The importance of therapeutic re-experiencing


24 Aug 2017 |  for counsellors | by Bill, writer at UK & Ireland Counsellor Directory


Does remembering repressed material create therapeutic change, or do you need to re-experience it in a therapeutic setting?

Merton Gill (1914-94) challenged Freudís notion that it was enough to remember repressed material for therapeutic change to ensue.

He suggested that simply remembering was not enough: the key was re-experiencing it.

Gillís conditions for therapeutic re-experiencing of impulses, feelings and expectations are:


  1. They must be experienced while in the presence of the person that they are now directed towards .
  2. The re-experienced feelings have to be openly expressed towards the person to whom they are now directed.
  3. The person towards whom they are now directed, must be ready to discuss the clientís impulses and feelings objectively, with interest, and non-defensively.
  4. †The client has to be helped to learn the source (from way back) of the re-experienced impulses, so that remembering and re-experiencing become integrated.

This way of working can be daunting for the therapist, since it often involves inviting the client to express and explore their negative feelings towards them.

For example, if the client expresses discontent, distress or anger at the counsellor raising their fees, it is very easy to retreat into explanations of what the going rate is, how they have to keep up with inflation, or other rationales for the fee raise, but from this defensive position the therapist may miss an opportunity to engage and work with what's really going on in the relationship, and let slip an opportunity to work on therapeutic change.

To work relationally in this way takes courage on the part of the counsellor, but can be the difference between working adequately as a therapist and working powerfully.


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