90 Minute Workshop
Safeguarding the Empathetic Connection: Theory and Practice of Avoiding Therapist Triggers
Saturday, March 24
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
The empathetic connection is a profoundly important aspect of therapy, especially in treating clients with complex trauma. Therefore, safeguarding it is essential to positive outcomes. However, clients with complex trauma can present challenges in this area as they may consciously or unconsciously trigger powerful emotional reactions in the therapist. How the therapist addresses these reactions may create powerful, positive change for the client or, on the other hand, disrupt or even destroy the therapeutic connection.
In the first section of this workshop, through presented material and participant sharing, we will explore together why the empathetic connection is important to therapy practice and some of the basic mechanics of how a therapist may become triggered. A number of ideas which are significant to this process will be examined, including client enactments, social and psychic pressure, transference and countertransference, double binds and therapist shame. Participants will not only learn theory, but also powerful strategies and practical actions they can take prevent becoming triggered. Because the therapist’s need to help tends to play a central role in many difficult client interactions participants will learn how to establish a specific therapeutic frame which addresses this issue and which can dramatically decrease the chances of triggering.
In the second section of the workshop, participants will get an opportunity to identify and share what triggers them and how they tend to respond in their own practice. A number of experiential ways of dealing with triggered feelings will be explored, including somatic welcoming, external representation and grounding.
Throughout the workshop, participants will be encouraged to share their own wisdom and struggles in this area as we address this important topic together.
- Describe two aspects of the role that empathy plays in the therapeutic connection
- Describe the most common ways a therapist may be triggered in clinical practice
- Describe an effective therapeutic frame for avoiding therapist triggering
- Identify how they tend to react when triggered
- Identify a personal trigger and an appropriate strategy to deal with it