis; but to explore and bring awareness to otherwise unaware parts of ourselves so that we can develop a greater choice of options when making decisions.
What Is Transactional Analysis?
Transactional Analysis (TA) is a theory of personality and a systematic psychotherapy for personal growth and change.
Transactional Analysts believe that all people with emotional problems have the capacity to change given the right information and resources. With the right information and resources you can choose to begin the process of change.
In TA a person’s personality is said to consist of three ego states:-
and the Child.
Here are some examples of ego states in action. At times, when my husband comes in late, I think he is not pulling his weight around the house, I feel angry and I behave in a curt manner towards him, whether the situation warrants it or not. This is how I experienced my mother 35 years ago when my father came in late. She would be angry, tell us that he doesn’t do anything around the house and behaved curtly towards him. Thinking, feeling and behaving as my mother did is an example of me being in a Parent ego state (Parent). A Parent ego state consists of a set of thoughts, feelings and behaviour, copied from actual parents or significant others in a person’s life.
Today when I am late, I occasionally think that I will not be able to catch up with what I’ve missed, I might feel anxious get involved in activity straight away; whether the situation warrants this or not. This is similar to how I was when I was 6 years old and late for school. I remember feeling anxious that I wouldn’t be able to catch up with the maths my class mates were doing and so I got involved with my maths immediately. When I think, feel and behave as I did when I was younger is an example of me being in a Child ego state. The Child ego state (Child), consists of sets of thoughts, feelings and behaviours which a person has actually experienced.
When I am late today, and I think that I will not be able to catch up, I have a tendency to rush into a task, I then remind myself that I am most likely reliving a past experience (Child). I take the time to pause and assess what I can or cannot catch up with, therefore reducing the need to be fearful. I choose whether it is appropriate for me to take my time to acclimatise or with awareness get involved with the activity straight away. This is an example of me being in my Adult ego state (Adult) or having my Adult in the executive, in control. The Adult ego state consists of thoughts feelings and behaviours connected to what is happening currently, the here and now. One of the aims of psychotherapy is to help you distinguish between sets of thoughts, feelings and behaviours which are to do with the past (Child and Parent) and the present (Adult). Another aim is to increase the amount of time that you have your Adult in the executive.
Recently, I asked a friend politely, to buy an item in a shop when she went shopping, I felt at ease with this request as I thought that it was my right and I was confident that she would oblige. I had experienced my father being like this on many occasions. My friend replied yes willingly. She told me later that she felt angry as she thought she could not say no. She recognised this pattern of being from her child hood. We discussed this and she realised that she could have responded in a relaxed manner to my request and suggested to me that we go together to the shops as she would have liked the company. She had witnessed her mother responding in this fashion many times.
The above communication is an example of the TA theory of communication, ‘Transactional Analysis Proper’. People invite others to transact from the ego states to which they send a message. The person responding to the transaction can either choose to respond from the ego state they have been invited to respond from, thereby allowing the flow of conversation to continue and the initial person’s aim to be achieved. Alternatively, they can cross the transaction and respond from another ego state, hence causing a break in the flow of conversation and a change in the outcome. It is the knowledge that you have a choice as to how to respond to people’s invitations to communicate which is the beginning of developing a more effective way of communicating. This knowledge with an awareness of your own patterns of communication along with practice in a supportive environment will help you be the communicator you want to be.
Referring to the example above, when I asked my friend to buy me something at the shop. My friend could have gone to the shop and brought an expensive item which she knew I couldn’t afford. If this had happened I would have felt angry and resentful. It is likely that my friend would have thought I was ungrateful and she may have felt self righteous. Neither of us would have had the outcome we wanted. I’ve noticed that people have often agreed to do something for me but mess it up in some way whilst, my friend notices that she often helps people out only for them to be ungrateful about how she has done it. If outcomes are familiar to either my friend or myself it is likely that we are playing a psychological game. Games are played out of our awareness and are repeated patterns of behaviours with familiar outcomes. Games end up with one or both people feeling confused, misunderstood and wanting to blame the other person. Psychotherapy can help you discover your own psychological games and assist you to bring an end to playing them.
A father often told his two young sons that they would end up in a mental institution. When they grew up they did both end up in mental institutions. One was a patient the other became a psychiatrist. The TA theory of child development helps us see how we made decisions at a young age in response to our environment and our parenting. We made these decisions with our limited knowledge and resources at the time. Today these decisions may reduce our ability to be fully who we can be. With the decisions made at an early age a person writes a script for the rest of their lives, which is then their code for living. Becoming aware of your script and choosing how to live based on your updated information and your current resources is likely to make you more aware, spontaneous and increase your ability to be intimate.
A Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist works with clients by agreeing a contract of change in order to promote the importance of a collaborative and open relationship. The underlying TA philosophy of ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’ is important in establishing and maintaining relationships. This means valuing each person as a human being and being respectful even if at times we do not agree with a person’s behaviour.
The above is a brief description of TA, which has many tools to help you understand your internal processes, your relationships, your friendships, your situation in life and to support you make the changes you wish to make in your life.