Saturday, July 23, 2022

Differentiation and the psychotherapeutic relationship

An additional, key assumption of the clinical-developmental approach is that the therapist's own development is a key aspect of the therapeutic encounter. Each stage of development represents a different way of making meaning about the world and ourselves. If we are trying to empathize with clients at a stage we ourselves are not in or have not been through, we will tend to unconsciously simplify the challenges those clients face and project the features of our worldview onto theirs. Additionally, if we are working with clients at an earlier stage than ourselves, and we are not explicit with ourselves about our relatively greater developmental capacity, we are very likely to place undue expectations on the client or use inappropriate and overly complex interventions. Further development allows us to see our own developmental positions more objectively and to follow “the contours of a client's way of knowing and match it closely” (Kegan, 1994, p. 260). This sets up the best possible conditions for an authentic and healing therapeutic encounter.

Forman, Mark D.. A Guide to Integral Psychotherapy (SUNY series in Integral Theory) . State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition. 

In Bowenian Systems theory there is a concept of “differentiation of self” which refers to the level of non anxious autonomous functioning of the individual in the emotional system in which that individual is participating. Referring to this concept of differentiation, the question might be asked whether a psychotherapist at a lower level of differentiation could be helpful to a client at a higher level of differentiation. Put another way, for a helping relationship to be therapeutic it is best if the therapist is at a higher level of differentiation than their clients?

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