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Flip Sides of the Same Coin: Counter- Transference and Neuro-Ception

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

So often we read about how therapy aims to teach us self soothing or self-regulation skills. These days with third wave therapies being increasingly used the notion is away from avoidance towards "sitting in the uncomfortable" and riding the wave of intense emotion. Along with the mindfulness movement there is also a movement towards somatic therapies so as to use a more holistic lens and application.

For example understanding trauma through the framework of neuroception (a term coined by Stephen Porges where the body scans our environment for cues of threat and in turn reacts) one can see how our physiology autopilots us into different modes of being, without our purposeful conscious awareness. In other words helping our clients to locate which mode of being they have been automatically triggered or re-triggered into is quite helpful.

Are they in the shutdown, freeze mode where the helpless, hopeless and somewhat disconnected feelings roam, or alternatively in the mobilization places of flight (high anxiety) or fight (possible anger).

Simultaneously what mode do we experience as therapists, as we engage with our clients?

Could we be triggered by certain clients and in turn a type of counter-transference manifests neuroceptively. For example, we may as therapists shift into fight mode- " this client is so frustrating to work with - they still cannot see their role after so many sessions!"; or as flight mode, "this client is difficult and really does not think that I am helping her, maybe she regrets seeking my support"?

How are we able to engage in co-regulation if our physiological system is not in a calm engaged parasympathetic state of "rest and digest" - we at the very least need to meet our clients from a place of engagement so they can "mirror" us and we can tap into their dysregulated mode to bring them back to meet our state, so to speak.

This is the in action work of using a more integrated therapeutic approach. So although we are effective through psycho-dynamic techniques, we in turn need to be aware of joining with clients neuro-ceptively and not therapising from a purely psycho-dynamic platform.

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