Working with the rebellious person

A question one gets is how to deal with the rebellious person. This can be in therapy with the rebellious client. One needs to be most cautious in such circumstances as one wants to very much avoid a client moving into Rebellious Child ego state. If this happens then therapy can become very compromised quickly. 

One of the problems for the therapist is even if they do an Adult transaction the high Rebellious Child client may perceive it as a Critical Parent to Child transaction. So the therapist needs to be cautious around any issue they think the client might see as a parental criticism. 

RC misperception transaction

With such clients at times I find myself spontaneously relating to them in this fashion. This has never been a decision of mine but when I became aware of it, it did seem to make sense. 

Free Child transaction

It seems it would be harder for the client to misperceive such transactions as a CP transaction.

A therapist is not friends with a client but they can interact in a friendly way such as with FC to FC. If this occurs a reasonable amount of times then it becomes an established pattern in the relationship. One could then assume it is harder for the client to see the therapist as an enemy (CP) than if they were much more A to A in their transactions with the client.

The therapist needs to avoid situations where a Parent ego state response is needed or possible. The highly RC client can even set out to provoke such situations. 

“We are going to a rave this weekend and we have scored some really good ecstasy.”

“My friend stole some jewellery and we are trying to sell it.”

In such situations a therapist has more latitude than a parent. A parent has to set boundaries on such behaviour especially with illegal and high risk behaviour. This requires Adult and Controlling Parent responses which are quite likely to be perceived as Critical Parent responses.

When working with drug and alcohol issues I don’t think I have ever said to a client to not use drugs. If you do the RC can easily come in and you either never see the client again or they just lie to you about their drug use from that point on.

One can however do what is called negotiated safety and involves this transaction

Negotiated safety transaction T6 copy

This is where the client and therapist discuss what the client is prepared to do in terms of harm reduction. If a client is cutting self, how much are they prepared to reduce that cutting if at all. This involves Adult to Adult communication about listening to the client’s Child ego state. The therapist and client needs to consult what the client’s Child is prepared to do. For example if a teenager cuts self 4 times a week can she reduce that to 2 times per week.

“I contract not to cut myself  for “x’ days.”

“I contract not to cut myself more than three times for “x’ days.”

But the client’s Child MUST agree with this or the contract will fail.

The danger in negotiated safety contracts is making sure they don’t become Parent contracts where the teenager will simply move into RC and the contract is a waste of time.

The therapist also needs to deal with their own Child ego state wants as these can interfere. Listening to a person talk about how they cut self is stress producing for most people including therapists. The therapist needs to be clear they do not fall into subtly pressuring the client into making the contract due to their own anxieties. Again this will simply end up as a Parent contact in the client’s mind and they will eventually move into RC.

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