Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 6, 2014
Is there a pipeline from the unconscious of the patient to the unconscious of the therapist? Imagining this pipeline is part of the psychotherapeutic art. “Tell me what I should talk about.” Willa, forty-three, says with, what I perceive to be, a demanding tone. “I am feeling angry right now and I am not sure why,” I respond, suggesting that I am picking up on her anger, but not certain of that. “I do have some self-awareness” Willa says forcefully. “I am confused,” I say, interrupting her, when I should have waited for her to continue. “I do have anger,” she says, as if that should have been obvious to me. “Tell me more about your anger,” I say, not clear as to who or what this feeling is about for her. A dramatic change in tension ensues, where Willa and I begin a comfortable conversation about her husband and her resentment of his behavior. My feeling of anger, I guessed, was a perception which came from Willa’s anger, and yet I had no basis for this assessment, other than my own internal state. Using my feelings, my countertransference, allowed me to unleash Willa’s self-imposed strangulation, of her not allowing herself to be forthcoming about her marital problems. Willa communicated with me through a nonverbal pipeline, which in my early years of work, I would have sat there confused and uncomfortable, instead of harnessing my feelings to deepen our therapeutic work.