Re: Injustice

Chris Evans (
Thu, 23 Sep 1999 13:24:15 +0100

rOn 22 Sep 99, at 9:45, Jacqui Costigan wrote:

> Whilst there's a great deal of injustice in the world my focus of concern
> arose with a counsellor whom I was supervising. The counsellor has
> identified passionately with a female client who experienced consistent
> sexual harassment but was unable to prove charges against her assailant
> with only 'her word against his'
> I then identified passionately with both the supervisee and her client. My
> concern is that these identifications could interfere with therapeutic and
> supervisory processes. Do any PCPers have any comments / guidelines please

As a supervisor (not a PCP therapist) your concern sounds like
something to take very seriously. As a psychodynamic
therapist/analyst/supervisor I would reach for some constructs
about "projection" and "projective identification" that I would find
helpful here but they arise from a different construct system from
PCP's so let that be!

I would ask some questions of you and of your supervisee and
probably of both of you together were we having some sort of
consultation on this. I think the starting questions would be about
what ideas are linked with the idea that your passion, and her
passion are "interfering": what's the danger? how's the process
going to be different for this interference? I'd be interested to pick
up more about when it started to get passionate, whether things
modulate that. Certainly my initial sense would be that you were
right to be concerned.

I'd wonder what is being caught from the client, by the therapist,
and then by you. Or more precisely and interpersonally, what is
being caught in the relationship between you two that is there and
not safely managed in the relationship between the client and the
therapist? There seems to be something about very intense dyads
running along the chain of communication here: harrasser to client;
client to therapist; therapist to supervisor. My respect for the
"madness" (which anything but illogical) of unconscious
processes, attachments, relationships would wonder about
reversing that: what was being communicated by client to
harrasser, what by therapist to client, what by you to therapist?

On the face of it that's all dyadic but I wonder if it's more a problem
of triadic things getting caught looking dyadic along one side of the
harrasser; client; court (harrassment accusations that
weren't "heard")
client; therapist; you (your concern that you're maybe not
hearing something quite right)
therapist; you; us (are we a court that should hear aright?)

I did find there was something that felt to me very judgemental
about a previous response which maybe says something about the
power of some sort of urge to rescue and correct a wrong that is
bouncing around the system here and I'm starting to become
emotionallly resonant to that too.

As I say, the overt, conscious construct system I reach for with
this sort of thing is a psychodynamic/analytic one but the only
thing that is crucial to that and not so easily phrasable in
PCP/Kellian terms is probably something about the idea of the
unconscious. I find myself thinking that there's something about
the proportion of our construct system that is not available for
(conscious) reconstruction. For me that's the unconscious, it's a
huger proportion of our construct system, particularly of our core
construct system (where that Kleinian word "identification" starts to
come in) and it drives much of what we do. As personal scientists
we function poorly in terms of being up to reconstrue in that area
precisely because it is unconscious. We have to attend to clues
like your unease to when we're in that area.

I've gone on too long, but it was so nice to have a bit of clinical
material and feel I should risk the clinical side of my (conscious)
core system rather than all that stuff about managing Email and
about crunching grids that I usually reveal!!

Thanks Jacqui and the very best of luck to the three of you!


Chris Evans < or>
Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy,
Rampton Hospital and Associate R&D Director,
Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust
*** My views are my own and not representative
of either institution ***