The Rationale of Integrative Therapeutic Counselling – Part #2

One of the things I value the most about my work with clients is how complex we all are – we’re our own individualistic selves.

Infancy and the Psychodynamic approach to personal development.

The psychodynamic modality is a contemporary psychoanalytic approach that opens a portal to our interpersonal development from early childhood to where we find ourselves in the present. By looking into their past and the people and memories that have negatively impacted it, my clients are facilitated, in an explorative and safe way, to understand how their unconscious or learned defences shape the way in which they think and interact with others in the present. So, by contrast to person-centred, which focuses on what is happening for them in the here and now, the psychodynamic approach enables us to look at historic negative influencers; drawing on my ability to offer interpretations of the relational and personal difficulties disclosed during our sessions. In my experience, it is a more directive approach than person-centred, simply because, for example, I am able to help my clients recall experiences that they shared with me weeks or months in the past; enabling them to voice thoughts or feelings that were too difficult to express early on in our alliance.

Which means… In the capacity of helper, and when appropriate, I undertake to help my clients to break down their defences while we explore the possible repression of painful memories and difficult experiences.

How the two modalities work together.

Combining the two modalities of Person-Centred and Psychodynamic makes sense, as it facilitates a respectful and unique alliance – enabling us to identify, clarify, and challenge implicit and explicit needs or influencers. Together, we get to take it all apart in a way that helps each individual to identify the issues, come to terms with their situation, and process the outcomes.

Our relationship is the therapy within session work – it offers a gateway for clients to take ownership of their situation should they want to step through.

Why is Therapeutic Counselling affective?

I talk a lot about positive change and growth, simply because, speaking from personal experience, it played and plays such a fundamental role in the process of self-actualization – which, as illustrated by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is ‘achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities’ that may include, for example, developmental plans or personal/career goals. This has proved to be fundamental to my clients realising their sense of authenticity; being who they truly want to be in the world and not what others enforce as their criteria of worthiness or acceptance. Looking back over the struggles faced by the clients I’ve helped, has enabled me to reflect on how the stranglehold of their life issues e.g., anxiety, stress, and feelings/emotions of anger can be abated with conscious thought and exploration – they became more easily talked about and managed throughout our weekly sessions, and our relationship becomes the therapy because it offers a gateway for them to either work with, or take ownership of, their situation. They perhaps realise a need to reinvent themselves, by rediscovering their real self, which may have been lost in the past.  This can sometimes happen quite tentatively as we all know that change isn’t always easy or straightforward – clients are seeking out their Ideal Self by tapping into their own inner strengths and abilities before setting out on a different path to becoming who they ideally want to be.

…And what does this all mean for me as the therapist in the room?

Trusting and acting on my instincts has enabled me to offer the nurturing and restorative conditions for growth that my clients may need while also being an empathetic, supportive, and empowering counsellor. The self-doubt caused by negative aspects of my own past relationships and lived experiences used to hold me captive, however, recognising this stranglehold was also deeply developmental and impactful. It empowered me to realise that ‘perfect’ doesn’t belong in the counselling space, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll always want to seek to be my own unique and imperfect self; an equal participant in a respectful alliance, rather than the authority figure – by gently challenging and helping my clients to unpack the issues of their past in order to live fulfilled lives in the here and now. I have become a trusted helper, not looking to elevate myself, but doing so in a way that facilitates the opportunity for healing, growth, and untapped potential in others. And, after looking up various definitions of the word ‘therapeutic’, I felt further respect for the fact that far from being than just a premise, it is more about ‘caring for hurt people in a comprehensive way that has a beneficial or curative effect’ and offers them hope.

The process of therapy can also be a way to gain, or be open to, spiritual connection, in whatever form that means to us as unique and individual people – be it our belief system, faith, or the power of nature. Within my role as their therapeutic counsellor, I walk that journey of discovery with my clients, in those same mindful, intuitive, and creative ways that can lead to them to realise their authentic, good enough self.

None of this is intended in a grandiose manner, but with a humility that recognises what a privilege it is to enter into the trusted space of alliance and connection that enables my clients to develop their own sense of autonomy, wellbeing, and authenticity – affirming their relationships with themselves and the world in general.

Past and present are distinct, but nevertheless form a continuum, connected together despite their separation. [1]

Sherryl Baker  Dip. Couns. MBACP

[1] Jacobs, M (2012) The Presenting Past, 4th Edn. (epigram) Open University Press – McGraw-Hill Education.