Approach Detail

These are the beliefs that underlie my approach to therapy and that also inform my approach to clinical supervision.

It is essential to create an environment in which the person feels safe enough to risk new awareness, behaviour and relationships in order to facilitate change. The following are the conditions in which therapy or supervision can be conducted to facilitate change.

When the person experiences respect and consideration including that she/he will be believed, will be trusted, will not experience control unless necessary and only to the extent that is necessary to ensure his/her safety (e.g. disclosure if suicidal);

  • will not be judged;

  • will not be manipulated (imposed interventions) but will be informed at all times regarding the process of therapy;

  • will be supported and helped by someone who has adequately prepared for a therapeutic relationship;

  • will have confidences kept;

  • will experience openness from the helper without the intrusiveness of a relationship outside of the therapeutic relationship (i.e. not a dual relationship but a temporary helping relationship);

  • will be seen in a discrete and safe setting;

  • will maintain clarity through continuing dialogue about the boundaries of the relationship often defined by a “contract”;

  • will be empowered by the helper’s deference (sometimes with negotiation) to lessen the effect of the power difference in the relationship and ensure control of his/her own choices and ownership of responsibility for the outcomes.

Since each person is experiencing her/his own kind of challenge or crisis, it is essential that her/his view of the circumstances be useful (accurate, informed) and that sufficient supports are in place outside the helping relationship. This includes, where possible, family, friends, colleagues, mentors, community services and caring communities (e.g. faith communities, support groups, social groups, etc.) The lack of such relationships in which to experience support and nurture will slow the process of healing and change.

Since each person is entitled to do her/his work in his/her own way, it is essential that the helper be able to adapt to the person’s style without losing effectiveness. Suggesting alternatives from a variety of perspectives allows more options to be considered. Safety is maintained by openly expressing concerns about the person’s work when warranted because the helper believes the person is placing themselves or another at risk. Over time this respectful intervention will become trusted and increase the potential for benefit.

Therapy is “healing” in its broadest sense. The violation and harm that has given rise to the need for healing will in all cases require grieving to resolve. Facilitating this grief is typically a part of therapy.

Contracts for services such as problem solving (solution-focused work), communication, preventative psycho-education and supervision do not always involve therapy in the same sense. There may be less of a requirement for safety and more opportunity to challenge the person’s beliefs, values and behaviour to achieve greater clarity and promote desired change when consistent with client-centered goals.

It is essential to understand the context, beliefs and experiences of people who seek therapy. While there are important themes that contribute to healing, individuals may have experienced harm they associate with their family, relationships and faith group. Therapy, to be effective, will address the spiritual issues when the client wants to do so. This can be done as intervention, by referral or by cooperative helping with competent spiritual supports in a group or in the community. To be competent and ethical, I recognize my biases and act with respect for the values and beliefs others hold that may be different from mine.

 © Murray Oppertshauser, 2007-2011