The second direction we take with client—a second part of the work we do—as we observe clients’ struggles in the counseling room, is a body of work that involves delving deeper. In broad terms, we work with the fragments of our clients personality, fragments that were formed in childhood. Specifically, as we look at the maladaptive coping styles clients are bringing into their lives, we find ourselves inquiring as to where these may have originated.
You see, one thing that we as therapists often recognize is that our client’s response to the world around them is disproportionate the size of what’s happening today:
The question is why this is happening.
Here, our work as therapists is to first get them in touch with their feeling, and then to explore where there were other times, historically, they felt that same way. And perhaps looking back to what are the historical times when this feeling has been most prevalent.
As we start to understand the internal experience and the archaic roots of this experience, we can then start to work to do some historical uprooting of what’s happening.
This could happen in one of a handful of ways. One way is to use the empty chair for the client. Here, from that regressed place of felt emotion, we invite our clients to start a conversation with their father or mother or another significant person in their past, beginning a conversation they never could’ve had it before.
The idea here is to work through the original trauma caused by the relational shortcomings of this person, traumas still impacting their here and now experiences. This conversation happens with the support and encouragement of the therapist.