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The Existential Moment: Micro-skills: Reflecting

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Those are the infamous words of a now famed fictional character. The poor and destitute should get busy dying if they don’t want to work.

For those few who don’t know, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly, bitter man who “lives to work” and despises Christmas and the happiness and generosity it represents. On Christmas Eve, the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come visit the old miser, showing him the reality of his empty life and the grim future that awaits if he doesn’t change. Profoundly shaken, Scrooge wakes on Christmas transformed, overflowing with kind-heartedness and charity, and resigned to change his life.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” The classic tale tirelessly warms our hearts.

Existential-Humanistic therapy is experiential and relational. E-H practice leverages several “micro-skills” to vivify the client’s experience in the present moment. These skills include “tagging” (e.g., “I notice…”), slowing down and tuning in, bringing the “there and then” into the “here-and-now” (e.g., “Are you feeling that way right now?”), and reflecting.

Reflection is a bit like the work of the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. We mirror or reflect our client’s experience—the content presented, the process or experience in the moment (e.g., nonverbals, tone, pattern of speech, etc.), self and world constructs (e.g., “I am…”), protective patterns and inner tensions, and core vulnerabilities or wounds.

This process of illumination helps clients to see themselves and their world. It then offers the possibility for transformation in the disclosive experience of holistic knowing. It’s a potentially heartwarming tale that never gets old.

Links to Related Blog Posts:

Read more posts about working with“micro-skills” from previous Existential Moment posts.

Read more posts about working in the “here-and-now” on EHI’s blog.

Read more posts about relational and the experiential in E-H therapy on EHI’s blog.

Read all the Existential Moment series posts on EHI’s blog.

Existential Moment Author: Scott Gibbs, LMFT, EHI Board Member-at-Large | Website: | Twitter: @Novum_Organum

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The Existential Moment: Bringing there-and-then into here-and-now

E-H Therapy is experiential and relational. The approach leverages several “micro-skills “to develop experience in the room, including tagging, slowing down and tuning in, reflecting back, etc. Each works to deepen presence “here-and-now.”

One skill is “bringing there-and-then into here-and-now.” It looks like, for example, the therapist’s statement above, “How does that feel to say?” The client narrated a story “there-and-then.” However, the realization of PTSD occurred in the present moment, suggesting a critical path to explore. Working in the present offers tremendous therapeutic potential. While nothing is wrong with narrating, experiencing offers immense possibilities for growth.

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