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Enhancing Your Therapy with Gestalt Approaches
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Section 19
Gestalt Techniques and Metaphor Analysis
in the Treatment of Depression

CEU Question 19 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Gestalt
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

Apart from aiding in expression, metaphors can serve several functions during psychotherapy. They may facilitate (e.g. Barlow et al., 1977; Strong, 1989), provide novel avenues of self growth and suggest new solutions (Berlin et al., 1991; McMullen, 1985; Strong, 1989) as well as enhance the communication between the client and the therapist by introducing new experiential terminology into the session (Angus & Rennie, 1988; Huckins, 1992; Ingram, 1994; McMullen, 1985; Rasmussen & Angus, 1996, 1997).

The present study involves the application of two process measures, the Narrative Process Coding System (NPCS; Angus et al., 1996) and the Experiencing Scale (Klein et al., 1970), to discourse units (narrative sequences) which include metaphors relating to themes of 'burden' (or, for the sake of brevity, 'metaphored-sequences') in one good and one poor-outcome process experiential dyad.  The process-experiential approach to psychotherapy combines various aspects of client-centered and gestalt approaches (Greenberg et al., 1993). It focuses on clients' present experience and expression in order to facilitate emotional change and experiential processing. Active interventions are used including empathy work, such as Gendlin's (1996) focusing, and process-directive techniques, such as gestalt two-chair exercises and the evocation and intensification of emotion.

The purpose of the present study is to develop an understanding of how 'burden' metaphors were used in a productive therapy, in contrast with the less successful approaches, as well as to further explore how metaphors may be used as markers of client change in psychotherapy. For this study, frequency of metaphoric phrases are not being used as a measure of outcome (a battery of client-rated outcome measures are employed for this purpose) but rather the relationship between the occurrence of metaphor phrases and therapy outcome will be examined. Since little is known about how metaphors evolve over the course of therapy, this investigation is exploratory in nature with the goal of developing grounded hypotheses for future analyses.

Outcome measures. Standardized client-report measures were used to evaluate therapy outcome. Pretherapy and post-therapy client ratings on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI; Beck et al. 1961), the Symptom Check List-90 (SCL-90R; Derogatis, 1983), the Inventory for Interpersonal Problems (IIP; Horowitz et al., 1988), the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE; Rosenberg, 1965) and the Target Complaints (Battle et al., 1968) were compared in order to identify the therapies as either a good or a poor outcome.

The experiencing scale. The Experiencing Scale (Klein et al., 1970) is a measure of the clients' emotional involvement in therapy. It examines the construct of 'experiencing' which is defined as 'the extent to which inner referents become the felt data of attention, and the degree to which efforts are made to focus on, expand, and probe those data' (Klein et al., 1986, p. 21). The Experiencing Scale is derived from Gendlin's experiential theory and Roger's client-centered theory and is one of the first widely used therapeutic process measures (Hill & Corbett, 1993).

Narrative process coding system. Angus et al. (1992,1996) have developed a method of examining the similarities and differences between approaches to therapy. At first, topic segments are identified, which are based upon the changing thematic content within a therapy session transcript. Then, within these topic segments, psychotherapeutic discourse is divided into units conceptualized according to one of three narrative process codes: external or story-telling sequences (e.g. 'My mother told me a horrible story yesterday, it was about...'); internal or emotion-related sequences (e.g. 'Sadness just wells up in me. I hate hearing about other people in pain...'); and reflexive or self-analytic sequences (e.g. 'It seems that I'd rather run away and not listen, just like my father used to do'). This generic, comprehensive classification system, derived from research on several therapeutic approaches, can provide sequences upon which process measures can be applied and contrasted (Angus & Hardtke, 1994; Levitt & Angus, 2000). The smallest units in the system must include at least four complete sentences, in order to provide enough data to be meaningfully rated, the average narrative sequence in the NPCS system has been found to be 30 sentences in length (Hardtke, 1996; Levitt, 1993).

Metaphor analysis. Metaphors were identified using Lakoff and Johnson's inclusive definition, that being 'the understanding of one thing in terms of another' (1980,p. 3). Metaphors initiated by either the client or therapist were identified. Inter-rater reliability on the identification of metaphors in two therapy sessions achieved an agreement level of 87%. The two raters identified a total of 365 metaphors in these sessions.

In this study, the 'burden' metaphor theme was selected as it was found to capture an essential element of the client experience of depression (Korman & Angus, under review). All metaphors were identified in both the good and the poor outcome therapies. Once it was established that the good and poor dyads shared the theme of 'carrying a heavy burden' the analysis was focused on that theme. Only those metaphors which were agreed upon by two of the researchers to have a 'burden' theme were included in the study.

Metaphors were identified as either having a 'burdened' or 'unloading' quality, in correspondence with the findings from the Korman and Angus study (under review). The good- outcome dyad examined in the present study was one of the dyads analyzed in the Korman and Angus study.

The metaphors in the good outcome therapy were found to evolve from an emphasis on the experience of 'carrying a burden' in the initial sessions to the experience of 'unloading the burden' in later sessions (Korman, 1995). As the client in this therapy made progress in terms of realizing that she was not responsible for the behavior of others around her, she began to feel relieved of her depression. In contrast, the poor outcome dyad had no such pattern. Although metaphors of weight or heaviness continued throughout the therapy and the client would occasionally use metaphors of unloading, these were often in a wishful tone rather than as an expression of ongoing relief (e.g. 'I wish I could get this off my back' versus 'I feel like a burden has been lifted from me'). The expression of burden in these two dyads did seem to mirror their respective outcomes and to symbolize the clients' struggle with their depression.

Metaphor-theme research provides a heuristic for tracking clients' evolution in psychotherapy. In this study, the analysis of metaphored-sequences seemed to differentiate the good and the poor outcome therapy dyads in two key ways: (1) the content of the metaphor phrases; and (2) the processes which occurred when the metaphors were used, as indicated by differences in experiencing scale ratings and NPCS coding. In terms of content change, metaphors seem to be a useful marker for psychotherapeutic change, as the 'burdened' theme in the good-outcome was transformed into an 'unloading' theme, a change which was not evident in the poor outcome.

A limitation of this study results from its focus on only one dyad from each outcome condition. Although the purpose of this study was to generate hypotheses about the use of metaphors in psychotherapy in relation to outcome, the therapeutic outcome variable was confounded with therapist and client variables making it difficult to separate these causal factors. Caution should be exercised therefore when generalizing these results to other dyads. The study has, however, generated grounded and useful hypotheses in an area in which there has been limited empirical research.  First, it suggests that it may be beneficial for therapists to focus clients on the feelings embedded in their metaphors (e.g. engaging internal narrative processes and middle levels of experiencing) and to help clients to comprehend the meaning or metaphors in the context of their lives (e.g. engaging in reflexive narrative processes and high levels of experiencing). Second, as sequences in the poor outcome dyad with 'burden' metaphors introduced by the therapist had lower experiencing ratings than client- introduced metaphor sequences, while the reverse was found in the good outcome dyad, it appears useful to explore whether productive therapists might use metaphor in a way which encourages emotional-connection in contrast with less productive therapists. It would be of interest to examine these hypotheses in a future outcome study using a larger sample size, and including both good and poor outcome dyads by the same therapist, in order to distinguish therapeutic outcome from therapist and client variables. As a marker of client-change, metaphor analyses can provide a targeted method of examining shifts in client's experience of depression, which can be useful for therapy researchers and therapists alike. This current study indicates that metaphor analysis can be used to track therapeutic change and can be a powerful representation of human experience.
- Levitt, Heidi; Korman, Yifaht; Angus, Lynne; A metaphor analysis in treatments of depression: metaphor as a marker of change; Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Mar2000, Vol. 13 Issue 1

A Century of Gestalt Psychology in Visual Perception I.
Perceptual Grouping and Figure-Ground Organization


- Wagemas, J., Elder, J. H., Kubovy, M., Palmer, S. E., Peterson, M. A., Singh, M., and Heydt, R. V. D. A Century of Gestalt Psychology in Visual Perception I. Perceptual Grouping and Figure-Ground Organization. Psychol Bull, November 2012, 138(6). p 1172-1217.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

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Personal Reflection Exercise #5
The preceding section contained information about Gestalt techniques and metaphor analysis in the treatment of depression.  Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 19
According to Levitt, why is metaphor analysis useful in the treatment of depression? Record the letter of the correct answer the CEU Test.

 
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Health disparities between genderqueer, transgender, and cisgender individuals: An extension of minority stress theory. - March 21, 2019
Interpersonal, social, and structural stressors have been identified as key elements that explain health disparities between transgender and cisgender individuals. However, most of this research has focused on binary transgender individuals or has not differentiated between binary and nonbinary individuals; little research has examined the experiences of minority stress or health of those identifying outside the gender binary. Guided by intersectionality and drawing on a sample of 3,568 college students from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health’s 2012−2016 database—of whom 892 identified outside the gender binary—we conducted analyses of demographic and outcome measures administered in participants’ 1st counseling appointment, examining differences between cisgender, transgender, and genderqueer individuals. We found that genderqueer individuals were harassed, sexually abused, and subjected to traumatic events at higher rates than were either cisgender or binary transgender individuals, with approximately 50% of genderqueer individuals reporting one of these experiences. We found that genderqueer individuals experienced more anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and eating concerns than did binary transgender and cisgender individuals and more social anxiety than did cisgender individuals. Genderqueer individuals more frequently reported self-harm and suicidality than did any other group, with approximately 2/3 of participants’ having contemplated and nearly 50% making a suicide attempt. We extend current theorizing about minority stress (Hendricks & Testa, 2012; Meyer, 2003) to include genderqueer individuals and delineate several structural aspects of genderqueer experiences that may be responsible for these trends, including others’ lack of knowledge about genderqueer experiences and pronouns, poor access to legal and medical resources, and systemic discrimination. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
A caballo regalao no se le mira el colmillo: Colonial mentality and Puerto Rican depression. - April 18, 2019
Dignifying the colonizer and depreciating the colonized is a reflection of internalized colonial oppression (i.e., colonial mentality). The current study examined the effect of colonial mentality on depression symptoms in a sample of mainland Puerto Ricans (N = 352). A structural equation model was examined, in which colonial mentality was hypothesized to be directly and positively associated with depression symptoms. The proposed model also tested the indirect effect of colonial mentality on depression symptoms via acculturative stress. Results indicated that a full mediation structural equation model (SEM) had a better fit to the data than our hypothesized partial mediation model. Bias-corrected bootstrapping indicated that the effect of colonial mentality on depressive symptoms was mediated by acculturative stress. That is, colonial mentality increased the risk of experiencing depression symptoms in Puerto Ricans when they felt pressured to maintaining a connection with Puerto Rican culture and society and when they experienced rejection by the society they want to emulate (acculturative stress). The current results underscore the need for researchers and clinicians to consider and assess colonial mentality when conceptualizing depression symptoms among mainland Puerto Ricans. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
The development and validation of the Emotional Cultivation Scale: An East Asian cultural perspective. - April 15, 2019
Research on emotion regulation in East Asian children and adolescents is limited. One obstacle hindering the development of emotion regulation for East Asian children and adolescents is the lack of a culturally sensitive measure. To fill this gap, we have developed and validated the Emotional Cultivation Scale using samples of Taiwanese children and adolescents. In Study 1, an exploratory factor analysis (n = 341) identified two factors: Cultivating Emotion Strategies and Understanding Emotion Connotations. A confirmatory factor analysis (n = 358) confirmed this two-factor structure. Coefficient αs were .69 to .88 for Emotional Cultivation. Convergent validity was evidenced by positive associations with cognitive reappraisal and cognitive flexibility. Discriminant validity was supported by a nonsignificant association with suppression. Concurrent validity was revealed by positive associations with positive affect, basic psychological need satisfaction, gratitude, responsiveness from teachers, responsiveness from parents, and academic self-efficacy. Incremental validity was evidenced by the finding that emotional cultivation significantly accounted for an additional 2 to 20% of the variance in predicting cognitive flexibility, positive affect, basic psychological need satisfaction, gratitude, responsiveness from teachers, responsiveness from parents, and academic self-efficacy above and beyond cognitive reappraisal and suppression. Results from the multigroup analysis further indicated factor loading invariance and validity invariance between boys and girls and between elementary and middle schools. The factor structure was cross-validated by a clinical sample of Taiwanese children and adolescents (N = 161) and their parents in Study 2 (N = 159). The counseling implications were discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
Cognitive and affective expectation of stigma, coping efficacy, and psychological distress among sexual minority people of color. - May 30, 2019
There is a paucity of research on the potentially distinctive functions of cognitive and affective expectation of stigma. Moreover, expectation of stigma has received limited research attention with sexual minority people of color who may anticipate interlocking heterosexist and racist stigmatization. In this study, data from 209 sexual minority people of color were analyzed using path analysis and bootstrap procedures to test direct and indirect relations among perceived discrimination, expectation of stigma, coping self-efficacy, and psychological distress. Analyses disaggregated expectation of stigma into its cognitive (i.e., perceived likelihood of stigma) and affective (i.e., worry and anxiety about stigma) components. Results revealed that perceived discrimination had a unique direct link with psychological distress. In addition, perceived discrimination was linked indirectly with greater distress through affective expectation of stigma and problem-focused and emotion-focused coping self-efficacy. These findings suggest the importance of social justice interventions to reduce discrimination. Additionally, the findings suggest that interventions should attend to affective worry and anxiety about stigma and foster problem-focused and emotion-focused coping self-efficacy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
Surviving and thriving: Voices of Latina/o engineering students at a Hispanic serving institution. - April 15, 2019
This study examined factors that played a role in Latina/o undergraduate students’ persistence in engineering at a Hispanic serving institution (HSI; N = 10) using the consensual qualitative research method (CQR; Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997). Data analyses resulted in five domains: institutional conditions, additive intersectional burdens, personal and cultural wealth, coping skills, and engineering identity. Participants described how they persisted in the face of stressors, citing specific coping skills they developed over time as well as general personal and cultural strengths they carried with them into their pursuit of engineering. Although the structures of the students’ institution were generally described as supportive, Latina participants reported experiences with gendered racism that created added barriers to their persistence in engineering. Supportive institutional conditions, personal and cultural assets, and adaptive coping strategies appeared to facilitate the development of a strong engineering identity, which helped to solidify students’ sense of belonging, pride, and commitment to complete their degree. Results highlight the need to address intersecting experiences of privilege and oppression to promote access and equity for Latinas/os in engineering. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

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