Why purpose matters in psychotherapy and supervision
One of the questions I frequently find I explore with my clinical supervisees is 'what is the client now coming for?'
Some clients come to therapy with clear goals, and the focus of the work is agreed from the start. For others, outcomes are less tangible. Sometimes, the initial goal of therapy may even be to work out what it is that is missing, what it is that calls the client to keep showing up.
Therapy is at its heart a modelling endevour, as therapists we assist our clients in developing more insight about the way they experience the world, and where appropriate we assist them in changing that experience. To do this we develop our own model of the clients model, forming this by discerning the structure underlying our clients behaviour and expression of themselves and our experiencing of them and the work. We can not not model, humans are meaning making beings, and in therapeutic work, modelling is critical.
Regardless of the transparency or otherwise of the client's goal, it is my belief that the therapist has an ethical obligation to reflect on what it is that the client is bringing or presenting with, and on what the therapeutic tasks at hand are. Without a loosely held hypothesis, or model, that is regularly reflected on and updated, the work is not grounded, nor is it purposeful.
James Lawley, co-modeller of Symbolic Modelling as a therapeutic approach (alongside Penny Tompkins modelling the work of David Grove), described the importance in any moment of a therapeutic encounter of being aware of the vector that you are on. His metaphor was that journey of our client in our work is like that of a sailboat across a lake, we know the client is at A, and they currently want to get to B, but they can seldom move along a straight line between A and B, they have to tack back and forth across the lake, and the direction of the journey at any one time will depend on the weather and wind, and the efficacy of the boat.
Therapeutic work is not formulaic, it is a spontaneous, lively process that calls us constantly to respond to conditions, and it also calls us to be deeply aware of what is happening for the client and how the therapeutic work is contributing to their wellbeing and discovery. To do this we equally need to be deeply aware of what is happening within ourselves.
Supervision is a valuable space for therapists to explore their model of the world, their clients' models of the world, and the way these interact in the therapeutic endevour. Again it is a space for modelling, and self-discovery, and again it's open, spontaneous dialogue has direction and intention.
For therapy, and supervision with modelling and vitality at their heart, get in touch.