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Characterizing an exception and identifying a second instance

Video Type: In Practice

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Lynn is a 59 year old woman who decided to seek counselling to work through a longstanding concern about what she describes as a lack of courage in relation to various challenges, especially physical challenges. Lynn describes an incident snow-shoeing with friends when she reached an impasse: they wanted to proceed over a dangerous icy slope and she became overwhelmed with anxiety and needed help getting down from the mountain. She jokingly refers to a “cowardly gene” to capture the sense that the anxiety that overwhelms her in these situations is an expression of her fundamental nature. At the same time she is curious to challenge this notion and wants to change the way she responds in similar situations. At this point, David and Lynn have a clear example of an exception to the problem of the crippling fear she describes coming up in the face of physical challenges. The original exception was a cross country ski outing. David invites Lynn to make meaning of it by characterizing it as part of a “project.” How does David introduce this notion? What name does Lynn ascribe to the project? What does David do to identify a second event that fits this project title? What is the second event that Lynn presents? To what degree does she initially see this second event as an exception to the problem she introduced of being crippled by fear? How do David and Lynn's views of this additional exception evolve as they continue to examine it? What aspects of the counselor's practice might you have done similarly/differently? Asking to characterize a development as a “project” is similar to inviting a client to name a book chapter as seen with David and Tina in Naming a preferred development as a book chapter, also in this chapter. It moves the conversation from an event (skiing outing) to the meaning made about the event. By characterizing it as a project, the question also implies that it was not a random “one-off” but part of a larger agenda that Lynn has undertaken. The project title also provides leverage for seeking out similar events; here that title is “Reaching to be the best that I can” and it brings to mind a childhood memory for Lynn of waterskiing. As David and Lynn explore this other event which stands in contradiction to her problem-saturated story, they develop a more refined picture of what she does when she does not allow fear to, as she said, “extricate” herself from the situation. Notice this does not involve vanquishing fear but rather proceeding in the face of it.

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