When I sit with a client in individual therapy I am constantly looking for ways to deepen the process, to invite the client towards a more direct confrontation with him or herself. This includes recognizing and naming emotions, expressing deep experience and yearning, opening to the most profound experience of the therapeutic relationship with me. My job is to help my client sit with whatever he finds and to describe and explore this reality which he is confronting in the context of the therapeutic relationship.
This often means that the client may experience a deepening of emotional intensity during the session. I want the client to experience something new in the hour; something about himself, or himself-in-relationship. I want to support him as he pushes a little further into his own uncharted territory, to explore his terra incognita, that area on the old maps where the cartographers drew the sea monsters.
Pacing is all-important. The client leads the way as I support his process. There is all the time in the world. We are often dealing with toxic, highly potent material that may have been hidden away for a lifetime. There’s no rush.
It can be a scary thing, to go where the dragons are. That is why the therapist is there. My role is to belay the line for the client who may be traversing new and dangerous territory. It is only possible to do this kind of exploration when it feels safe enough. Bowlby found the most important variable predicting good outcome of a bereavement process to be the presence of comfort — someone there to walk with you through an experience which may be overwhelming and frightening.
I welcome feedback from my clients as to how the process is working for them. The client is the expert on what he is experiencing. I don’t have answers or a magic wand. But I am there, as completely there as I can be, to support the challenging and exhilarating work of psychotherapy.