Existential psychotherapy is more properly viewed as a therapy informed by a sensibiity to existential issues, rather than as a discrete, self-contained school of therapy. It addresses the anxiety embedded in our consciousness of the parameters of existence, especially in our confrontation with death, meaninglessness, freedom, and isolation. I shall discuss these concerns, particularly those with the greatest relevance to everyday therapy practice. I shall discuss the implications of the existential sensibility for the conduct of therapy and the therapeutic relationship. Genuineness and authenticity are necessary.
Focusing is bodily attention, not to mere sensations but to an at first unclear, implicitly complex bodily sense-of a situation, problem, or aspect of life. Therapy deepens immediately with many clients if asked what physical sense comes in the middle of the body in relation to what is being worked on. With half a minute of repeated direct attention, clients can assign a "quality-word," e.g., "heavy," "fluttery," or "tight." Then small steps come to say the crux of the problem. Each brings a slight (later large) "shift" and release, a direct sense of validity, although further steps may again change the whole problem.
"Character is Fate"-this classic idea is coming around again in the new molecular biology that attributes deep-set personality traits to heredity. Can therapists sort out what belongs to development and may be influenced by therapy and what belongs to character and is authentic to the soul? Moreover, if congenital character is a major determinant in case history, then the events of childhood need to be revisioned, not only as traumatic errors but as previews, and even as necessary components of fate.
Reality Therapy is completely based on control theory psychology. Dr. Glasser will explain this psychology and then explain how all the techniques of this therapy arise from control theory. The major techniques he will explain are 1) All we do from birth to death is behave; 2) All behavior discussed in therapy is chosen; 3) All behavior is made up of four closely related components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology; 4) While problems may originate in the past, they all occur in the present; 5) When problems are solved, it is because in the process of therapy, clients are taught to make better choices than they are making when they begin therapy.
The focus and re-focus of attention is represented everywhere in psychotherapy; nowhere more pointedly than in hypnosis, meditation and the gestalt concept of concentration. Expanding on these techniques, Dr. Polster offers three options for heightening attention in the ordinary therapeutic relationship: tight therapeutic sequences, the reconstruction of storyline and the spotlighting of selves. Each of these impels attention, helping to create an imbeddedness into previously squandered ingredients of the patient's life.
The proliferation of therapeutic groups, either self-help or professionally staffed, has dramatically expanded the applicability of psychotherapy. This development reflects society's increased willingness to deal communally with personal problems that were previously restricted to private psychotherapeutic sessions. Gestalt group therapy, with its original emphasis on the freshness and pungency of individual experience has also extended its perspective to group work. Dr. Miriam Polster describes how the gestalt approach enlivens group focus and interaction through its principles of awareness and experiment-and especially through its attention to the quality of the contact between group members.
The development and function of the self's capacity for intimacy is described through infancy, childhood and adolescence. The normal process of achieving intimacy is outlined. The illusions of intimacy of Disorders of the Self are then described with detailed clinical presentations of each diagnostic category. The therapeutic interventions necessary to deal with these defenses are then outlined.
As human beings age, we are bombarded with losses: of our professions, businesses or jobs; homes; health; ideals; friends; family members and partners. This address will offer special techniques, usable in brief or long-term therapy, to help aging clients find ways to honor their losses as well as their own integrity, as they continue to grow and to savor life.
Panel 01 from the Evolution of Psychotherapy 1995 - Gender Issues
Featuring James Hillman, Ph.D.; Peggy Papp, A.C.S.W.; Miriam Polster, Ph.D.; and Olga Silverstein, M.S.W.
Moderated by William Matthews, Jr, PhD.