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On the last track, we discussed three important considerations in approaches for enhancing a client's present awareness. These three considerations are, awareness helps in focusing on the "now", awareness of self, and awareness of surroundings.
On this track, we will discuss three Gestalt techniques that can enhance a client's awareness during the counseling session itself. These three techniques are repeating, exaggeration, and staying with.
Three Techniques to Enhance Awareness
Technique #1 - Repeating
Suzanne, who I mentioned on the last track, came to a recent session upset about her grades. Her mid-term scores indicated that she was barely passing. Listen to how I used repeating with Suzanne to increase her awareness of her feelings.
-- I stated to Suzanne, "You mentioned that your grades were dropping. What's going on at school?"
Do you see how by having Suzanne repeat "I don't know," she was able to get in touch with the frustration she had been feeling about her classes, and transfer it on to me? Once Suzanne was aware of this feeling of frustration, we were able to explore this frustration in our session. Would your Suzanne benefit from the use of the Repeating technique?
Technique #2 - Exaggeration
-- I stated, "Tell me what you just said again."
Notice how having Suzanne use Exaggeration helped her increase her awareness of her feelings of accomplishment and pride. Clearly, you can use the Exaggeration technique for hurt, anger, or any other feelings the client has not allowed him or herself to be aware of. You can also use exaggeration to draw clients' awareness to their nonverbal behaviors.
As you know, some clients may feel awkward regarding exaggerating at first. I find that staging the exercise is helpful. By "staging" I mean telling your Suzanne she might feel a little funny at first. This staging offers the client the support he or she needs to try the technique.
Technique #3 - Staying With
Anita, age 32, began therapy after the birth of her second child. She described frequently feeling "numb" or "disconnected." In a recent session, I asked Anita to describe activities she enjoyed.
-- Anita stated, "Well, I used to enjoy visiting my neighbor, Joanne. She has kids about the ages of mine. But she moved three states away last month. Now that she's moved, I don't think about her very much."
As you observed, by staying with her feeling of sadness, Anita was able to allow her sadness to come to the foreground. By doing so, Anita was eventually able to discover that she could think about Joanne without feeling sad. I also found that this technique enhanced Anita's awareness of her need to have someone she could talk to. Without being aware of this need for a confidant, Anita may not have been able to mobilize to fill her need. Agree?
Would your Anita benefit from the Staying With technique?
On this track, we have discussed three techniques that can enhance a client's awareness during counseling. These three techniques were repeating, exaggeration, and staying with.
On the next track, we will discuss three instances in which changing words when speaking can increase self-awareness. These five instances are: changing "it" to "I", changing "can't" to "won't", and changing "have to" to "choose to".
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Tsai, M., Callaghan, G. M., & Kohlenberg, R. J. (2013). The use of awareness, courage, therapeutic love, and behavioral interpretation in functional analytic psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 50(3), 366–370.
Williams, E. N., Hurley, K., O'Brien, K., & DeGregorio, A. (2003). Development and Validation of the Self-Awareness and Management Strategies (SAMS) Scales for Therapists. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 40(4), 278–288.
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