Empty Chair Technique

The Empty Chair Technique is a technique initially employed by Gestalt psychologists and is still one of the techniques used in contemporary cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches, depending on the session process and the client's situation.

Sep 3, 2023 - 15:50
Sep 3, 2023 - 15:51
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Empty Chair Technique

The Empty Chair Technique, actively used by therapists, is an effective and specialized technique. It is also known as the "Two-Chair Technique" or "Chair Work." This technique, while pulling individuals emotionally into the intensity of their feelings, serves as a therapeutic tool for confronting and overcoming pain and sorrow. It promotes both confrontation and empathy awareness in the individual, creating an environment for them to become aware of their own emotions. As a result, it can be highly productive for the individual to evaluate the event or person they are addressing from a different perspective and for self-awareness.

Historical Background of the Empty Chair Technique:

Jacob Levy Moreno, known as a student of Freud, drew attention to the Empty Chair Technique and developed it. Moreno did not fully embrace psychotherapy but focused on the importance of active participation, leading to the development of this technique. In later years, the Empty Chair Technique, also known as "psychodrama," was used in group settings.

Gestalt Therapists:

Fritz Perls is the founder of Gestalt Therapy. Gestalt therapy emphasizes focusing on the present moment and dealing with difficulties in the same way. Additionally, these psychologists believe that individuals must relive their traumas to overcome them. Gestalt therapists were the first to directly use the Empty Chair Technique. Therapists who use the Empty Chair Technique should also adopt a humanistic approach.

When the Empty Chair Technique May Be Helpful:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Interpersonal mistreatment
  • Grief
  • Personality disorders
  • Trauma related to social issues
  • Internal conflict
  • Self-hatred

Step-by-Step Application of the Empty Chair Technique:

  1. Confirm that the client is ready to participate voluntarily.
  2. Ask the client to create roles on opposite ends of the chairs.
  3. If the client's focus is scattered, you can ask them to switch chairs.
  4. Encourage the client to use open expressions while sitting in one chair, and when they switch to the other chair, remind them of these expressions and inquire about their emotions.
  5. Ask the client which role they feel more connected to and explore that role further.
  6. During role transitions, the client can become aware of the voices associated with each role and express their emotions.
  7. In group therapy settings, group members can facilitate the client's experiments by taking on different roles while the client is in one chair.

Considerations for Using the Empty Chair Technique:

  • Client consent and willingness are essential.
  • The therapist should have adopted a humanistic approach.
  • The therapist should explain to the client in a way they understand why they are using this technique and discuss the purpose of the technique. The client must be fully aware of the roles being created, and there should be no ambiguity.
  • The therapist should closely monitor the direction of the dialogue, recognizing the need for change if themes such as blame, helplessness, insistence, rigidity, or worthlessness dominate the conversation.

Challenges in Using the Empty Chair Technique:

  • Resistance from the client can be a challenge, stemming from the client finding the technique unrealistic or not wanting to express themselves aloud.
  • The technique requires imagination and projection skills from the individual. Without the ability to accurately imagine the direction or personality they are aiming for, the intended therapeutic gains may not be achieved.

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