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Image by Jordan Whitt

Pluralistic Methods and Tasks to Negotiate Control away from the Tough Inner Critic

Compassion-Focussed Therapy

CFT lends itself to working with the Inner Critic as introducing a self-compassionate mindset counterbalances it neurobiologically. R. Siegel (2021) discusses his approach which initially involves what he calls a “top-down approach” (NICABM IC video 4; 12:39) initially, supporting clients to become aware of these thoughts, but also to foster a “common humanity” attitude to making bad decisions.  The idea that, is OK to make mistakes. Some of my clients have really struggled with this aspect, feeling they should be able to do better at all times, under all conditions, to be perfect.  Therefore, it is clear this can be a difficult task.  How a pluralistic practitioner does this depends on the individual, their client, and the way they collaborate and perform tasks. Borysenko (NICABM IC video 4; 2021; 13:36) offers a quote from Wolfram von Eschenbad she uses with her clients: “Every choice we make has both good and evil results. The best we can do is intend the good”.   I also tend to focus on the intention of the client.  We cannot control the outcome of everything and therefore are not to blame when things go wrong, if our intentions are well-meaning.  Siegel’s second step following the “top down” approach is a “bottom-up” approach.  To have client’s focus on the physical feelings of the Inner Critic and counter this with the physical feelings of self-compassion or nurturing.  This is something clients find easier, I think, once they have considered their intention.  Hansen (2021) refers to choice as an experiment, but equally not making a choice is also an experiment and we can perhaps look at this with clients. (Hansen 2021; NICABM video 11; 14:22).
McGonigal talks about a compassion-focussed method where the counsellor encourages the client to imagine an inner nurturer. Something that gives the embodied feeling of love, feeling valued, warmth, acceptance. It can be anything that has meaning to the client, a grandparent, a fictitious character, a feeling, a religious figure, a way of breathing.  The client then develops this experience of inner nurturing, self-love, self-compassion through imagery or visualisation. Considering questions like, what would our inner nurturer look like, what would they say, would they touch you or make a gesture. And at the end, McGonigal advises the client should acknowledge it was they themselves who generated the compassion and self-love.  (2021; NICABM video 11; 14:33).  This process could be enhanced using other tasks and methods in collaboration with clients. It is important to empower the client to choose these tasks and methods, which the Pluralistic Counsellor does as a matter of course.

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