In Experiential Psychotherapy, Dr. Alvin R. Mahrer demonstrates his use of this form of therapy, which centers on the experience of strong emotion. In this therapy, clients are directed to relive experiences in which they felt strong emotion and to truly be present with those emotions, so as to develop greater emotional openness and resilience in the face of future challenges. In this session, Dr. Mahrer works with a client to help him overcome a feeling of emotional numbness and feel and display his emotions.
This video features a client portrayed by an actor on the basis of actual case material.
Each session is programmed to go through four steps:
- Being in a moment of strong feeling: accessing the inner experiencing
This step enables the person to live and to be in a very particular, newly discovered moment of strong feeling, and to receive, be in touch with, sense, and access the activated inner, deeper experiencing.
- Give opening instructions for finding scenes of strong feeling.
- Then find a scene of strong feeling.
- Live and be in this scene of strong feeling, and discover the precise moment in which the feeling is strong.
- Then access, be open to, receive, and sense, the inner experiencing that is now activated.
- Integrative good relationships with the inner experiencing
This step enables the person to welcome, appreciate, accept, and have integrative good relationships with the accessed inner experiencing. The therapist shows the person how to use a package of methods so that the relationship with the inner experiencing is welcomed, appreciated, and integrated.
- Being the inner experiencing in earlier life scenes
This step enables the person to undergo the qualitative, radical change of disengaging from the ordinary continuing person into being the inner experiencing within the context of earlier life scenes.
- Find an appropriate earlier life scene.
- Show the person how to be the inner experiencing in the earlier life scene.
- Find and use other earlier life scenes in which the person is to be the inner experiencing.
- Being the new person in the present
This step enables the qualitatively new person to be here in the present and prospective future, to be relatively free of the scenes of bad feelings of Step 1, and to live and be in the extratherapy world.
- Select present and prospective scenes and behaviors for being the new person in playfully unrealistic ways.
- Gain a taste and a sample of being the new person, in playfully unrealistic ways, in present and prospective extratherapy scenes.
- Rehearse and refine being the actual new person in present and prospective future scenes.
- Readiness and willingness culminate in a commitment to being the new person in the extratherapy world.
Alvin R. Mahrer, PhD, graduated in 1954 from Ohio State University with a doctorate in clinical psychology, went to work at the VA Hospital in Denver, and became president of the Colorado Psychological Association. In 1967, he became professor and clinical director at Miami University, and later, he held the same positions at the University of Waterloo and at the University of Ottawa. In 1992, Dr. Mahrer received the University of Ottawa Award for Excellence in Research in part, for his extensive publication record, which includes 10 books and about 180 other publications about psychotherapy.
- Mahrer, A. R. (1986). Therapeutic experiencing: The process of change. New York: Norton.
- Mahrer, A. R. (1989a). Dream work in psychotherapy and self-change. New York: Norton.
- Mahrer, A. R. (1989b). Experiencing: A humanistic theory of psychology and psychiatry. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: University of Ottawa Press.
- Mahrer, A. R. (1989c). Experiential psychotherapy: Basic practices. Ottawa, Ontario,
- Mahrer, A. R. (1989d). How to do experiential psychotherapy: A manual for practitioners. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: University of Ottawa Press.
- Mahrer, A. R. (1990). Experiential psychotherapy. In J. K. Zeig & W. M. Munion (Eds.), What is psychotherapy? Contemporary perspectives (pp. 92–96). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Mahrer, A. R. (1994). The complete handbook of experiential psychotherapy. Unpublished manuscript.
- Mahrer, A. R., & Roberge, M. (1993). Single-session experiential therapy with any person whatsoever. In R. A. Wells & V. J. Giannetti (Eds.), Casebook of the brief therapies (pp. 179–196). New York: Plenum Press.
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