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Counselling Today Essay

3072 words - 13 pages

Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy – year three, module one

‘Can we ever leave the past behind? 3058 words


In this essay, approaches from Object Relations Theory and Erik Erikson’s theory of Life Stages are examined. The approaches are applied to illustrative clinical material taken from a fictional character. In addition, the essay uses Michael Jacob’s model of ‘The Triangle of Insight’ to facilitate the treatment and the exchanges that occur in supervision.

Elizabeth Pargetter[1]

Eight months after the sudden death of her husband and business partner Nigel, in a tragic accident, Elizabeth ...view middle of the document...

He was so much part of my past that he actually forms part of who I am, part of my identity. He is part of me and so, when he died I actually lost a part of myself. I know people say that but now I really know what they mean.’

Crying freely now Elizabeth went on:

‘I can’t see a future without Nigel and, what really frightens me is that I don’t even know if I want to have a future without him. You probably think I am being stupid and selfish and I know that even having these thoughts is a betrayal of the children, our children and so a betrayal of Nigel, but it is how I feel.’

Having shared this burden, Elizabeth became a little calmer. The therapist was acutely aware of her own feelings and noticed that she had been feeling some of Elizabeth’s fear and despairs herself and was now actually experiencing a lifting of the burden as she sensed and observed the obvious relief for Elizabeth. The therapist recognised this as ‘projective identification’ and made a mental note to explore her own feelings in supervision. For the moment she just noted her own emotions and said:

‘I can see how much you needed to share those thoughts, how does it feel now?’

Elizabeth responded:

‘Yes it feels better to have said it and I am feeling a little lighter’

Then, after a few moments of shared silence, when Elizabeth had been immersed in her own thoughts she turned her gaze back onto the therapist and said:

‘Tell me, can we ever leave the past behind?’

The therapist thinks carefully about how to respond as she wants to recognise and demonstrate that she has heard Elizabeth’s obvious pain whilst also offering a realistic sense of hope for the future. She acknowledges Elizabeth’s great concerns:

‘I hear you say that, in losing Nigel, you feel you have lost part of yourself and of your identity’’

The therapist reassures Elizabeth that she does not think she is being stupid or selfish, on the contrary she comments on how well Elizabeth has managed over the last eight months.

In direct response to Elizabeth’s question the therapist says that in the present, the ‘here and now’, we can begin to see the past differently and allow ourselves to interpret the past in a way that allows us to carry on. She says that she feels they could work together to review the past and the present and find new ways for Elizabeth to meet the future with confidence. She says that, although it may not feel like it just now, it is possible that she will begin to think about the past differently and find ways to adapt it to her new circumstances so that, in time, it becomes a source of strength for her.

‘So you are saying,’ Elizabeth clarified, ‘that I can’t leave it behind, the past I mean, but I might be able to learn to see it differently?’

The therapist is aware that the connection between the past and present is complex and is keen to spend some time with Elizabeth exploring how she links her present to her past and to understand the...

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