Acknowledging Vulnerability and Finding Meaning
Building Strength and Resiliency: Tools for Early Career Social Workers
First I need a stance to ground me. And here it is. Lynne Jacobs: “I don’t expect the therapist to actually know what’s best before he or she does something or doesn’t do something. It’s not finding our way along by putting the responsibility on the patient to guide us, but rather that we’ll make our best guess. If it doesn’t work, I don’t assume resistance, I assume I made the wrong guess, so I’m still responsible for doing the thinking about what might be needed.” (undated interview) Then I need words. Lynne helps me out with these at the lunch break. “I didn’t get that right, did I?” “I missed you there.” “I didn’t get what you really meant, did I?” “I was insensitive.” Words to train my clients to notice and tell me. When I’ve been the client and hear words like these, I feel a little bigger inside, more valuable. And each time as a therapist I say words like these, I get a little more resilient about my shame. My shame that I make mistakes. What do you think?
Staying in contact with what is emerging moment to moment is a basic in Gestalt therapy. Sometimes I notice spontaneous images as I am sitting with a client. I understand this to be part of our co-creation. and I try not to second-guess myself. I just describe what I see and what it feels like to me. Usually, it resonates and is greeted with interest. If it doesn’t, that’s OK too.
The next thing I try to do is to stay in touch with what’s concrete under abstract statements. So, for instance, I’ll ask for a specific example. Staying connected to my client’s integrity and identifying with the most radical parts of his or her personality helps. I can suggest something new to try rather than talk about the possibility of something new. Here’s an example that will illustrate (I hope):
A 40ish woman, never married, complains about not feeling valued by her father. I ask her what he could do that she would feel valued. She responds by telling how he tries to hug her which she doesn’t like. An image spontaneously comes to me – a porcupine and her father trying to hug her between the quills. I share this with her. She likes it, and we talk about whether it fits her experience of herself. She describes how much she doesn’t like to ask for anything. We try an experiment – she asks me for something, I ask her for something. We talk about her experience doing this.
Group Treatment of Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A Group Experience to Combat Burnout and Learn Group Process Skills
This paper describes a style of intervention which involves joint activity of worker and client. The client is active intrapsychically and interpersonally, in part as a consequence of his/her involvement in experiments that are suggested and guided by the worker. This action approach enriches the session by helping workers capture the richness and depth of the client’s experience without losing sight of the treatment goals.
We will suggest tools that the worker can use to make his/her style more active. These tools and this active style are rooted in Gestalt therapy.
Active Interventions in Clinical Practice: Contributions of Gestalt Therapy
Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Chronic and Episodic Physical Disorders
As a Gestalt therapist I don’t focus on change directly Fascination and curiosity are my by-words. . .they affect how I ‘take in’ and work. “Punch in the stomach”. . .”not worth anything”. . . I’m fascinated in a kind of impersonal way. Fascination, by the way, does great things for the relationship. And I’m curious. I ask questions. Experiments occur to me. (We’ll come back to the questions.)
I ask him to stand and with his hands up, palms facing me, I push against his hands. He loses his balance. I suggest he plant his feet solidly, focusing on the place in his midsection that feels like his center. I push again. I notice something as I push -his legs don’t bend. He is bracing himself – quickly realizing this makes him more of a pushover, not less.
I ask him when he feels like he’s “worth something.” I want to see what’s inside. “Playing keyboards,” something he’s done most of his life. Where in his body does he feel that? Stomach area–diaphragm. How does it feel? Relaxed, comfortable. Visuals? Warm pearl, smooth, shiny, cream-colored. A tree with a big trunk. He imagines the earlier scene with his wife. From this place of body experience, it feels different.
I move from fascination to what to do next. How to respond to help him explore his experience. Then back to fascination and curiosity, and so on. ‘Fascinated and curious’ questions: “what came next. . .and then what happened?” “Who was involved?” “How did you feel when that happened?. . . and how do you feel now?” “Want do you feel in your body?” “What stopped you from doing that?” “What did you want? . . . and what do you want now?” Richer detail, which means fresh perspectives. This awareness of body experience, it’s a tool. A tool to use to shift experience. It’s a way of knowing. Gestalt therapy is not so much body-oriented as it is whole-person oriented. I am fascinated with the whole person.
I got the following in an email from a client:
“Things are getting a lot worse for me within the last week since I saw you. I am thinking about quitting Ann (personal trainer) altogether. We can talk about it tomorrow. I’m sure I can cancel the appointment on Friday. I also want to talk to you about the appropriate code to use on submitting a claim to my insurance. I want to try to make myself get a claim done this weekend. My problem is really getting myself to do anything…”
So what happens when I read this? I feel her being pulled away from her own ‘knowing’ and contact with herself.
I know in my being that her experience of what’s ‘wrong’ means somewhere in her is a sense of what’s ‘right.’ That’s from Gestalt therapy: we are inherently complete and whole. We know what ‘wholeness’ is. But we block this ‘knowing.’ We cut off our experience of parts of ourselves. Here she’s cut off from her intuitive non-rational knowing – her ‘whole-person’ knowing.
Power, Authority and Status in Health Systems: A Marxian-Based Conflict Analysis
Experience as Knowing: Utilizing Therapist Self-Awareness
A framework I have found helpful to understand and accept myself and understand and communicate more effectively with others is a classification system that identifies how each of us learns and processes the world around us, how we organize, make decisions, and think creatively.
Dawna Markova, whose ideas I’m summarizing and whose books I’ve listed below, identified six unique patterns of thinking. Each of us has a natural preference for one of these six. The more we recognize our pattern, the more we can use it effectively; and the more we understand others thinking patterns, the more we can maximize relationships.
The theory of Learning Styles is based generally on the concept that there are three perceptual pathways to learning: visual (sight), kinesthetic (body, sensation, motion), and auditory (sound)—you’ve probably heard of these and three states of consciousness: conscious, subconscious and unconscious. Every person experiences each of these states of consciousness and each is linked to one of the three perceptual pathways through which we are obtaining the information.
By identifying which pathway is identified with each state of consciousness, you can identify your learning style.
To categorize your learning style notice the order in which you process information. Dawna Markova keeps it simple and uses the first letter of the sense so V for visual, A for auditory and K for kinesthetic.
Visual refers to images, external or internal.
Auditory refers to using ones sense of hearing internally and externally.
Kinesthetic refers to bodily sensations and moving.
Markova found that each person leads with one modality most of the time. This is the modality that you can use for a long while without becoming tired, it’s where you’re most comfortable. This is your conscious modality or your front channel. In your subconscious modality or middle channel, you can process in a multidimensional way bringing all modalities to bear. The middle channel is the way you connect all three channels. In your unconscious modality or back channel, your experience is deep, powerful and compelling. Your ability to discriminate is less in this channel and you’re more creative and sensitive. This is the channel where you’re a little awkward, and where you may feel stuck or frozen, blank out or go silent.
Let’s put these two things together- our levels of consciousness and the channel in which we receive the information – to understand your unique learning style, remembering that how we use them is fluid and dynamic, we move from one to the other, first one is capturing our attention, then another.
First, to determine your conscious modality or front channel, think about what you can do for the longest time or what do you do to relax. Is it reading or looking at a computer screen? Or exercising or moving? Or listening to music? You favor certain verbs according to which modality is in the front, e.g., I can see that (how does that look?) or I hear you (how does that sound?) or Do you get the feel of that (how does that grab you?)?
To discover your unconscious modality, ask yourself: What stimuli do I find the hardest to ignore? To what sorts of stimuli am I the most sensitive? Where am I a little awkward? What am I doing, hearing or seeing when I just seem to zone out? You aren’t necessarily unaware of the modality you use for unconscious processing; you’re simply aware of it differently.
Your subconscious modality, or middle channel, is the one that is left. It is the bridge between the front and back channels. Activating the subconscious modality helps information transfer between conscious and unconscious. I’ll use myself as an example. I’m a VKA. In order to talk coherently (A) about an idea (V internal image), I need to have the feel of the idea (K).
Using Learning Styles to Improve Communication and Relationships
People with any set of learning styles can communicate successfully. Knowing what learning styles are involved simply facilitates engagement with each other. We tend to communicate most easily with those who process information the same way we do. Yet those with different styles may interest and stimulate us more. The greater the learning style differences, the more good communication skills help, especially in close relationships or when difficulties emerge.
Two people with the same learning styles (VAK/VAK) will likely communicate well. Yet a matched-learning style romance can easily lose its sizzle because the partners process information in such similar ways, yet remain too comfortable to motivate change.
When only conscious modalities match (AVK/AKV), people may harmonize well on the surface, sharing activities and beliefs, but need more effort to create resonance on a deep level. Perhaps the AVK will take the lead when visual communication is needed, while the AKV will step forward when kinesthetic challenges arise.
When only unconscious modalities match (VAK/AVK), people may touch each other in a very deep, sacred way- yet have some difficulties getting from the front and middle channel to the back channel where they more readily align.
Using Your Style to Help you Learn
Use your front-middle-back sequence to learn easily. Indeed, you may be able to identify your learning pattern by thinking about the sequence in which you would prefer to receive new information. VAKs often prefer to read directions, hear an explanation, then try a physical task. KVAs, in contrast, would rather experiment with the task, read the directions and then hear instructions or discuss the task. If auditory is your unconscious modality, prepare for a lecture by reading or doing something related. During the talk, do something that activates your more conscious modalities (sketching, taking notes, knitting, pacing the back of the room). This keeps the words from putting you to sleep, and lets you filter and prioritize the information coming in so your unconscious doesn’t get overwhelmed trying to process everything. Activating your subconscious modality helps bridge between conscious and unconscious modalities, improving your memory and understanding. If visual is your back channel, you may want to read something out loud or get a podcast or cd, or play music or work out while you read. Your own experimentation will be the best guide.
The Open Mind: Exploring the 6 Patterns of Natural Intelligence, by Dawna Markova, 1996
The Art of the Possible: A Compassionate Approach to Understanding the Way People Think, Learn and Communicate by Dawna Markova, 1991
How Your Child is Smart: A Life-Changing Approach to Learning, by Dawna Markova and Anne Powell, 1992
Learning Unlimited: Using Homework to Engage Your Child’s Natural Style of Intelligence, by Dawna Markova and Anne Powell, 1998
Think-Ability, by Dawna Markova and Professional Thinking Partners, 2002
Causes of Burnout: Toward a Philosophical and Theoretical Framework
A Model for Community-Oriented Field Experience
A testament to the more than 100,000 Korean adoptees who have come to the United States since the 1950s, this collection of oral histories features the stories of nine Korean Americans who were adopted as children and the struggles they’ve shared as foreigners in their native lands.