Working With Emotion in Psychotherapy (Continued)

Part III:  Helping clients learn how to use their emotions:  The final step is helping clients learn how to use their emotions skillfully and appropriately in their everyday lives.  Emotions are always experienced in a particular context and clients have to learn appropriate ways to deal with emotion within the context in which it arises.    Here are some of the ways I have helped clients begin to use newly emerging emotions to lead fuller, richer lives.  Sometimes I have to help a client who tends to withdraw spitefully when hurt to express it verbally and in a non-judgmental, non-accusatory way.  This is particularly important when working with couples, who often fall into the common configuration of one person aggressively blaming the other, who, feeling less potent, withdraws.  Yelling at a boss at work would probably not be to the client’s benefit even though it might be momentarily satisfying.   Expressing hurt to an uncaring or sadistic person would also usually not be wise.  So considering the context and what would be a satisfying expression as well as what would be in the client’s long-term interest is essential.  I frequently use the empty chair method to help clients experiment with expressing emotion to people they have previously had to withhold the emotion.  I will discuss this method in a future posting.

I welcome questions or comments about this important topic.