One Way to Develop Self-Care Insight

As part of my personality and profession, I like to think I am good at provide suggestions and helping others process their way through a plethora of difficult situations. Where I struggle is being able to apply my own advice to my situation.

One of my favorite techniques to use with my clients is called the “empty chair technique.” It was developed by Fritz Perls as part of “Gestalt therapy.” The idea behind Gestalt therapy to help an individual develop complete awareness with their environment, memories, and feelings (Howes, 2010). The counselor literally pulls up an empty chair next to the client and instructs them to envision the individual they are conflicting with. In my experience, clients have confronted their parents who passed away, the spouses, and even themselves. It can be a powerful experience for the client.

This allows the client to project themselves (feelings, memories, thoughts, etc.) onto the environment. Skeletons come out of the closet. Repressed memories and emotions are brought to the surface. It opens up a discussion between the client and counselor. The counselor assist the client to integrate detached parts of their personality through this newfound awareness. It ultimately helps an individual develop insight.

In a way, I began using this on myself when dealing with a difficult situation. Now, I did not pull up an empty chair, but I would ask myself, “What would I tell someone else in this same exact situation?” At this point, this questions parallels itself with the empty chair technique. It provides me with an opportunity to become aware of my thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with the situation. I can now be proactive versus reactive. I allow myself to integrate these disowned pieces into a comprehensive assessment.

-The Caring Counselor

Howes, R. (2010, January 20). Cool Intervention #9: The Empty Chair. Retrieved August 12, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/201001/cool-intervention-9-the-empty-chair-1

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