Author Archives: Matthew Elton

Working with Clients who Exaggerate Their Problems and Minimise Their Power – Mon 25 Sept 2023

Thanks to the Link Centre and onlinevents for hosting another workshop. Booking is available on eventbrite.

Outline

We’re all familiar with clients appearing to make mountains of molehills and molehills of mountains. In Transactional Analysis (TA) such exaggerations and minimisations are called discounts. This workshop will focus on practical ways of working with clients who are missing out on the life they would prefer because of the impact of discounts. Along with therapy room techniques, there will be some friendly theory to make sense of why discounts can be so stubborn and how reducing their impact sometimes requires getting deep into clients deepest fears.

The workshop will:

  • work through case studies of clients who ‘exaggerate’ their problems and ‘minimise’ their power and in other ways are caught up in ‘discounting’
  • show how some friendly Transactional Analysis theory can help therapists and clients better understand the what leads to discounting
  • look at practical ways of working with discounts that can help to reduce their negative impact on clients
  • look at power relationships and how the idea of discounting can be misused – sometimes the client isn’t discounting but other people/forces are, e.g. the therapist, a partner, a boss, society in general.

SELF-SELECT FEE

The self-select fee is a radical inclusion policy to open learning for all colleagues. The guide price for this event is £20.00, however, we appreciate that income varies greatly in different locations and circumstances. Please contribute what you can to help us maintain inclusive professional training.

Online Workshop: OKness and the Paradox of Change – Mon 19 June 2023

This is part of the Working Together series from EATA / ITAA. The event is free, but ticketed:  OKness and the Paradox of Change tickets on Eventbrite.

Clients, learners, and organizations, in coming to TA professionals for help, often believe that they are “broken” or do not deserve to flourish. And as TA professionals, we can sometimes unwittingly send or reinforce that message—that yes, they are not OK, they are broken, that they are somehow getting things wrong.

It is hard to change when the starting point is that “there is something fundamentally wrong with me.” It is easier to change—if change is what is wanted and is something for which there is agreement and permission—when there is an underlying basis of self-acceptance.

Getting help can feel paradoxical when the starting point for it is, in some fundamental way as indicated in TA, that we are all OK as we are. However, being OK does not necessarily mean there is nothing I want to change and that I do not want professional assistance.

Matthew will discuss this tension and other ideas that are sometimes referred to as “the paradox of change,” illustrating it with examples and reflecting on how TA and other approaches can respond to it.

Online Workshop: Working with Clients Who have “Grown Up too Fast” – Mon 24 April 2023

Many clients creatively come up with an idea of what it is to be an adult when they are still very young, e.g because their life situation demanded they take on responsibilities that belonged to those looking after them. Unsurprisingly, such ideas of what it is to be an adult are often self-limiting. But they can be very persistent, preventing the person from developing a less self-limiting and richer conception of adulthood. Working with this type of issue can be difficult, as the client often appears (to themselves and to the practitioner) as more able and more sorted than they actually are.

Using a series of client case studies the workshop will look at:

  • spotting when clients are operating with a version of adulthood that was invented by them when they were a child helping clients understand that how they are being an adult now is just
  • one way of being an adult and that they are alternatives they might prefer
  • creative ways of working with a client to figure out the kind of adult they’d like to be
  • gentle ways of helping let the person let go of the child’s version of adulthood, while honouring the protection and service it has done for them in the past

This workshop will be recorded and you can use the ticket function to pre-purchase the recording before the event. This will be useful for colleagues who are not able to attend the event live and also for those who attend the event live and want to watch again.

Online workshop: Letting Go – Mon 10 Oct 2022

or: How to Move Beyond Unhelpful Hoping

You can book on to this event via: Eventbrite – Letting Go: How to Move Beyond Unhelpful Hoping Workshop

About this event

Many of our clients are desperate to solve problems such as how to: feel loved, feel safe, feel good enough, or feel worthy to take up space in the world. We may witness them repeating old ways of trying to solve these problems, ways that have never worked and that we have good reason to think never will. Such clients can swing back and forth between unrealistic bids to solve these problems and despair at their failure to do so.

As therapists, we might wonder what could happen if they let go of the thoughts and feelings, they use to frame both the problems and the potential solutions.

In this workshop will explore:

  • case studies of clients who organise their lives around unhelpful hoping, i.e. seeking to solve problems or answer questions in ways that keep failing
    reasons why “therapist-knows-best” approaches, e.g., telling the client to be “more realistic”, are often doomed to fail
  • working with clients on “letting go” of old ideas about how to solve these problems – ideas that strongly feel like the only possible route to solving them
    finding ways to bear the disappointment / sense of loss / confusion that can go along with such a “letting go”
  • the idea of clients coming to their own conclusions about themselves, the world, and others, through making “decisions” based on their own expertise and authority, as opposed to deferring to the (apparent) expertise and authority of others.

We will draw on some theory from Transactional Analysis, including script and re-decision, and also touch on ideas from existential therapy. No prior knowledge of these theories is required.

Practical Details

You can book on to this event via: Eventbrite – Letting Go: How to Move Beyond Unhelpful Hoping Workshop

This workshop will be recorded and you can use the ticket function to pre-purchase the recording before the event. This will be useful for colleagues who are not able to attend the event live and also for those who attend the event live and want to watch again.

This workshop will be hosted on the Zoom meeting platform where we will use our camera and microphones to interact with each other as a group.

To support practitioners in this time of extraordinary circumstances we are offering access to this group for a self-select fee.

The self-select fee is a radical inclusion policy to open learning for all colleagues. The guide price for this event is £20.00, however, we appreciate that income varies greatly in different locations and circumstances. Please contribute what you can to help us maintain inclusive professional training

cover art with headphones

Talking It Better – Audiobook

Around the time Talking It Better was published last year, people began to ask “Oh, will there be an audio version?” Actually, they asked about an electronic version first off. That was easy, because it was already in the works and came out on Kindle and elsewhere within a few weeks. But an audiobook? I was intrigued. The book is full of different characters and their stories and so, I thought, maybe it could work as an audiobook. Plus, some of those who’d asked me had mentioned challenges with dyslexia and so I knew an audiobook could make Talking It Better more accessible to them and that felt like a reason to explore more.

All this was during the lockdown and one of the things that was keeping me going was a weekly open mic night on Zoom. What had been a bar-based event, where there wasn’t really that much time for chat, had become something of a lifeline for a small band of singer-songwriters. We shared our tunes but also what was going on in our lockdown lives. So I ended up talking about my book and a couple of my musical buddies even came along to the Zoom launch and bought a copy.

One of our crew, Jim Bryce, just happens to be a well-established audiobook reader. He was curious about the book and when I asked him about the world of audiobook creation, he both gave great advice and also suggested he might be up for the job himself. So I sent him a copy. He read it and liked it. And then he recorded Chapter 15. This was the chapter that had really caught my publisher’s attention and helped secure my book contract. She’d loved the story about Martyn and his hope-protector. So it seemed like a good test case.

It’s quite a thing to hear a professional actor read your words and bring your characters to life. The Jim-voiced version of the author seemed far smarter and more interesting than me. And as someone who’s lived in Scotland for more than half my life, it was nice to finally take on the accent, albeit via a vocal avatar. Everyone who heard Jim’s chapter was keen and so…

… it turns out getting these things recorded isn’t that cheap, but Jim reckoned he could do me mates-rates. And if I took on some of the editing and audio clean-up work that would help keep the costs manageable. It wasn’t clear whether there was money to be made or not, so it wasn’t something that my publisher, PCCS, could underwrite – and at present they don’t publish any audiobooks. But I wanted it to happen. And, I thought, I’ll learn a lot about audiobook production along the way and that sounds interesting. So, after a few more conversations with Jim and the publisher, I decided to go for it.

Well, it’s a complicated business. Editing text is a lot easier than editing audio. And checking the audio just takes a long time. These, and many other things, I learned about audiobook production. Who knew, for example, that there are multiple kinds of silence and that Audible and the like are very fussy about the silences you have between your words? So, like most creative projects, it all took far longer than I first imagined. But it’s here now. It’ll be intriguing to know how many people take a listen. But whether it’s a few or a lot, it’s good to have the book out there in a different format. And now I can finally get back to those folk who were asking more than a year ago. Yes. Whether for accessibility reasons or because you just want to listen on the bus ride into work, Talking It Better is now an audiobook.

If you do give it a spin, please do let me know how you get on via my Contact Form.

Online workshop: The Drama Triangle II – Mon 16 May 2022

I ran a workshop on The Drama Triangle on 10th January 2022 as part of the Link Centre‘s CPD series. You can get a video of that event from the Link Centre. I was delighted to be asked to do a follow workshop: The Drama Triangle II: Exploring New Angles. The workshop will be standalone, so no need to have attended the January one. But  it’s will complement that, so if you did come in January there’ll be lots of new stuff and only a small amount of overlap / revision.

You can book on to this event via: Eventbrite – The Drama Triangle II – Exploring New Angles

About this event

The Drama Triangle is a powerful tool for understanding how we can get into unhelpful patterns with other people where we become caught up in the role of either Rescuer, Persecutor, or Victim. We’ll begin with a brief overview of the Drama Triangle. and then move on to explore the idea of its “life support system”. That is, we will be asking, what, for each client, are the ideas and people (both past and present) that have the effect of encouraging them to act as if adopting the Victim, Rescuer, or Persecutor roles will help them to solve problems in their lives.

The workshop will:

  • provide a concise introduction / refresher on the Drama Triangle
  • describe some practical ways of using the Drama Triangle with clients focussing on understanding why the roles can feel so appealing
  • introduce the idea of the “life support system” for the Drama Triangle and talk about the potential benefits of separating the person from the problem
  • explore how therapists can also get gripped by the Drama Triangle roles: we can Rescue clients (by being over-helpful), become Victims (when we feel useless and unable to help), and even Persecute (when we get frustrated with our clients)
  • discuss ways that both clients and therapists can step off the Drama Triangle and construct “life support systems” for preferred ways of solving problems in our lives and our therapy rooms.

The workshop will draw on some theoretical ideas from Transactional Analysis theorists (Stephen Karpman, Fanita English, Sue Eusden) as well as drawing on the tradition of Narrative Therapy (Michael White and others).

The workshop will mix teaching, Q&A, and some brief exercises. No prior knowledge of the Drama Triangle will be assumed. This workshop explores different material from Matthew’s earlier (Jan 10th 2022) Drama Triangle workshop, so it’s suitable as a standalone session or for previous attendees wanting to learn more.

This workshop will be recorded and you can use the ticket function to pre-purchase the recording before the event. This will be useful for colleagues who are not able to attend the event live and also for those who attend the event live and want to watch again.

Workshop slide

Online workshop: Not Knowing and Deciding – Sat 26th Feb 2022

This was a workshop that was part of the TA Cumbria Conference 2022.

Workshop Outline

We can all get hooked on wanting certainty before we make a decision, e.g. to quit a job, to leave a relationship, to attempt to begin one, or to begin a difficult conversation. In this workshop we’ll explore some different ideas of moving into action even when we might lack what we feel is critical information. We will look at some ways of working with clients who want to “know” before they can “act”, but are then stuck in an apparently endless state of “not knowing”. How can we help such clients to feel and think differently about knowledge and action or, in other ways, move out of their stuckness?

Online workshop: Working with Clients Who are Compulsively Nice – Tue 25 Jan 2022

When overly nice people face challenges in their lives, they can sometimes go into an overdrive of niceness in order to maintain feeling Ok about themselves, others and the world. However, instead of helping, such a policy can lead to all sorts of negative effects: depression, anxiety, outbursts of anger, etc.

This workshop looks at some ways of working with overly nice clients including the use of provocative (and “not nice”) language in the therapy room, words such as “brash”, “edgy”, or “forceful”. How can such words be used, in an OK way, to challenge and disrupt an “excess of niceness in a constructive way.

We will also acknowledge the ways in which the meaning of “niceness”, “brash”, “edgy”, “forceful”, etc. can be different for men and for women, for those with more power and those with less. Some of this difference is due to cultural stories that swirl around us – both old and new – of what it is to be a good and kind woman or a good and kind man. While many “new” cultural stories aim to empower – for example, we often think we are more progressive than our parents’ generation – they can also oppress.

In the workshop participants will:

  • hear about two case studies (one man, and one woman) where the client was able to find their edge and take a stand against an “excess of niceness”
  • examine how cultural stories about “niceness” (and kindness, and compassion) can both empower (be used as tools) as well as oppress (be used as weapons). We’ll also ask about the stories that shape different therapy cultures, i.e. ask if/when/how therapists’ risk being caught up in an “excess of niceness”.
  • explore the use of “pokey interventions” – interventions that are definitely not “nice”, are definitely risky, but can be effective in working with “nice” people
  • discuss how ideas/methods, such as Non-Violent Communication (a “nice” way to communicate) can sometimes be weapons and not tools
  • touch on some connections between “niceness” and “brashness” and the theoretical ideas of “shadow” (from Jung)

This 2-hour workshop will be recorded and you can use the ticket function to pre-purchase the recording before the event. This will be useful for colleagues who are not able to attend the event live and also for those who attend the event live and want to watch again.

This workshop will be hosted on the Zoom meeting platform where we will use our camera and microphones to interact with each other as a group.

To support practitioners in this time of extraordinary circumstances we are offering access to this group for a self-select fee.

The self-select fee is a radical inclusion policy to open learning for all colleagues. The guide price for this event is £20.00, however, we appreciate that income varies greatly in different locations and circumstances. Please contribute what you can to help us maintain inclusive professional training.

Online workshop: The Drama Triangle – Mon 10 Jan 2022

I ran workshop as part of the Link Centre’s CPD series on Monday 10 January. A video of the session is available from the Link Centre. And there is a part two workshop coming up in May 2022.

The Drama Triangle makes sense of repeated patterns we get into with other people where we become caught up in the role of either Rescuer, Persecutor, or Victim. In this workshop we will look at how to use The Drama Triangle in the therapy room. How can it help clients make sense and move out of problematic patterns? We’ll also look at a key development of the theory, The Winner’s Triangle.

Like any powerful tool, The Drama Triangle, can be harmful as well as helpful. So, we will also explore how labels such as Victim, Persecutor, or Rescuer can be used – sometimes unwittingly – to box people in or to silence and oppress them.

In the workshop participants will:

  • be introduced to the Drama Triangle and The Winner’s Triangle
  • learn some practical ways of using the triangles with clients
  • explore some connections with the Transactional Analysis concept of “discounting” and it’s complement “accounting”
  • discuss risks that come with the use of The Drama Triangle and its language of Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor

The workshop will mix teaching with a breakout session for participants to explore their reactions to the ideas and try them out in some short exercises.

No prior knowledge of The Drama Triangle will be assumed.

 

Online session: Maps & Gaps – NETAC Sat 6 Nov 2021

I’m looking forward to contributing to the online day of this year’s North East Transactional Analysis Conference. I’m going to be doing the closing session of what looks like a great day. In my session I’ll be exploring some ideas about frames of reference – or “our maps of the world”. I’ll be building on some of the material in chapter 16 of Talking It Better and also relating it to some of the other workshops on the day.

Closing Plenary: Maps and Gaps – Putting the Concept of Frames of Reference to Practical Use

Matthew Elton, Diploma in Transactional Analysis Counselling (CPTI. Edinburgh)

When our clients have different maps of the world from other important people in their lives, how can we help them manage the tensions that will arise without either pathologising others or themselves? Frames of reference can be so all encompassing that it’s hard to see outside of them. And even when we can intellectually see beyond them, in a theoretical way, this is not always enough. We’ll explore some practical techniques for helping people reflect on their own and others’ maps of the world and to both intellectually and viscerally see beyond them.