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Archives » CCAV Yarra Valley Discussion Group

--> Meeting dates and reports 2007

Address upon inquiry through 

13/03/07 - A DVD Night & Discussion on Therapeutic Work With Men: 
               "Effective Psychotherapy with Men" by Ronald F. Levant, Professor of Psychology at Akron Uni, and the 2005 president of the American Psychological Association.
18/05/07 - Art Wouters, Counselling Faculty Head, Tabor College - Subject: Narrative Therapy
10/07/07 - Dr Ian Richardson, Counsellor & Director of Life Builders Inc.
11/09/07 - Deborah Andersen - 'Releasing Unblocked Creativity in Both Therapist and Client'

13/11/07 - Speaker TBA

September Speaker Deborah Andersen



“We are creative beings but it is easy for our creativity to become blocked. This is the case for us as counsellors and also for our clients”. 

Dibs in Search of Self: When Deborah reread this book by Virginia Axline after many years, she saw it differently. As a teenager she thought Dibs was released from his oppression by Virginia’s love for him. Now, she is more aware of the author’s reverence of Dibs as a person who needed to discover his own strengths and engage with himself before he could engage with the world. 

The Choir of Hard Knocks: These people express creativity in spite of their brokenness. Belonging to the choir meant their problems were externalized for a while. They became functioning members of a choir. Creativity can be expressed in brokenness. Our clients can also be encouraged to express creativity in their brokenness. 

Ish: Deborah read us this children’s book by Peter Reynolds. The small boy Ramon was always drawing but his creativity was blocked when his work was criticized. Crushed, he decided not to draw anymore until he realized his sister valued his drawings and had put them up on her wall. He scornfully told her that the vase he had drawn was not drawn properly to which she replied, ‘It’s ‘vasish’. Ramon realized he did not have to draw perfectly in order to enjoy this activity. He could do ‘ish’ pictures. 

The Artist’s Way: This book by Julia Cameron is a self-directed study book. It aims to help people recover their creative self. Creativity is a process not a product. (Ramon learned to live life ‘ishfully’) Creativity is the art of living – something to do with playfulness, passion and energy. To be creative, we need to get in touch with the creator. God resources us. 

Moving towards creativity is related to the integrity and congruence of the person. It is facing the ‘shadows’ in our lives so that creativity can be released. Blockages can mean that we have not recovered from wounds and setbacks. We do not have a clear voice about what we want to say. 

To develop a clear voice we can try free association journalling. This is journalling each day for about three pages. The process enables us to explore and clarify our thoughts. We can learn to listen to our own thoughts and to God rather than listening to the voice of the critic. 

Homework: Deborah suggested some homework for us. 

1. List 3 old enemies of our creative self worth. Be as specific as possible. We need to grieve creative injuries otherwise they become creative scar tissue and block our growth.

2. List 3 champions of our creative self-worth. Be specific. Even if we disbelieve a compliment record it. It may well be true. 

3. If we had 5 other lives to lead, what would we be doing in each of them? Whatever occurs to you, jot it down. Do not over-think this exercise. The point of these lives is to have fun in them – more fun than you might be having in this one. Look over this list and select one. Then do it this week, well, an approximation to it.

July Speaker Dr Ian Richardson

(General notes taken during the talk)

Date: 10th July, 2007
Venue: Woori Yallock
Speaker: Rev.Dr. Ian Richardson (Ian is involved in pastoring, lecturing and counselling, particularly those with sexual addictions and marriage difficulties).

Topic: Counselling Addictions 

Readiness for Counselling: People with any type of addiction often do not want help. Their reluctance to pay a fee could be an indication that they are not ready to receive help. Ian does not want to work with those who are not ready to make changes in their lives. Rather he may send them away until they are ready to do so. Nor does Ian tend to work with paedophiles as they are often in deep denial of their problems and therefore unwilling to change. 

Types of Addictions: There are many addictions, both physical and psychological. Christians people can even be addicted to their spirituality. (They get a good feeling from being involved in a church, take on more than they can manage and then ‘crash’ emotionally). Others are addicted to anxiety (with its adrenalin rush) or victimhood and the payoff that they don’t have to take normal responsibility for their lives. People can also be addicted to conflict. Sexual addictions include pornography, massage parlours, prostitutes etc. More men than women are involved in sexual addictions. Often people seek help only when they are caught. Some addictions tend to be hidden ones eg gambling, spirituality. 

Identifying the Problem: This involves identifying the client’s particular addiction and assessing if there is any motivation to change. 

Identifying the Cause: It is important to resolve the underlying issues that led to the addiction. Addictions are often a kind of self-medication to deal with the pain of these unresolved issues. A person may have received bullying at school or had financial failure (precipitating events). This may lead to chronic, emotional negativity which may in turn lead to the depression and in turn to the addictive behaviour. The pre-emptory event is usually accidental eg. a 13 year old boy may find pornographic material in his father’s bedroom and keeps going back to it. 

Identifying the Process: The client may need to work on skills which will help with the problems of the precipitating event. eg develop communication skills, strategies for handling bullying or financial problems. They also need to develop a sense of their own identity. Ian asks questions about his clients, writes out a summary of good events in their lives and gets them to read it regularly. The family system may need to be involved in the counselling process. Family behaviours which perpetuate the addictions need to be addressed eg rescuing by paying fines, unclear boundaries. Ian also aims to deal with shame and guilt, perhaps reminding the client that the Bible does not address masturbation or reminding them that if they confessed any wrongdoing, they can be assured of forgiveness. He may prescribe the addictive behaviour (eg masturbation) and the client may then find the impulse to engage in it has gone. 

Ian does not ask for a report each week about how the client has managed. Failure to bring a good report may produce more guilt as well. (The client tends to tell him anyway). But he might ask what happened immediately beforehand and work on that. Married people can learn to support their partners in overcoming the addiction eg. a man can learn to call his wife and ask for her support when tempted and this support can be a great help in fighting the addiction. 

Identifying the Resources: These can include family, a GP, church, small group, even a dog or a newspaper. Clients need to made aware of the resources they have. It is helpful to put them in a ‘map’ so that they can be seen visually. 

Some Tools: The client may be asked to describe the symptoms when they get into a ‘bad space’. These can then be put into chronological order. The client may be asked, ‘When is the point of no return when you will spiral down and can’t stop? What is happening before that when you get the “orange light”? What strategies can you put into place at this point? eg rest when overworked.

The Addictive Circle: Pre-contemplation (outside the circle) leads into the circle to contemplation, determination, action and maintenance. Maintenance may lead to a move outside the circle into permanent change or it may lead to a relapse back into contemplation and the circle continues. People will often go around in the circle many times before they step out of it. They need to be encouraged to keep persisting to break the habit. 

The Talcott-Parson Model: This model emphasises empathy until the client is willing to be confronted about the habit. If there is a block, it is important to go back to empathy again until the client is willing to make further progress. 

Helen McAlley/Graeme Dawson.


(It is recomended that the reader looks at 'Re-authoring Conversations' on page 9 of this PDF file: Workshop Notes by Michael White, as featured onhttp://www.dulwichcentre.com.au/)

Art Wouters

Our speaker for the evening was Art Wouters who is now head of the counselling faculty at Tabor College. Art is a clinical psychologist from South Africa. Previously, he was working in a healing centre in South Africa which had a particular interest in helping people recover from the trauma of apartheid. 

Narrative Therapy
Art showed us a DVD which showed the work of Michael White, the founder of Narrative Therapy at work. Narrative therapy was birthed in Adelaide and White worked with David Epstein from New Zealand. This approach is contemporary and post-modern. 

The Session with the Client and Counsellor
A respectful relationship between client and therapist is important. Note-taking only involves the words of the client. As the clients tell their stories, they may feel ‘stuck’. The clients on the DVD, a brother and sister, wanted a relationship that did not only involve her being a carer and him being cared for. The counsellor looked for other stories in their lives which counteracted the plot of this story. As a result, the cared-for brother was able to recount stories of how he had cared for other people and the sister recounted the positive feelings she had when he spoke glowingly of her in court. 

The Reflective Team
Another feature of the therapy is the presence behind a screen of a reflective team. Following the session, the team comes into the counselling room and the counsellor interviews them in the presence of the client. The team are non-judgmental and describe what the session meant to them. For example on the DVD, one member said how much he valued the relationship between the brother and sister and it made him think wistfully about his own sister who lived at a distance from him. This subjective approach was different from what many of us had been taught (minimal or no self-disclosure). The self-disclosure however did seem to be relevant to the clients. The team were former clients and of course they had been instructed about the importance of confidentiality. 

The Clients’ Response
After the team have shared, the client is given an opportunity to respond. In this case, the clients appreciated being told how special they were and how much the team valued their relationship. Externalising the problem helped them to distance themselves from it and to begin to see a new way of relating to each other. 

The DVD showed an interview with just the sister a year later and it was obvious that she had been able to largely let go of her caring role and her brother had become considerably more independent. 


We watched the DVD on therapeutically counselling men. 

Traditional therapy has not always suited men who often struggle to identify their feelings. The very process is perceived to give them a stereotypical label. 

The DVD showed a sequence of counselling sessions and was role-played. The client had come because his wife thought his lack of enthusiasm about her first pregnancy (after being married for 15 years) was a matter for concern. The client himself was uncertain about whether he needed help. The thing that upset the client was his wife’s comparison of him to his father whom he described in a detached way as being distant, aloof and uninvolved with him when he was a child. 

The following program was used.

1. The way the client experienced emotions was examined. He tended to have headaches, an upset stomach, would feel angry or experience emotions as stress. (In fact, many emotions may manifest simply as stress). This was normalised for the client but it was explained that learning to be more aware of his feelings than the way he was currently experiencing them would be preferable. 

For homework, he was asked to write out as many words for emotions as possible. 

2. The counsellor noted that very few vulnerable emotions were on the list – words like disappointed or worried. There were no words for affection and caring but ‘happy’ and ‘pleased’ were included. 

For homework, the client was asked to add more words to the list, especially vulnerable words like ‘sad, lonely, hurt, fearful, abandoned’. 

3. The relationship between the client and his father was explored more. His father had been the strong, silent type, good, hard-working, taking care of his family, but too busy when at home too take interest in his son. 

4. The client was asked to infer from the words, body language and behaviour how others around him and on TV were feeling. The difference between ‘action empathy’ (being aware of what people are doing) and ‘emotional empathy’ (being aware of what they are feeling) was explained. Men tend to practice the former rather than the latter. 

5. This homework was subsequently discussed. The client’s observations led him to recall how a ‘college love’ wanted him to communicate more and how he could see a parallel between her and his wife. He admitted his confusion about what women want and also recognised that he was afraid of expressing vulnerable feelings because he feared his wife would think he was not strong enough to look after her. He saw his role as being strong, trustworthy and stoic. At this point, the counsellor explained the difference between having an emotion and being overcome by that feeling. 

For homework, the client was asked to identify in himself the feelings he had been looking for in others. His concern was allayed by being told that it is better to acknowledge a strong emotion than to allow it to wreak havoc in our bodies. We are in a better position to deal with the situation if we can identify and label the feeling. The client was reminded that there are 3 parts to an emotion – bodily sensation, awareness and body language. 

6. The client’s homework observations were discussed. He was angry because the mechanic did not come as arranged to fix his car. Underneath was disappointment and helplessness. Anger often replaces our more vulnerable emotions like these. Stress is not an emotion but often masks feelings like fear or worry, eg fear of not being responsible. Men especially may be angry with themselves, embarrassed or ashamed but unwilling to admit to having these feelings. The client was encouraged to talk to his wife about some of his more vulnerable feelings as talking about them helps to put them in perspective and helps in clarifying and coping with the situation. 

7. The client’s father was again discussed, but now the client spoke with more passion. His own ambivalence about becoming a father was linked with his unresolved feelings about his own father. He expressed not only anger about his father’s remoteness but his underlying concern that if he had been smarter, he could have got his father’s attention and his sadness. 

8. The client was asked to write down the questions he would ask his father if his father were alive today, as well as the emotions he had about asking the questions and to give each emotion a colour. It was explained that getting to the pain about his father would give him a better way of dealing with it. 

9. The client further described his anger and sadness about his father’s treatment of him and also his resentment. He feared there was ‘something in his genes’ that made him act in turn like his father. 

10. The client was asked to collect documents about his father and interview one of his father’s colleagues. He began to see his father in a different light. His father’s father had died when he was 6. His step-father was abusive. He had to protect his mother from this man who died when he was 15. He worked to put himself through college and was later deceived by his business partner. He had learned to be tough but when his son, the client, was born, the father had cried because he was so happy. Knowing this one fact was a key for the client who realised his father had indeed loved him – something he had feared was not the case. This gave him permission to love his own unborn child. 

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Focal Point Yarra Valley 2009