Three Favorable Techniques for Intersubjective Psychotherapy

By Barbara Dewar

Technique one: Dream work and free association

Freud was clear in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) that dreams are a direct connection to unconscious inner life. Modern psychoanalysis, specifically the intersubjective, has completely rejected Freudian psychoanalysis in favor of a relational model where discovery is what happens in the intersubjective field between the subjective world of the psychotherapist and the subjective world of the client. For me, Freud’s theories on dream analysis are not contradictory but complimentary to the intersubjective domain. I have found his discovered knowledge of the method for analyzing dreams and the use of free association by the client in order to discover the hidden meaning in the dream work extremely useful as a technique for psychotherapy work.

Christopher Bollas also follows Freud’s lead by using Freud’s method of analyzing dream work and using the technique of free association with his client and himself for the discovery of meaning, and uses the knowledge of these tools as his basic premise in clinical practice. In his book Cracking Up: The Work of Unconscious Experience (1995), Bollas explores the work of the unconscious mainly through dreams and suggests that dream work has operational intelligence for curative use in psychotherapy, as well as being the generative process that releases the potential for creativity. He uses Freud’s dream work schema as his blueprint for the workings of the unconscious. Dream work, like the unconscious, is composed of the specific qualities of displacement, condensation, allegorical representation, non-linear time and censorship for the purpose of diffusing (cracking up) latent thoughts that are saturated with psychic intensities. Conscious manifestations, residuals of cracking up, are composed of imaginings and symbols.

Bollas claims that the curative process for the client is when the therapist’s unconscious workings are in dialectical communication with the client’s unconscious workings over a long period of time. The therapist honors his or her subjective imaginings and symbols, and with timely interpretations by an unknown operational intelligence, the therapist can develop a separate sense of the client. Bollas states, “the analytical couple unconsciously specify an area of work to which they both contribute and where eventually that analysand develops a new psychic structure” (1995, p. 25). Bollas calls the unique unconscious landscapes of each subjective “the idioms of personality.” For me, Bollas’ analysis of dreams happens in the intersubjective field between two subjectives with the goal of understanding and developing the client’s sense of self. The client’s and the therapist’s free associations help to lead to potential meanings. Free association is simply saying what comes into your mind and waiting to see if there is resonance with the associations. The process of discovering new knowledge together in the relationship is what is transformative.

The method of dream analysis and free association is a technique that supports an ongoing open door for unknowns in both the client and the therapist. Working with Freud’s method of dream analysis and free

association has continually led my clients and myself into new discoveries. Dreams, in my experience, have helped to provide a context for personal, social and cosmological meanings. Feinstein and Krippner (1988) as well as Carl Jung (1961) suggest the idea that dreams can be a gateway for exploring all questions that are humanly possible to know within the intersubjective fields where interconnections exist in all relational dimensions. Although Freud stated that dreams do “not arise from supernatural manifestations but follow the laws of the human spirit,” he suggested that the exploration of dreams somehow has a divine connection (1900, p.2).

Technique two: Meditative hypnotic relaxation

Meditative hypnotic relaxation supports an immediate altered state of consciousness. A change in consciousness often supports portals or pathways to latent unconscious material within the client. Carl Jung (1961) explores the notion that the unconscious contains the collective whole. Feinstein and Krippner (1988) explore the concept that the unconscious holds our evolutionary history in terms of myths and symbols. They state that “personal myths are laden with hopes and disappointments of prior generations” and therefore are important for any self-growth journey (p.170). Mathew Fox (2004) makes it clear that a meditative state supports a cosmological context and this is important for ongoing sustainability of our spiritual life.

Charles Tart (1992) wrote about “state of consciousness” and “altered state of consciousness” (p. 13). He describes a state of consciousness as having ” an organizational style of one’s overall mental functioning at any given time” (p.13). Although there are common features from one state to another, the overall organization is different in each state. Hurtak and Hurtak describe the benefit of meditation in the following statement: “What we found when the eyes were closed in [a] state of meditation you actually could have greater brain wave frequency as you can see in the EEG and the MEG (magnetic electroencephalogram” (Awakening to Spirit conference speakers, 2004).

Adam Crabtree (1997) suggests that we live in different qualities of trance state. He suggests that ” all the therapist needs to do is to convert the trance state to an inner-mind trance” (1997, p.68). What changes is the object of your consciousness, what you are focused on or absorbed in” (1997, p.69). Crabtree (1997) suggests that we can connect with different aspects of our inner selves by trying to achieve Trance Zero, an induced trance state, that connects us to our intuitive self where we can learn how to receive guidance for everyday living. What counts as transformative for Crabtree is the rapport that the therapist has with their client. This is complimentary to transformative change happening in the intersubjective field between the subjectives of two people.

In conclusion, meditative hypnotic relaxation is a technique that supports unique altered organizational structures that are important for making connections with our unconscious world. Connections to our collective unconscious are important for any self-growth journey as the unconscious holds connections to all multidimensional worlds. In particular, meditative states can help the client and therapist connect with personal, social and cosmological conflict.

Technique three: Therapeutic communications in the intersubjective field: By asking the question what is happening in the room between us?

What are the therapeutic communications that support the transformational process between the client and the therapist? What is happening in the room between us is a question that helps to designate specific directions for finding the right therapeutic communications that are necessary for the healing process at any given time. Stolorow and Atwood (1992) frame the same question by asking how the therapist’s subjective world interfaces with the client’s subjective world or, in other words, what are the meanings of the dynamics that are created between the two subjective worlds in the intersubjective surround?

By asking what is happening in the room between us, a flexible framework for contextual diversity of both the client and the therapist is provided, because this question explores the uniquely different subjective sensibilities of an experience together. Both the therapist and the client uniquely create the experience and work together to access the area of the unconscious that needs to be worked with. The therapist is equally responsible for constructing the therapeutic communications that are necessary for healing. This mode of questioning is a practice that “enacts our recognition of the primacy of inner conscious awareness, engendered intersubjectively, as a causal reality. The intersubjective context facilitates an understanding of diverse differences” (Dewar and Campbell, 2004, p. 202).

Fred Pine (1990) reviews the literature in the four major psychoanalytic domains up until intersubjective psychology in the 1980s. He sums up the major psychoanalytic domains in chronological order which are, drive, ego, object and self psychology in the following description: “urges (in the drive psychology): modes of defense and adaptation (in the ego psychology); relationships and their internalization, distortion, and repletion (in the object psychology); and phenomena of differentiation and boundary formation, of personal agency and authenticity, and of self-esteem (in the self psychology)” (p. 7).

Pine (1990) sees that “the object of psychoanalysis is the individual human person. Only in this entity do we encounter what psychoanalysis calls psychic life and psychic reality. It is the unit with which we deal” (p.14). Pine views his role in the following manner: “My own way of working involves quiet listening, relative anonymity, neutrality, non-gratification of drive aims and interpretation (or asking questions)”

(p.8). It is my belief that Pine’s analysis that his patients become autonomous units by the therapist providing neutral interpretations is the paradigm of the modern enlightened, mechanistic world where the human learns to have control over natural life including relationships.

Buirski and Haglund (2001), two intersubjective writers and practitioners, shift Pine’s assessment historically by defining a new paradigmatic shift into the intersubjective with the following statement:

” The characterization of traditional psychoanalytic treatment as “one-person” in contrast to the “two-person” view of modern relational thinking and the systems view of intersubjectivity theory have been ways that this paradigm shift has been conceptualized” (p. 7).

In the first four psychoanalytic movements, the therapist is an expert who tries to help his or her clients by his or her theories. The client transfers dynamics onto the therapist that are embedded from childhood, and the therapist, by interpretation, offers the cure. With the advent of self psychology as envisioned by Heinz Kohut (1977), we see the beginning of a two-way dynamic where the subjective influence of the therapist is significant and part of the transformation process. Kohut (1984) states, ” objective reality is always subjective” (p.36). He expresses the notion that we cannot remove “the influence of the observer on the observed” (p.37). In self psychology, the analyst has to be examined as an influence – “in principle as an intrinsically significant human presence” (Kohut, 1984, p. 37). Up until the intersubjective domain, however, ” the autonomous, isolated mind is pictured here not only as an endpoint of optimal early development but as the ideal outcome of a successful psychoanalysis” and the ideal behavior for creating change in the world (Stolorow and Atwood, 1992, p. 14).

O’Sullivan and Taylor (2004) write about the paradigm shift from the one-person view to the two-person view with the statement that change and outcome are achieved as ” we engage collaboratively with others and their diverse perspectives,” and this supports restructuring via the process of understanding others and ourselves in our world (p. 3). Asking the question, what is happening between us, is a reflective inquiry that involves qualities of experience in the session where the therapist and the client are active participants. This co-creative dialogue mutualizes the experiences between the participants and results in the breakdown of hierarchies. The practice or achievement of a mutual experience by the right therapeutic communications is transformative and this is felt as resonance between two people or within a group.

In conclusion, the intersubjective domain has launched a paradigm shift from a one-person psychology where an expert helps a client with a problem, to a two-person psychology where the therapist and client mutually construct the necessary therapeutic communication for the continued growth of the client and the therapist, each party at their own place of development. By exploring the question, what is happening in the room between us, the therapist facilitates the direction of the therapeutic communications that are necessary for the situation at hand. The therapy becomes a co-constructive process where the therapist has to take into account their subjective influence in the session room on an ongoing basis and use this knowledge as part of the therapeutic communications that are necessary for the growth of the client.