Not for the first time, a friend last night asked me if I ever get bored in sessions, or even whether I ever feel someone should “stop moaning and get on with it” (oh, how British that sounds). I’d be lying if I denied this, as it’s rare but true – I can wish for the clock to speed forwards or even for someone to eventually let go of a self-destructive belief. But my response to any boredom or frustration or indeed anything negative toward my clients that I may experience, is rooted far deeper in a curiosity. The boredom or frustration in itself becomes potentially very useful ‘information’ about a client’ inner world.
Therapists take note of whatever it is they may feel in the room with the clients – this is “countertransference” as opposed to the clients’ “transference” (when for example, you, as a therapist, may “become” another important figure in the client’s life – mother/father/brother/teacher/husband etc). So boredom can tell us something important about a client’s own experience, and tuning into the nuances of the boredom is important.
Patrick Casement is a brilliant analyst who has written much about his practice with an unusual honesty and humility. He describes a young man he worked with in long-term analysis, who had had a mother who often switched off in his presence. Her “boredom” of him was later re-created in the therapy room so that Casement experienced it too. The client was (unwittingly/unconsciously) re-creating what it felt like before, as a very young boy, to be in the presence of someone who was supposed to care and be attentive, but was far from this. Her boredom of her child (the client) became alive to Casement, and this offered a valuable insight for him to understand an earlier dynamic that was potentially getting in the way of the client living his life more fully.
The same ideas apply to other feelings therapists feel – anger, guilt, tenderness or even lust. They are all valuable clues for us to understand and empathise as best as possible.