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B. Santen & G. Koopmans

Client-Centered/Experiential Discussion Papers, Volume IV, Number 1, 1980.


Client-Centered/Experiential Discussion Papers are circulated privately to

stimulate and provide a medium for discussion. They have the tentative

character of informal conversations or preliminary research ideas and rapports. To protect their tentative nature. they should not be subject

to critical appraisal in publication without clearance from the author(s). However, mention of access to Client-Centered/Experiential Discussion Papers by a writer is permissable.

Zachariah Boukydis.

Thomas Brouillette. Editors


Theoretical contributions to child psychotherapy are mostly based on psychoanalysis or behavior modification. In this article we want to demonstrate the fundamental applicability of the concepts of experiential psychotherapy, as developed by E. T. Gendlin, In the practice with children.

Experiential psychotherapy has been applied fruitfully whilst working with adults. However, the main technique used in this frame of reference, i.e. 'focusing’ (Gendin, 1964, 1969, 1978) makes a

rather strong appeal to verbal and introspective capacities, which are not yet present in children to a sufficient degree. Although Keelin (1973) reported some striking results using an adapted focusing procedure with 11- and 12 year old boys, we do not consider it the most obvious way to reconstitute the experiencing process at this age. Especially when working with even younger children, an alternative technique, which we call 'symmetrical symbolization', seems to be more promising, because it can be introduced more gently than a focusing procedure. 'Symmetrical symbolization' Is not a manipulative procedure, as wilt be made clear later on. Moreover, it does not require to a high extent capacities for differentiating emotions verbally.

At first we will present a case study of a boy, explained in terms of Gendlin's theory of personality change (1964, 1973) as a demonstration of the fundamental applicability of experiential psychotherapy with children, preceded by some remarks about the development of the child’s experiencing process.

The young child has to be seen as a person with his own world of experiences. These experiences constitute the basis of his behavior, or are implicitly functioning, as Gendlin expresses it. However, this world of experiences is still undifferentiated. The specific differentiations that occur in the child's experiential world later on, are determined predominantly by (a) the culture in which it is growing up, both on macro- and micro-level (the family)and (b) his sensorimotor development which depends on biological factors and which enables the child to explore the physical world. In principle this development makes possible new symbolizations and thus the differentiation of existing 'felt meanings'. Only if the significant others provide the child with an environment containing a richness of symbols, either directly by their own responses or indirectly by their own responses or indirectly by giving the child the opportunity to explore the outer world in a lot of aspects, can a ‘self-process’ -the individual's capacity to carry his own experiencing forward by "the interaction of the individual’s feelings with his own (symbolic or actual) behavior" (Gendlin, 1964)-

develop. Particularly this opportunity to explore the outer world is of crucial importance for the necessary development of the ‘self-process’. We suppose that if the parents (a) provide the child with structure-bound'*

* To the extent in which a 'felt meaning' is never -or no longer- symbolized in certain aspects, the experiencing process is 'structure- bound’. If a child, when seeing a group of playing children again and again only gets a feeling of dejection and reacts with withdrawing behind a book, he experiences such a situation in a ‘structure-bound’ way. Then the experiencing process forms a 'frozen whole', is expressed exclusively in certain contents. Insofar as the parent’s experiencing is structure-bound he is not able to feel all the implicit aspects of what the child wants to convey him, and so does not contribute to an ongoing interaction process. (Gendlin, 1964)

responses, or (b) indirectly inhibit the exploration of the relevant aspects of ‘experiencing’ these aspects will not be differentiated, or -if that was the case initially- become ‘structure-bound’. Gendlin does not express his opinion about this indeed, but we want to illustrate this presumption with some fragments of the case-study, which we will interpret here in terms of Gendlin's theory. This boy experienced his implicitly functioning feeling of 'being reprehensible' as ‘being mad' or 'bad'. Probably the role of the father in the family has been a determining factor for the arise of this connection of 'mad' and 'bad’. The boy felt 'bad' after when he was punished by his father. The moments in which his father was punishing were so unpredictable, exhibiting such an indirect relation with own behavior, that he got the feeling of not understanding himself any more. He was getting a 'strange’ feeling about himself and concluded from this that he might be a little mad.


The major indication for this therapy is the fact, that Rutger (9 years old) isolates himself to a high extent and is absorbed in unreal and frightening fantasies. During the first therapeutic contacts Rutger strikes one as shy and uncertain. But soon he demonstrates his being preoccupied with weird things (dying, Frankenstein, murder, fire), while sometimes demonstrating a strong fascination concerning death. During the second session an aspect of the central theme of 'being reprehensible' comes to the front, the fear of being considered as strange and nervous. Initially he explores this in a very indirect and cautious way, just to see how the therapist will react to that:

R: I always sleep with a bear in my bed, even though I am nine already. I like that.

T: Yes, It is fine sleeping with a bear in your bed, isn't it?

R: Yes, I always sleep with two bears.

Later on, he takes the matter up more directly by asking if nervous people come here in order to 'train'. This being nervous, mad, appears to be strongly related to being bad. When Rutger has thrown sand onto the floor (in that way being bad) he asks: “Won’t you think now I’m a bit mad?” Later on this theme will reappear many times too. It Is becoming increasingly easy to talk about it and it is undergoing all kinds of differentiations. In the 22nd session, for

example, for the first time being mad clearly becomes related to the one who labels you so and the arbitrariness is being expressed in a Punch and Judy show by Rutger.

We want to trace what kind of meanings the aspects of this feeling of ‘being reprehensible' were having in this specific case of Rutger and how these meanings were changing during the course of therapy.

We already stated that for the origin of the coupling of 'mad' to 'bad' the role of the father in the family most likely has been decisive. Rutger's diffuse and precarious feeling to be strange and bad

was symbolized by him in a 'structure-bound’ manner again end again

by exposing himself to, for example, horror films, from which probably to a large extent a ‘whole frozen structure’ originated. This resulted, among other things, in a frightful feeling of being left at the mercy of it, while these feelings were being strengthened by overwhelming motoric epi-phenomena (trembling and shaking). By behaving in a

foolish way eliciting symbolizations from others which maintained this ‘whole frozen structure’.

The important seventh session, in which Rutger dares to give free expression to his aggressive feelings in an extremely violent way, will usher in a turn in the course of therapy, by which new symbolizations become possible for Rutger. For the first time, these symbolizations concern aspects of his own experiencing power, a sign that the initially dominant feeling of powerlessness has been broken. Thus Rutger now dares to arm himself, to get his share in -initially very unreal- fantasies about being famous in the future, and to meet the therapist in a defiant way.

During the next session Rutger empathically wants to listen to a large part of last tape-recording, in this way causing a sharpening of his 'felt meaning’ of being bad, to a high extent coupled with bodily feeling. In this way there began the development of a feeling which resulted in an 'experiential shift'.

(Tape) T: “You want to throw arrows at the door! Rutger is looking at the door, rather amazed. Then again he listens attentively. Softly he says he’ll do the same again. To me it doesn’t sound convincing. He goes on listening, trembles with his whole body. During a crucifying-scene on the tape he gets very attentive, must laugh when he hears himself smash a clown and looks at me. Pretty fascinated he goes on listening to his letting the man bleed, presses the microphone in his crotch. Now he is totally silent. While saying in the tape, that he’ll smash my glasses, he looks at my glasses. He looks very fascinated. When on the tape he 'destroys’ me, he bites on the microphone with twitching shoulders. For a while he leans backward and looks at the clown, sits down opposite to it and is absorbed in looking at it for some minutes. Meanwhile he touches his lip absent-mindedly, when on the tape he stabs the clown’s lips. Fascinated, he listens until the end, smiling. He seems to enjoy it now. For a moment he makes a movement of throwing something at the clown. He then initiates a role play, by which he sees through how you can pretend to be sweet to others. He throws a doll into the corner. All cupboards should be cleared out. Then the ladies will say: “Oh gee, what a nice boy has done this!” With an imitating voice, a bit bitter: "What a nice boy is this, oh how nice". A moment later, with a gruff voice he talks about smearing and says: "Who is that boy, who has done that?"

For the first time Rutger can differentiate between being bad (or good) and being called bad (or good); i.e. between his own feelings and those of others towards him. Now he can enter into the part of others, so he opens up a totally new range of symbolizations, which -because of their nature- enrich the 'felt meaning' of his feeling 'bad' and ‘strange’ with the aspect of its relatedness to the experiencing of others. With this enrichment a condition has been fulfilled for a more authentic experiencing one's own acting and feeling (Laing, 1967), and consequently for experimenting with one's own power towards others.

Here the role of the therapist is a facilitating one. In contradistinction to what happens in Rutger's home, he abandons the content of the presented behavior end stimulates Rutger’s experiential flow by means of the interaction between his words and Rutger’s feeling. As a consequence of this a ‘self-propelled feeling process' was stimulated, a process which manifested itself through a growing self confidence. Often the latter is seen as an antecedent causal factor, but here it is obviously a consequent by-product of a recovering capacity to provide oneself with more differentiated symbolizations of a felt meaning.

During the following period several distinct changes take place. The pre-occupations with frightening images quickly decrease, to be replaced by a wording of uncertainties about the evaluation of his behavior. Puzzled by the absence of punishment following bad behavior, Rutger shows how guilt and penalties are irrevocably connected to him. Falling down the stairs or not being able to hit the bull’s eye with arrows, are examples of inescapable punishment for Rutger. He sees just one way out: the inviolable status of a prince or VIP.

This way out is no longer necessary when he distinguishes that once in a while everybody behaves badly and that behaving bad can even be pleasant. The mentioned ‘referent movement' from 'being mad' (‘bad’) as an inherent characteristic to ‘being mad' (‘bad') as an assigned characteristic becomes symbolized in a Punch end Judy show during the 22nd session, which we already mentioned.

R: These five minutes we’ll play Punch end Judy.

He sings cheerfully, throws a cloth over the house. I sit in front of it. A witch intends to steel the princess, resulting in an attack. Jan Klaassen asks with a gruff voice who caught the princess, after which he informs the police. An officer appears. The witch wants to catch the king, to become a queen. There is a fight between the officer and the witch.

R:(witch): Help doctor, doctor, there’s a lunatic!

T: A lunatic what do you mean?

R:(witch): A lunatic has thrown me into prison. He wants to kill me tomorrow, to cut my head off... He says I caught the princess. . . . which isn’t true.

R:(doctor, approaching the officer): Let me see, just a syringe, you madman.

R:(officer): I’m not mad at all... She kidnapped the princess. The doctor gives him a shot, the officer faints. The doctor asks for a nurse's assistance. The officer goes to hospital. After freeing herself, the witch is being assassinated by Jan Klaassen. There’s a feast, Rutger sings pretty sadly. He smashes the whole show, and "all dolls are dead". Meanwhile I emphasize, that the witch made someone give the officer a shot simply by saying that he was mad.

This theme is still so threatening that Rutger forces a feast end kills all the dolls. Understanding that others can seal your- doom with an (in this case wrongly) assigned label gives a powerless feeling. The feeling that others can control you with their power becomes less threatening though, because he finds out that he himself can be the evaluator too. Finally, during the course of therapy he can bring up for discussion his father's behavior, asking himself whether things his father is doing are stupid, abnormal. Even at home he passes judgement on his father by refusing to kiss him after he has been beaten by him, when his father shows his wish to reconcile.

In this same period during each session Rutger wants to make pointed weapons (or have them made) and fight with swords. During these symbolizations he repeatedly appears to experience himself as being stabbed while he is stabbing.This probably means to him, that asserting yourself Involves risks such as making enemies who can injure or kill you. Rutger repeatedly during his dreams sees a pointed weapon coming near and threatening him. In this way he presents other symbolizations of his feeling vulnerable, without being able to defend himself against that, except by making these weapons invisible. During one therapy session, he makes a spear, paints it black and explains: "…then I don't have to get afraid of it, cause then you only see black, so….”

Shortly after this, Rutger meets a serious deadlock which introduces a change, especially expressed in a growing capacity to fathom the motivation of anybody else's thoughts about him. Not only does it appear unbearable for him not to be taken seriously, he also distinguishes what injures him exactly. We don't know where the 'shift' took place, but the crucial importance of this period was clear: an intense experience took place both at home and during therapy. Possibly the wording and aggravation of these embarrassing problems and the actual experiencing of them, reconstituted the emotional process.

The deadlock appears at home when father approaches Rutger and wants to be kissed while Rutger is deeply involved in his play. Then Rutger is disturbed to such an extent, that it takes hours before he starts a new activity. -

During therapy Rutger tells about the impossible choice between sleeping and waking he’s been confronted with, night after night. Being asleep means feeling rested the next day and consequently not being considered lazy and reprehensible both at home and at school. But it also means again and again having bad dreams (being stabbed, attacked, and robbed). Besides, now and then you do sleep but in spite of that have no evidence of it unless you have dreams. Therefore you get nervous needlessly because of your fear of not being able to sleep. Waking is for Rutger an even more threatening experience than dreaming. He doesn't dare to make the situation less unbearable for himself, because turning the light on would upset his guinea-pig and also because he does not dare to use electricity. So during the night he stays awake for a long time, afraid of being tired -and in consequence of this appears lazy and reprehensible- the next day. At this moment Rutger rejects any escape from the deadlock.

Before the therapy Rutger couldn't share this problem with anyone. This became possible during the therapy and the meaning of these experiences changed.

Shortly after this sharpening of Rutger’s problems, remarkable changes took place:
-- unpleasant dreaming and bad sleeping almost totally disappeared
-- there was a growing capacity to grasp the attitudes behind other person’s words and to base emotional judgement of people on this understanding, and

-- it became unbearable not to be taken seriously, which started causing indignation towards certain people.

He now dares to judge as reprehensible the times when people do not take him seriously. He expresses this in a way which he formerly experienced as reprehensible to others and thus too threatening to himself. The next fragment is a clear demonstration of this statement.

T: Your sister is being spoiled.

R: And me… they don’t spoil me, the meanies.

T: Do you tell them?

R: Yes, but they say: "You are much too wild to do it and girls are always sweet"... (fiercely) You know, even though it is my birthday they are allowed to prepare everything (every word accompanied with a violent hit with the hammer) And I am not permitted to enter the kitchen, otherwise they send me to bed. Even though it is my birthday. They promised I could do it, then there is a child and it asks if she can do it and she is just going to do it "I'll forget you, I’ll forget you...I'II pass you over"... Then I get nothing Then they believe that child. Yes... and I also have a mean uncle. T: Also. You feel everybody is mean to you.

R: The family Black not so much. Sometimes I send them a postcard... But one family really is unpleasant... Aunt Manja, you know what?

One day she had to sleep in my room, because my room... half is mine and the other half is visitor’s room, for my room is so big. Then she says: "I don’t like that... put that guinea-pig and everything away, and you too, you are much too noisy".

T: And then you had to leave your own room.

R: Yes.

T: And you feel that’s mean.

R: It really is.

T: And that’s why now you feel angry at your father and mother, because you feel your sister gets her wish... In some way you know that's not fair.

R: And the family also gets their wish... The Van Duyn family from rotten Amersfoort… What do they do? ... They show up. Their children are permitted to sleep in our visitor’s room... "Next time you may sleep in our room”... I leave my bed for those children. Later on I visit them and I say: "This time I may sleep in his room”... ,,No, you have a sleeping bag... we, it is our bed”. In my opinion they should tell those children: “No, it is ours, this time we are the visitors. But wait, if I... no, I have judo-lessons, I did that on purpose... and when I am about forty

years old, then I'1l start with all those nasty uncles and all those nephews who have always done me wrong!!

T: Then you’ll teach them

R: Oh gee... And you know who? My mother will also get her part.

Also during the therapy sessions we see that Rutger cannot stand it any more not being taken seriously by the therapist. When in his opinion the therapist handles his piece of work carelessly, he indignantly concludes: “What? Now he didn't do it well, and now he thinks: 'Ah, just leave that boy do his thing’ “. With children of the same age Rutger still doesn't dare to be so direct, for at this moment he is longing very much to make friends and scarcely dares to take risks in this field.

The meaning of the feeling of being reprehensible has undergone changes: rejecting someone else (‘s behavior) is a weapon to be used by anyone, consequently also by yourself. Besides, a rejection can be undone too. As a 'global application’ of this knowing that evaluations are mutual, we also see changes in other attitudes which show that also in other respects he starts from his own feelings and bases his attitudes towards others on this. For example the therapist gets a warning (“Woe betide you, if you now want to make me nervous”) when Rutger rejects his behavior. The next week an old acquaintance writes a letter to-be-of-help in which she calls him ill. Rutger spontaneously reacts: “Me ill? ... but am in the best of health!” Half an hour later seated on the therapist's back he sees children at a distance and asks:

R: If those children see me, will they laugh at me?

T: How would you feel about that?

R: Then I'd think these children are behaving strangely.

Depending on his theoretical background the reader will certainly have been thinking of other explanatory concepts than the ones we used. For example. a behavioral therapist will state that the processes of change we described can be explained in terms of cognitive restructuring. We want to emphasize, that such an interpretation which only uses the aspects concerning content does no right to the underlying experiential process. It cannot explain adequately the fundamental personality changes with its explanation of extending the behavioral repertoire. Instead of considering role-playing as exclusively a method of learning new behavior, we view It as a new symbolization and thus a

differentiation of an existing feeling, producing 'shifts'. The 'felt meanings created in this way are being symbolized as contents in terms of behavior. But these behavioral changes are only aspects of a developing experiential process.

Emotive Imagery and symmetrical symbolization

As we said before, Gendlin's focusing technique as used for adults is less appropriate for children. A 'focusing' procedure makes quite a strong appeal to the abi1ity of concentrating on the feeling process and the ability to differentiate feelings verbally. For this reason we considered it necessary to develop some alternative techniques which potentially bring about similar effects. Gendlin hasn't done any systematic researches in this field. He points to the problem concerning the age at which children do develop focusing ability and when they lose it possibly, which stays a completely open question (Gendlin, 1969). This led us to look for an appropriate technique. On doing this it was striking to us that dramatical personality changes were reported with children after application of 'emotive imagery' during a short period (Lazarus &- Abramovitz, 1962), which in our opinion couldn't be explained adequately by theories of learning, for this technique aims at eliminating particular phobias. The so called personality changes point to more drastic effects, which may be explained better by Gendlin’s theory. The personality changes incidentally obtained by ‘emotive imagery' have served us as a starting point for the development of a therapeutic technique which is more effective to this respect.

After a critical comment on 'emotive imagery' we will give a more specific elaboration of the technique proposed by us, 'symmetrical symbolization', as we call it.

'Emotive Imagery' is an alternative for 'systematic desensitisation', especially developed for children. Both techniques are based on the reciprocal inhibition principle. 'Emotive Imagery', however requires no relaxation procedure and for that reason is more easily applicable to children in some cases. This technique is described as follows (Lazarus: &- Abramovitz, 1962).

(a) After assessing an anxiety hierarchy of the child and

(b) the degree in which heroes (for instance known from comics, television, movies and the like) appeal to his imagination and in which he can identify with it the child will be instructed as follows:

(c) He has to close his eyes and to imagine a series of events close enough to his daily life to be credible, in which a story has been interwoven concerning his favorite hero or alter ego.

(d) if this has been accompanied with a considerable amount of empathy, it is possible to evoke affective reaction to a sufficient degree. During this we sometimes notice small changes in facial expression, respiration, muscular tension and the like.

(e) When these emotions are evoked maximally, the lowest item of the hierarchy is introduced as a natural part of the story.

If anxiety occurs, the phobic stimulus is removed and a new trial is made. This procedure is repeated whilst higher and higher items from the anxiety hierarchy are successively introduced. If the preceding item doesn't arouse anxiety anymore, Lazarus & Abramovitz report sensational successes when using this technique with children from 7 to 14 years of age, in that sense the not just phobic symptoms disappeared already after some sessions, but that at the same time in several cases positive implications were established concerning other facets of the personality. Radical personality changes of this kind are hardly to be expected if we assume that mainly vegetative factors are involved, which have eliminated anxiety.

The induced feelings antagonistic to anxiety are considered operative because of their pleasant character. On the contrary it appears from the cases that much more specific feelings are induced, as 'feeling a thrill of pride', 'having a wonderful feeling of being in perfect control', the protection of somebody else by reassuring him by giving a good example in the area where the child himself is phobic, and the like.

In brief a feeling of self control, self respect, a feeling that somebody else can rely upon you. The combination of the fact that inducing of these feelings has to be done empathically, and the more specific character of these, hints to the conception that a referring is going on to the 'felt meaning'. This makes plausible an alternative explanation of the changes effectuated by 'emotive Imagery'. It can be said that the empathic reflection, in referring to ‘felt meaning' and deepening it, has enabled a 'felt shift' in the felt meaning to occur. According to Gendlin's theory such a felt shift would allow for new behaviors arising from the new and different experiential base. This would mean a more adequate explanation of the reported fundamental personality changes. These outcomes might be called incidental in terms of the behavioral therapeutic framework. To make them more generally effective we consider therapeutic interventions which we call 'symmetrical symbolization' more adequate.

Symmetrical symbolization aims at increasing the experiencing level. In contradistinction to reflection of feelings, it is a way of symbolizing implicitly functioning aspects of a child's structure bound experience by using objects, toys as metaphors. This metaphorizing process heightens the child's felt sense and a felt shift can occur. In this way symmetrical symbolization is like 'focusing', which leads to new and fresh symbolizations. When a child whilst playing is symbolizing a felt sense in a structure bound way, e. g. symbolizing being stuck, disconnected, uneasy, tense, without any way to get out, then the therapist will try to stimulate inner directedness in order to help the child . stay in touch with this global felt sense. First of all he will try “to stay out of the focuser’s way” (Gendlin, 1978). This means that he will be physically and psychologically as unobtrusive as possible, by posture, position, frequency of intervening, in a sense eliminating the focus on himself as an interacting separate person. As a consequence he will state his interventions in a manner linked to the elements or figures involved in the play the child is engaged in. More specific, his remarks will be stated in a 'he’ or ‘she'-form, e. g. “There he stands, no one left. Guess, what's he's feeling. For the sake of staying close to the experiencing of the child, the therapist should respond to the ongoing aspect of the experiencing process, starting from an important experience put forward by the child which is accompanied with fear, implicating that the experiencing is ‘structure bound' In that aspect. For example if a child depicts regularly the struggle of getting over problems by telling a tractor run aground in a sandbox into even bigger barriers, then the therapist tries - starting from his own experiencing of I it - to verbalize this struggle as accurately as possible. "Whatever he tries, again and again he runs aground” or: "Another failure, what would be on his mind." Intonations and mimics also contribute to the symbolization of the felt sense. The first movement of focusing is initiated by an instruction of the therapist telling the client to list his problems mentally ("Stack them in front of you, and step back and survey them from a distance") This first phase called 'clearing a space for yourself ', is considered very important (Gendlin, 1978). As Gendlin states: “it is the inner act of distancing yourself from what is troubling you but still keeping it before you.” Adults need to be instructed to reach this state. However the child created in a natural way a similar state by transferring his troublesome experience in a play-scene, thus distancing appropriately. The therapist has to wait till such a situation occurs, though he can facilitate it by providing an inviting environment and play-materials. The therapist, having often extensively explored the global felt sense thru interacting with it by different variations of symbolizations, may notice at some time, that the vague kind of feeling now becomes concretely felt by the child, which reveals itself mainly as a bodily process. When, at such a moment an initiation of the process of reconstitution occurs, the child’s feeling of inescapability might have been relieved, the original felt sense changed. Often the child cannot yet provide himself with verbal symbolizations to this new felt sense.

Based on the therapist's experiencing of the child's behavior, the former might feel like intervening in a way no longer reflecting a feeling of powerlessness. The above mentioned child, for example, may pull free the already capsized tractor, thus evoking in the therapist a statement such as: "Just imagine..., another chance? ". Let us presume that the therapist has symbolized with these words an implicitly functioning aspect of this new experience. Then it will be possible that, besides the aspect of ‘being stuck to it’, an aspect will be expressed of 'failure being less inescapable’. In this way a ‘whole frozen structure' will be dissolved.

In 'focusing' the adult has the possibility of pulling back if the involvement with the problems is too overwhelming or threatening. In play therapy, children regularly tend to disturb the scenery if their own or the therapist's reactions are too frightening. For this reason it is important that by inducing some experiencing aspects into the puppet, the driver of the tractor and the like, i. e. not into the child himself, the child keeps his freedom to make the connection with his own world of experiences or not. If the contribution of the therapist agrees with the 'felt meaning' the child is having that moment, 'carrying forward' will occur. If this isn't the case, the hazard the child will turn away from the 'felt meaning will be less in comparison with the situation in which the therapist is giving a misinterpretation of the feelings of the child himself.

Such a non-invested attitude of the therapist makes his relation with the child a symmetrical one. That means, it isn't he who knows and verbalizes what happens inside the child, but as a companion he contributes to the play the child is engaged in. This contribution may or may not be accepted and used. This doesn't mean that the therapist is making suggestions haphazardly and awaits what the child will do with it. On the contrary, he will try as much as possible to agree with the world of experiences of the child. He tries to enlarge in this way the chance that his contribution will be included in the play and might thus effect 'carrying forward'. On doing this the therapist uses his interpretation as a heuristic principle, a leading guide when looking for adequate responses and realizes he may miss. This credo has a central place in Gendlin's ideas about the therapeutic attitude. We believe that the afore mentioned operationalization of it offers the possibilities of actualizing it in child psychotherapy, too. The whole set-up, in which the symbolization of the experiencing proceeds by toys, and the responses of the therapist interacts with it also by toys can then be therapeutically effective. It fosters playing with the child and therefore reconstituting and maintaining an experiencing process with him instead of creating a new 'whole frozen structure' in which the words of the therapist are experienced as absolute.

This attitude also enables the therapist to stay in touch with his own feeling process. It enhances his capacity to point to the implicitly functioning process of the child by being aware of what the child’s process stirs in him.


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