Good communication & Psychotherapy

I see two qualities as essential to psychotherapy:

  • The crucible of the relationship. This is formed through the engament process and framed by purpose, time and money agreements.
  • Attention to the unconscious. Work with dreams & transference (perhaps better but more obscurely phrased as the isomorphy of dynamics.)

I educate about communication in relationship. I have done it since the early 80s , but with my enthusiasm as I learnt to work more fully with the crucible & the unconscious, I took this aspect for granted. I have also wondered at times if I was too interventionist, thus creating unnecessary transference.

Right now I want to claim it as useful, important. It is right to teach cognitive psychological material if the client will benefit from that. Then comes the crucial question what to teach? What is in the manual? How to teach it?

Some principles:

Firstly the crucible, the therapeutic relationship and unconscious processes must come first, or there will be no sustained deep work.

The educative work can be integrated into the psychotherapy.

And what is worth teaching? This must be under constant review as just what is good communication an art.

Recently I discovered Marshall Rosenberg, the whole NVC system is worth learning. See my earlier post.

Dialogue process as taught by Harville Hendrix is worth knowing. Here is a description of the Intentional Dialogue by Dawn J. Lipthrott.

There are dozens of principles of good communication in Transactional analysis. They have become part of my being over the years but I leaned about them first in an out of print book by Hogie Wycoff. There is a paper on the net that covers some of that: The Theory and Practice of Cooperation. One that is central to this paper and good communication is the understanding of the Karpman triangle

One of the difficulties many people face is that rather than learning about effective communication they learn ideas about “positive thinking”, and even “assertiveness”. They so easily lead to problems. “Positivity” misused, can cover pain & lead to annoyance when others express pain. Such tools in the culture are readily used to cope, but they do not enable deeper connection, they do not allow needs to be clearly identified. “Assertiveness” misused, can prevent the attitude put forward by Rosenberg, that we focus the needs of both parties. Over coming the forces in the culture that foster poor communication is an essential part of psychotherapy in my opinion. As both Rosenberg and Wycoff point out many of these linguistic modes are based to sustain a culture of dominance and submission.

Teaching is most needed & relevant long before clients arrive for help. The arrive with psychological trauma of adverse relationships in their lives. They maybe in deep pain and not receptive to learning. Yet at those times we can model, re-frame in language that leads to insight. For example (and I’ll just offer one for now), when someone confuses think and feel, in the active listening the therapist can untangle it:

“I feel no-one loves me”

You think no one loves you, I imagine you feel sad when you think that.