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Emotional Response and Therapist Reply

Updated: Feb 1

From: Beyond Empathy: A Therapy of Contact-in Relationships. Richard Erskine, Janet Moursund, and Rebecca Trautmann

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Emotional Response and Therapist Reply

in Beyond Empathy: A Therapy of Contact-in Relationships. Richard Erskine, Janet Moursund, and Rebecca Trautmann

Integrative psychotherapy, the method of therapy upon which this book is based, focuses on relationship. (loc: 58)

psychologically healthy (loc: 59)

is to be in relationship (loc: 59)

Contact is the touchstone of relationship; it is what makes relationship possible. (loc: 64)

In a psychologically healthy individual, internal and external contact interact; each depends upon the other, and neither can exist in isolation. (loc: 69)

Affect (Page: 108)

Affect is transactional and relational in its nature; it is a communication that demands a corresponding, reciprocal affect—an involvement—from the other person. (Page: 108)

Clients who have learned to shut off or to distort emotional expression in order to avoid the discomfort of experiencing the intensity of their feelings have—by definition—split off a part of themselves (Guntrip, 1968; Federn, 1953/1977). (Page: 108)

Through involvement, we help the client to access, experience, and integrate emotions. (Page: 108)

they learn to experience the totality of their emotional response and find a workable balance between expression and containment (Page: 108)

Encouraging the client to go ahead and escalate and to fully express and even exaggerate whatever emotion is on the surface helps him or her not only to go beyond that surface into a deeper level of awareness, but also helps the client appreciate the way in which the surface experience may have been used to maintain emotional disavowal. (Page: 108)


An angry person needs to be taken seriously. Anger is a serious business. An angry client demands a therapist who is attentive to that anger and does not discount it or retreat from it, but meets it with respect. (Page: 111)


The client who is afraid requires the therapist to respond with affect and action that communicate security. A part of this response involves simply acknowledging the fear without being distracted, dismayed, or frightened oneself. (Page: 112)


The reciprocal response to sadness is compassion, not pity, which implies a one-up, one-down relationship between client and therapist, but compassion, feeling with. In compassion, the therapist moves from experiencing the client’s sadness empathically to experiencing his or her own caring about what is happening with the client. (Page: 113)


All of therapy is not fear and sadness and anger; there are joyous moments as well. Laughter can be healing; joy gives us the courage to deal with the less pleasant business of life. Joy is multiplied through being shared, and it evaporates when the other person in the relationship refuses to share it. (Page: 114)

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