Archive for March, 2008

The therapeutic process


Why does a person begin the therapeutic process?

Life can feel overwhelming or meaningless. When a person is confronted by a major crisis or suffers from anxiety, depression, guilt or grief, they may feel out of control or “lost at sea” and in need of someone to talk to in order to understand what is happening to them and explore options. Others, who experience a more general dissatisfaction with life, turn to therapy as a means of discovering how to live their life with more richness and vitality.

Therapy can help an individual first of all, to observe and listen to the parts of her or him/self that are feeling bad.  They may be parts that wish to please, or criticize (themselves or others), judge, or strive for success.  As well, there may be parts that compulsively indulge in alcohol, drugs, shopping, or food to excess.  Our parts may show up in dreams as an intruder or as the one driving the car too fast, or as abandoned, barely alive infants.  When we stop and listen to the different sides of the internal conflict, then there is a pause. In that space, we can shift our focus inside.  That process alone is the beginning of change because then we are not at the mercy of automatic  behaviours expressed by some of our parts. In this space, healing can begin.

What happens in during therapy?

In the safety of the therapy room, any problem can be unburdened. Working together, psychotherapist and client first focus upon the current conflict.  While my training was originally in the Jungian model, I have come to value and focus on the Internal Family Systems approach of working with our various inner parts-  In this style of therapy, the inner conflict is understood by listening to the parts that hold opposing points of view.  Rather than just listening to the part that can tell the story of our life, we can hear all sides of the situation.  The way the therapy works is explained more fully on another page entitled, “Working with Inner Parts.

How long does it take?

Most of my clients do ‘pieces of work’. In other words, they will come in for therapy on a regular basis, once a week, to work on some area of their life.  They may take a break, go back into their life, and return to therapy if something arises which inspires them to take a closer look.  So we will do another piece of therapy.  One of the aspects of ISF parts therapy is that the goal is for the client to discover their own inner ‘Self’ leadership.  The work of therapy is to relieve the constraints to this process.

The role of the therapist
“One frequently heard analogy for the role of the analytic therapist a role that claims authority about process but uncertainty about content, is that of the trailblazer or travel guide. If one is walking through an alien jungle, one needs to be with someone who knows how to traverse that terrain without running into danger or going in circles. But the guide does not need to know where the two parties will emerge from the wilderness; he or she has only the means to make the journey safe. ”             (Nancy McWilliams)

Nothing changes, Jung has suggested, unless you take yourself seriously.

If you would like further information I would be happy to discuss my approach with you.


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readings: Jean Vanier






“We are born in extreme fragility,
and we die in extreme fragility.
Throughout our lives we remain vulnerable,
and at risk of being wounded.
Each child is so vulnerable, so fragile
and without any defenses!”

from “Becoming Human” by Jean Vanier


Crises and unexpected changes can lead us to denial, despair, anger, and revolt, but these feelings can gradually help us to accept reality as it is and discover in the new situation new energies, a new freedom, and a new meaning of life and of the world.

For this discovery, people often need help from someone who “walks with them,” an accompanier. One of the most important factors for inner liberation is how we are accompanied. We must ask ourselves: Who is walking with me?

…An accompanier can be a parent, a teacher, or a friend– anyone who can put a name on our pain and feelings. Accompaniers may be professionals or therapists, those who have experience in untying the knots that block us in our development.

..Accompaniment is necessary at every stage of our lives, but particularly in moments of crisis when we feel lost, engulfed in grief or in feelings of inadequacy. The accompanier is there to give support, to reassure, to confirm, and to open new doors. The accompanier is not there to judge us or to tell us what to do, but to reveal what is most beautiful and valuable in us, as well as to point towards the meaning of our inner pain. In this way, an accompanier helps us advance to greater freedom by helping us to be reconciled with our past and to accept ourselves as we are, with our gifts and our limits.


Stories seem to awaken new energies of love; they tell us great truths in simple, personal terms and make us long for light. Stories have a strange power of attraction. When we tell stories, we touch hearts. If we talk about theories or speak about ideas, the mind may assimilate them but the heart remains untouched. To witness is to tell our story.

The Heart

The heart, the metaphorical heart, the basis of all relationships, is what is deepest in each one of us. It is my heart that bonds itself to another heart; it leads us out of the restricted belonging, which creates exclusion, to meet and love others just as they are.

..a human being is more than the power or capacity to think and to perform. There is a gentle person of love hidden in the child within each adult. The heart is the place where we meet others, suffer, and rejoice with them. Whenever we love, we are not alone. The heart is the place of our “oneness” with others.

..To speak of the heart is not to speak of vaguely defined emotions but to speak of the very core of our being. At the core, we all know we can be strengthened and rendered more truthful and more alive. Our hearts can become hard like stone or tender like flesh. We have to create situations where our hearts can be fortified and nourished. In this way, we can be more sensitive to others, to their needs, their cries, their inner pain, their tenderness, and their gifts of love.

.. We do not discover who we are, we do not reach true humanness, in a solitary state; we discover it through mutual dependency, in weakness, in learning through belonging.

Jean Vanier, From Brokenness to Community (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1992) p. 19.

I discovered something which I had never confronted before, that there were immense forces of darkness and hatred within my own heart. At particular moments of fatigue or stress, I saw forces of hate rising up inside me, and the capacity to hurt someone who was weak and was provoking me! That, I think, was what caused me the most pain: to discover who I really am, and to realize that maybe I did not want to know who I really was! I did not want to admit all the garbage inside me. And then I had to decide whether I would just continue to pretend that I was okay and throw myself into hyperactivity, projects where I could forget all the garbage and prove to others how good I was. Elitism is the sickness of us all. We all want to be on the winning team. That is the heart of apartheid and every form of racism. The important thing is to become conscious of those forces in us and to work at being liberated from them and to discover that the worst enemy is inside our own hearts not outside!

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