Talking to ED – the empty chair technique  

As I mention often, I am in a master’s program at the University of South Florida. Yesterday I had class – Group Theories and Techniques. Part of learning how to lead group therapy sessions is by being a part of a group – being both a group member and sometimes a co-leader with another classmate. We run two equal in length group sessions with our classmates at the latter part of every class. Today I was both co-leader and member.

During the first of two sessions yesterday, I was a member. I participated and some emotions were evoked during the process. Overall, it wasn’t too deep and I felt put together when it was my time to plan to co-lead the 2nd of our two group sessions for the day. As I stood outside with my co-leader and our professor discussing our plan, something said put me in a whirl of emotion. It was so unexpected. I had no choice but to put it aside and put my co-leader game face on.

During this prep-talk, my co-leader mentioned a technique he was interested in utilizing. The technique is part of the Gestalt therapy modality and involves a sort of psychodramatic role play.

The Empty Chair.

The point of the empty chair technique is to allow a group member to process unfinished business or emotions with possibly someone in their life who has caused them grief or trauma. This person may be someone who has passed or someone they have disconnected from due to trauma or disagreement, or even perhaps an aspect of themselves that causes or has caused them a great deal of pain or anguish. The process is intended to allow the person to come to terms or find resolve regarding something in their distant or even recent past. Within this technique’s process, the group member can talk to the person or the part of themselves to let go of some pent up expressions, emotions or statements they haven’t yet been able to divulge to the party “sitting” in the empty chair. The group member can also switch roles as well as seats and reply or provide feedback to themselves that they might have been longing for or wanting from that person or part of themselves.

Well, next week I am going to be performing this empty chair technique as part of a small group assignment in front of my classmates. I am going to be talking toher, to ED. I am excited, terrified, anxious, heated… I have such a range of emotions towards her. No matter how far I have come in my recovery, I still have hatred towards her.  I often say and I truly believe that she plagued me for a reason. She was in my life for a purpose and she  has given my future career and life’s work true purpose in which I am infinitely passionate about it. However, as much as I say I appreciate her for the hand’s on knowledge she has provided me, I still hate her.  I still carry hatred for her for many things.

I can’t wait to tell her how I feel – I can’t wait to tell her that I hate her.

My hope, and the point of the therapy technique, is that by telling her all of the things I have been wanting to tell her that I will have hatred no longer and shewill be permanently removed from my life, my head and my heart.

I am going to clear my mind now and wait for this empty chair experience so I can express true, raw and real hatred towards her in front of my classmates. Of course, I will blog about it next week.