During today’s skill session, I used the theory of
defence mechanisms and applied this theory to death anxiety. C spoke about her
grandad who has a brain tumour. I observed that when talking about him she was
laughing and smiling. The defence mechanisms I felt she used were humour and
denial. When she was laughing, I challenged her humour as I thought she might
be unconsciously using this defence mechanism. Defence mechanisms in overcoming
death anxiety is a relevant topic to speak about as Heidegger (1962), cited by Cooper
(2003, p.17) says that from an existential perspective we do not determine the
beginning of our existence; and neither do we determine its end. In this
respect, death is not only an unavoidable event in our future, but a
fundamental component of our every moment of being. DB1
Out of the four aspects of relationships Umwelt is about our
biological needs and drives and our mortality. Our defence mechanisms would be our
biological drive and then mortality is about how long we live and the defence
mechanisms is what will help us survive. DB2
Bienenfeld (2006) says
Anna Freud is best known for explaining the defence mechanisms by where the ego
controls the environment and the shaping forces of each individual’s
psychopathology, which are the id and the super ego. DB3 Defence
mechanisms are to defend the ego against negative thoughts and feeling, and death anxiety
can be one of these defence mechanisms.DB4
Freud (1936), cited by McLeod (2013, p.97) identified several defence
mechanisms: Repression, Denial, Projection, Displacement, Reaction formation,
Sublimation, Regression. Bovey (2001) also identified humour as a defence
In the conversation I had with C, the defence mechanisms
she used were denial and humour. I observed that C used denial when talking
about her grandad, as she was talking about how he does not look that ill, and
that he is still doing activities he normally would, she was also not
acknowledging that he might get quite ill and potentially die. Using denial
as a defence mechanism makes sense as her ego is not sufficiently strong enough
to cope with the news, so she unconsciously uses defence mechanisms to keep the
awareness from her unconscious DB5 awareness.DB6
She also used humour as when she was talking about him she was laughing and
smiling, even though the potential outcome of the brain tumour means he could
die. C using humour as a defence mechanism, is understandable as she was in
denial and therefore using humour to cope with the stress, to cope with the
thoughts and feelings of him potentially dying.
mechanisms will allow me to be aware of them in my skills sessions.
Incorporating this knowledge will allow me to feel more comfortable when
talking about death. I will be able to observe the behaviour of my clients when
talking about difficult issues and see if they use any defence mechanisms. If
appropriate can challenge my client and ask if they realise they are using a
particular defence mechanism. However, I need to assess if the client
will be able to cope with the challenge before I ask. I would be able to tell
if the client would be able to cope by having some idea of their emotions
towards the situation. If I feel like they are emotionally stable to cope with
a challenge then I may challenge them on their behaviour. DB7
Skills of interest
In this skills session, during the conversation both I and
my peers felt like the silences were comfortable. The use of a comfortable silence
during a counselling session improves the session, as it allows the client to
think about their answer and the helper to absorb information and think about relevant
questions to ask. This is why I would
like to explore the use of silence in this reflection.
McLeod (2013) defines a silence as a pause for four or
five seconds between therapists and Client statements, or immediately after a
client’s response. In our conversation, the silences were after I asked C a
question, or if C had gone into detail and I needed to take a pause to gather
all the information and then ask an appropriate question. Nelson-Jones (2005) says sometimes clients start counselling by
speaking quickly but then of their own accord start using silences and pauses
which makes it easier to listen to. If clients are silent for more than a few
seconds it may indicate that they need psychological space to think things
through and to get more in touch with their emotions. DB8 I
agree that clients need space to think things through before they say them, but
think it is always psychological space that is needed. As I asked C ‘what
was the relationship like before it broke down’ and she needed to take a few
seconds to think about it as it happened a while ago. DB9
Clients may avoid getting in touch with their emotions by
talking quickly or frequently changing topics. This might be because they are
aware that speaking slowly or stay on one topic, may allow them to feel emotions
which could be overwhelming (McLeod 2007). By reflecting back to C, I could
slow down the conversation, in hopes that she gets in touch with her emotions.
Reflecting also allows her to hear back what she had said to me, and I could
emphasise the emotions she had, and then ask C how this makes her feel. McLeod’s
theory backs up Nelson-Jones theory on the way that clients talk, and that if
they are talking quickly this may be because they do not want to let themselves
feel the emotions of the topic they are discussing.
From the four aspects of relationship, I think silence would
come under Eigenwelt, as this aspect is about the relationship with oneself. Yalom (1991), says Freedom means that one is
responsible for one’s own choices, one’s actions, one’s own life situation.
When C uses silence to think about her answer she is thinking about how she is
relating the question to herself and she is responsible for her own actions and
choices with the answers she gives.DB10
I can incorporate this theory into my skills work by
slowing down my speech to help C feel more relaxed. If I notice that C is
talking fast or that she keeps trying to change the topic of the conversation,
I could challenge her by asking is she doing this to avoid feeling any
emotions. Or I could try and slow down her talking, by reminding her to take
her time and allowing her to have some space. This will allow C to give a better
response which includes her emotions, thoughts and understanding of the
In today’s skills session, I focused on C’s feelings and
emotions. As last week, we had spoken about the relationship between her mother
and brother, which had broken down. This week I wanted to focus on how this
relationship is affecting her, and how she feels about her brother and mother
not getting on. Focusing on emotions is important for reflection as it is
something that is important in counselling.
There are four types on emotion responses in emotion focused therapy.
These are primary adaptive, maladaptive, secondary reactive and instrumental.
Assessing these emotion responses requires being empathic with the client’s
emotions (Elliott, 2012). During my skills section with C I
think her emotional responses were secondary reactive because she had a few
different emotions towards her brother and mothers falling out. As she seemed
angry at her brother, because he has suddenly changed. She was also frustrated
at her mother as she kept getting C involved with the argument even though it
had nothing to do with her. Because of the frustration and anger she felt
towards them both she then felt sad that their family’s relationships were not
as strong and she just wanted to be able to enjoy family time. I then was able
to address these emotions and emphasise with C. DB12
Greenberg (2008) says the primary goal of emotional change is the
promotion of emotional awareness. The goal for clients to become aware of their
primary adaptive emotions. DB13 In our conversation, when discussing
what had happened between C’s
mother and brother, I asked her ‘how did this make you feel?’. This allowed her
to become aware of the emotions surrounding the subject. By repeatedly asking
‘how does this make you feel’ or ‘how did you feel when this happened’ it makes
the client aware of their emotions and why these emotions might be occurring. DB14
Mayer and Salovey (1997) cited by Egan (2014)
stated that emotional
intelligence has 4 branches; accurately perceiving emotions in themselves and
others; using emotion to facilitate thought and understanding; understanding
emotional meanings; and managing emotions effectively. DB15 In the session, I encouraged C to think
about her response towards the breakdown in the relationship, and what her
mother’s and brother’s emotions surrounding the issue might be. From the
emotions C had around this issue, I then asked her what her thoughts and
perception of the issue were. This then gave me an emotional meaning, as I
understood how she felt at the time and was empathic towards her. By being
empathic it allowed C to realise that these feelings and emotions were valid,
as these emotions were being managed efficiently, as her initial feelings had not
manifested into other emotions. DB16
Focusing on emotions during conversation, will allow me
to develop as a helper as it allows the client to go into more detail using
emotions to express how they felt. By gaining an understanding of how they felt
in the moment, and now in the counselling space, it will allow me to explore why
they might have changed. Incorporating emotions into my skills will benefit me
and C, as we can explore issues and find where these emotions came from and
work with them to gain a greater understanding of the situation.
In this skills session, we talked about some issues that
were making her stressed. The conversation moved towards C’s values and what
she thinks is important to her in a friendship. We were discussing what values
she has and how this can impact her on how she views her friendships. I will
then link this to Uberwelt and the values that she has and how these integrate
into her life.
Uberwelt is a spiritual dimension and is defined as ‘the world of meaningfulness, of ideas,
religious beliefs and ethical values’.
Uberwelt is about the attitude one takes to life (Deurzen & Kenward, 2005). DB17 Uberwelt is one of the 4 dimensions of
relationships with other people. I have chosen this one to explore in this
skills session, as during our conversation we spoke about C’s ethical values,
and how these values affect her life.
Van Deurzen (2012a) cited by Cooper, (2016) says the aims of
existential therapy is not to challenge client’s assumptions but to assist the
client in grasping the principles that will allow them to withstand
questioning, and identify what really matters to themDB18 . Within my conversation with C, we were
talking about her friends I asked, ‘what do you value in a good friendship’.
This allowed C to think about what really matters to her in a friendship and if
she reciprocates these values within her friendships. After talking about what
she values she wants from a friendship, I asked her ‘what do you think your
main values are?’. C seemed very strong in her values and knew that the values
she held, where what made up her personality and the way she is towards people.
From the way C spoke, I decided she was confident in these values and even when
questioned, her values would not change.
Deurzen and Adams (2011) say that values are connecting threads that give
us the feeling of integrity and connectivity and institutes the framework of
meaning that makes our lives meaningful. Our job as human beings are too come
up with a value system which is resilient, clear and strong, yet flexible
enough to live by and adaptable in new circumstancesDB19 . I feel like the values C holds are
coherent and robust, however I think C may not be flexible with these values if
a new opportunity or a change in circumstance was to happen. I think this is
because she can be stubborn, However, this shows she is confident and resilient
in what her beliefs are. On the other hand, I feel like this could hold her
back as she might not have new experiences because of how resilient she is with
her beliefs. DB20
Knowing your values is important, as it allows me as the
helper to understand myself better. Looking at a client’s values can be
important as it can help them see what is important to them. Client’s values
may cause issues for them, as it might be holding them back as they are
stubborn and not flexible with their values. I think incorporating values into
my skills work will allow me to get to know C more and allow her to understand
close paraphrasing of your source here.
don’t think you’ve quite grasped the theory of defence mechanisms here.
again, very close paraphrasing of your source.
anxiety is not a defence mechanism but one of the unpleasant thoughts which are
blocked from consciousness by one or more defence mechanisms.
demonstrates a good understanding of the role of defence mechanisms in this
are interesting comments, which would be strengthened by reference to a
is once again very close paraphrasing of your source
think this is what Nelson-Jones means by psychological space.
is an interesting suggestion. Another way of putting this would be to say that
C needed a period of silence in order to check in with her own intrapersonal
Someone like Martin Buber would say that silence can
also be an expression of profound connectedness in the mitwelt.
sounds like useful learning for future skills practice.
The theory in this piece is rather basic for a Year
Three assignment. You might have met the
assessment criteria more fully by discussing, for example, the examples of
silence in Mearns and Cooper’s book on Relational Depth.
not clear to me that you’ve grasped the theory behind these different
categories of emotion.
very close paraphrase.
is true; one of the key tasks of the counsellor is also to pick up on feelings
that aren’t being named, for example through the use of advanced empathy.
quotation, apart from a couple of words.
some interesting material here. You
would meet the assessment criteria to a fuller extent if you used these words
to broaden and deepen your application of EFT theory, rather than using some
more basic theory from an earlier year.
well-selected quote followed by an unacknowledged paraphrase.
is once again a very close paraphrase of your source.
is once again a very close paraphrase of the source.
is a thoughtful discussion of the tension between consistency and flexibility
which we all have to manage.
piece would benefit from drawing on a broader range of sources.