Parallel process

Definition – The therapist begins to experience the problem being presented by the client.

A client reports being stuck in life, a job or relationship. The therapist begins to feel the therapy has a ‘stuck’ quality to it.

Client presents being in a problematic relationship. Some of the qualities of that relationship start to manifest in the therapeutic relationship.

One explanation for parallel process is empathy gone wrong. In empathy the therapist gains a Child ego state experiential understanding of the client’s disquiet. Not just the intellectual understanding of what the client is saying or experiencing but the therapist can feel the understanding. This is explained by the empathic transaction.

White - empathic transaction copy

In this transaction the therapist’s Adult understands what their own Child ego states is experiencing, (The therapist is being empathic). The Adult understanding allows the therapist to distance self emotionally from the client. Their own Child ego state experience of what the client is experiencing is kept in check or under control. Sometimes this distancing can break down or not occur enough. Thus the therapist becomes too empathetic and gets lost in the client’s experience.

The therapist begins to experience what the client is experiencing and hence will begin to display the difficulties the client is reporting. This of course most often occurs outside conscious awareness.

parallel process

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