Christian Counseling: The Pathway To Unconscious Discovery

QUESTION:

How does a person with or without the help of the help of a therapist bring traumatic events back into conscious awareness?


After reading this statement in your blog: "Chances are those employing such defenses have cut off from conscious awareness one or more traumatic events and have a powerful desire to remain in control which they fear would be lost by delving into their inner selves"


How can a person without a therapist be able to do this if there are periods in time that they do not remember? Also what can a therapist do to help a person with these issues? Are all therapists knowledgeable and personally equipped to deal with a client with these issues?



RESPONSE:



Analysis of unconscious memories and associated feelings and thoughts is not a simple matter. Developing awareness through analysis is, unfortunately, far more difficult to do by oneself and, in part, impossible. Primarily this is so because one's own emotions and defenses interfere in the performance of logical assessment and objectivity, which are necessary to gain self-understanding.



Not many therapists are trained nor practice the above type of therapy known by different names--insight-oriented, psychodynamic and psychoanalytic therapy. Many therapists today seem to lean toward a different approach to treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  CBT's focus is on symptom removal or change, such as reworking false beliefs or changing behaviors, sometimes with great success.  This approach is not oriented toward changing the heart, but beliefs and behaviors, does not address unconscious issues, the history of past traumas or much of the feeling world. Secondarily are those that are eclectic, meaning they integrate theory and techniques from several approaches to treatment, such as: CBT, insight and systems, which can be useful, but may water down the insight-oriented approach and benefit.


 

An insight-oriented treatment utilizes the therapeutic relationship and some techniques to uncover unconscious material. For example, one belief of psychoanalytic theory, to which I subscribe, is repetition compulsion and refers to an unconscious need to repeatedly play out past traumas in a current relationship with the hope of finding resolution. These compulsions are transferred to other people, such as the therapist. An analytical therapist will use the relational experience with a client to help him or her gain self-understand by talking about the client/therapist relationship, as well as explore past similar relational patterns and past traumatic events. Therapists also analyze common everyday mistakes, day and night dreams, and use information taken from an in depth history.  



Some self-work or analysis is necessary and some insights are gained through journaling past difficult events and looking for patterns of behaviors, feelings, thoughts and similar types of relationships or relational dynamics. It can be especially helpful to look at one's own fears and anxieties; things one doesn't want to look at or resists. Talking with family and friends who knew you during childhood and teen years can prime the pump of self-understanding because these people will have a somewhat different perspective. Also, some reading of self-help books can further one's understanding about self-discovery. 



In the end, there will come a time when doing this on one's own will plateau and become frustrating. They will likely find it tempting to cover it all back up and move on, long before it is finished. It will also become evident that gaining insights doesn't really change a person, but present as opportunities for change. These situations call for a trained, insight-oriented therapist to further facilitate and solidify healing.   



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