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On the Therapist’s Couch. Elephants in the Room

 ‘On the Therapist’s couch’ series of cartoons/commentaries is a ‘tongue in cheek’ nod to traditional therapy! Enjoy. This blog is inspired by some cartoons I saw.


There is often an ‘elephant in the room’ especially around “hot topics” as we say in Process Oriented Psychology.

elephant in room sepia

When working with a therapist or in group therapy, “ghost roles” are topics, feelings or atmospheres that hang around in the background. We are not really aware of them but often feel them.  We don’t notice them much or talk about them because they are often subjects we don’t feel comfortable with or are socially unacceptable to talk about. They may be provocative and people have strong feelings abou,t such as sexism, homophobia, racism, politics, religion etc.
Or they may be socially ‘taboo’ in our family of origin or in certain cultures. Sometimes we just feel embarrassed raising a certain subject. Being a therapist means that hot topics, hot spots and ‘ghost roles’ are ‘grist for the mill. ie, this is often where the work lies and is vitally important.
We say there is a ‘ghost role’ when something isn’t acknowledged or named. The ‘ghosts’ are the unrepresented figures, which are not being adequately spoken about.
Process Oriented Therapy aims to bring these ‘ghosts’ into conscious awareness and dialogue. When someone names the ‘elephant in the room’ and it gets discussed, we all feel relieved.
Group ghost roles are events mentioned but considered not present, such as figures from history and visions or talking about someone else. How do ghost roles appear in our city and environment?
Watch this link by renowned therapist, Dr. Arnold Mindell as visual images after the introduction.
Watch out for that elephant!
As a therapist, I have been also involved in Buddhism for 25 years. I find many similarities between therapy and a spiritual path, such as awareness, openness,compassion and humor etc. Patrul Rinpoche says, “You leave your elephant at home and look for its footprints in the forest.” ie. You have everything you need in yourself and in your ‘nature of mind’ but off we all go searching outside ‘in the forest.’
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking…”
This means that we keep looking outside of ourselves in the world, relationships, jobs, holidays etc  to find what we think we are looking for! Of course that’s fun and necessary, but we will only find our true selves and path of heart by looking within.
” When there’s an elephant in the room, introduce him.”
About the Author
Sherry (BSc. Sociology; MAA. Social Work, AMHSW; Masters Science Soc. Ecology; Diplomate, Process Psychology) is a faculty Director of ANZPOP.

She has offered expert psychological counselling in Australia and overseas since 1989. Sherry is currently based in both the Sydney CBD and on the Northern Beaches near Manly. She also offers national and international phone and Skype appointments.

If you would like more information or wish to reference something you have read on this website please contact Sherry.

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