Don Hadlock, co-founder of PTI: the Process Therapy Institute in San Jose, passed away in January this year @ 77 years old. I wanted to tribute him as a leader and teacher and mentor and all around wonderful human being. I was blessed to encounter him within a year long Group Process Therapy series while I was enrolled as a Master’s level student in Holistic Counseling at JFK University in Campbell, CA. He and his wife Carol founded PTI 40 years ago, he said, after having had a revelation while driving through the Santa Cruz mountains about the difference between content and process. Content (in the context of therapy) is the words a client speaks. Process is what they are doing while they are speaking; essentially, any other ways they may be communicating through their behavior. Maybe they are biting their lip or laughing when they mean to cry. There is a wealth of information which may be overlooked by talk therapy focused on content. By holding space for and calling attention to process, one can guide someone through present-moment interventions, deepen the therapeutic alliance and cultivate both self and ego awareness. Process therapy is also trauma-informed. The ‘pain body’ as Tolle refers to it, encompasses how we hold our history of trauma in our body, which naturally extends to how we relate to the world: ourselves, our friends, family, and community. Mr. Hadlock taught us how to help a client interface the pain body from a gentle and invitational spirit. I am indebted to him. I believe my ability as a psychotherapist to create space and facilitate process and group process in my clinical practice, sources from many of his teachings. I think of him often in my work and I miss him.
let’s throw some light on the relationship between thoughts and feelings and behaviors. how i feel about a situation reflects my values. if i express pain because i am lonely, then i will ask myself, do i value friendship? this is absent but implicit. if i feel useless when unemployed, is not the underlying message that i value working hard? feelings can help me connect with myself and others. when i am upset and i show it, people may become more invested in helping. when i cry or vent my anger, it’s a release and i feel alive. the thoughts which color my feelings are not always facts. feelings are not facts because the thoughts behind them are colored in by attitudes and beliefs and assumptions. if i can increase my awareness of my automatic thoughts, patterns of belief systems i inherited from my family will begin to reveal themselves. i was embedded within a family system. the family developed its own coping strategies within the greater community, manifesting in thoughts and behaviors. what i was taught then may or may not be of use to me today, and may even get in the way of my health and happiness. i can give myself a chance to discard the useless, irrational, ineffective ways of being, and evolve into more fruitful ways of being. this can free me up to be playful and respond to the world differently, lessen my inhibitions and make healthier choices.
Alliance. you come with your intention. your concerns. i respect you. you want to work and improve upon your life. i want to help you reach your potential. we begin our journey together. you let me into deeper parts of your psyche. you trust me. i am a professional. i have learned to listen for cues, to help bring unconscious (dreams and symbols and drives) out of the dark and into the light. maybe it’s based on a thought process (attitudes and beliefs which shape what you value in your life) you learned in childhood, how you got your needs met then in an environment particular to you and you alone. maybe it’s how you feel or associate or dissociate and go numb. i want to ask the right questions. open-ended. to help you explore your inner world. so you can see how your thoughts and feelings and attitudes shape your behavior. to help you see your choices. you don’t have to act on impulse again and again. you can pause and consider alternative ways of being. you may resist this, because it’s hard work. it can bring up painful memories. things could get worse before they get better. i want to help you through your resistance. i appreciate how you have survived. you are dynamic. ever changing. we are working together to get your blood flowing. you may feel disconnected from yourself. this is existential work. i want you to feel so alive in a modern world of madness which tends to dehumanize us. i want you to feel purposeful and find meaning in life. to empower you. you are doing your best. you are open and trusting and honest. you are willing to change. you are also so human and resistant to change. we all are. it’s okay. i am your companion for a while. we have a working relationship. we got this. thank you for coming. for letting me in. let’s do this. we got this. -katya