Therapy Session Warm-Up Exercise

This is a Flexible Empathy Exercise (AKA Deictic Framing Exercise) that can be used before a therapy session with a client.

Here is the transcript of the video content:

This is an exercise you can use to find a flexible, empathic stance prior to meeting with a client or anyone else for that matter.

Credit goes to Vilardaga, Levin and Hayes, 2007.

If you play straight though, it takes 4 minutes, but you should really feel free to pause the video at any time.

Before starting, find a quiet place, like your therapy room. Then find a wide-awake, but relaxed posture and just pay attention to your breath for a few moments or do whatever meditation or mindfulness practice that you have.

Take a few seconds and imagine you are your client on the way to his or her way to the session. What would he or she see or hear or smell on his or her way here? What would it be like sitting in the waiting room before starting the session?

And from this perspective of being your client, imagine what thoughts, feelings and judgments he or she is having. If this is someone you don’t know very much yet, just think about what you do know.

Notice the historical nature of these reactions. In other words, there’s a history behind them. He or she has had those thoughts, feelings and judgments for months or even years and in many different places and they are likely to happen here today.

Then in addition to his or her thoughts, feelings and judgments see if you can connect with his or her sense of conscious awareness that’s more than the content of his or her suffering.

And now try to recall some emotion, thoughts and judgments that you have had about your client in the past. Again, if this is someone you don’t know well yet, just think about what you do know, what you have reacted to.

Recall other times when similar thoughts, feelings and judgments have come up for you in different therapy rooms or locations, maybe with different clients, perhaps months or years ago. Notice how they are happening here in this very moment.

And in addition to these thoughts, feelings and judgments see if you can connect with your own sense of conscious awareness, that you are more than the content of your reactions.

Now bring your attention back to when you first decided to be a therapist. What were your thoughts and feelings about being a therapist? What are your thoughts and feelings about being a therapist now?

Finally, if you were transported five years into the future, what would you like this client to have taken from the work the two of you have done?

Now bring your attention back to the room. Take a moment to notice your different bodily sensations. The various sounds and objects around you.

When you are ready, go ahead and greet your client.