Emerging Field of Psychotraumatology in Canada

Posted by: Linda AK Thompson on March 13, 2013 10:29 am

Trauma Counselling – Depth Levels of Conversation

In my last article, I provided brief descriptors of the first 3 levels of conversation – formal operations, contact maintenance and standard conversations.  In this article, I present brief descriptors of the last two, and what I consider are, the ultimate goal and true depth levels of therapeutic conversations:  Level 4 – Critical Occasions and Level 5 – Intimacy essential to achieve with survivors of traumatic lifetime events (TLE) towards healing and wholeness.

Level 4 – Critical Occasions – are essential conditions to meet for significant life-change and growth and implies that the client is both accessible to work and seeks to truly express the impact and depth of their inner experiencing.  The therapist genuinely and willingly joins the client in this degree of depth conversation.  Critical attention is provided to the revisiting of particular and significant times, relationships and conversations that made a difference, sometimes referred to as a crisis turning point or that moment in time when the stage was set within a sequence of events where one’s future outcomes were influenced [duly or unduly] in a significant way.  Conversation at this depth level results in genuine changes in words, thoughts, feelings and acts of both participants. 

This depth of client and therapist conversation is a highly desirable state of emotional investment where the client revisits the impact and a difference in one’s sense of being follows.  Emotionality is in the moment and there are candid descriptors of past and present, inner experience with self-questioning.  The client’s focus and concern is upon expression of their inner experience and the talk varies in form, tempo and emotional toning.  Typically, this depth of talk is prompt where fluid clusters of percepts emerge with slight hesitancy noted with the new material coming into consciousness.  At this point, the therapist is not forgotten, but part of the background, while the client accesses deep states of inner awareness.  The client’s use of adjectives and adverbs expressed at this time conveys the texture and colors of their inner experiencing which may be enhanced by the use of exclamations, slang, profane or obscene remarks.  Typically, body posture is relaxed and open, and one’s body language changes in keeping with the emerging emotions. 

However, intense immersion and overt behaviors ranging from rigidity to utter limpness or physical contortions visible in one’s face or body may also occur.  The client is on the expressive side of their presence, their accessible and attention is somewhat reduced for they are strongly focused on inner flow.  This is the place of change potential or cross-roads talk where participants emerge with a difference in perspective, attitude, or emotion.  This is a powerful plane where repeated returns to a word, topic, feeling or phase occur without conscious awareness. 

In these moments, the client may be unable to recall something particular, there can be abrupt switches of topics or feelings, a loss of one’s train of thought with a felt sense presents of either physical restless or unusual immobility.

Level 5 – Intimacy – the participants are at maximum accessibility and/or expressiveness relating and the focus is on expression of the inner experience with little concern on image.  This deep conversation space is intensely emotional, and the raw, naked truth of containing disclosures concerning sensuality, sexuality, nudity and intercourse emerge to reveal secret qualities experienced during private human interactions.  Therapeutic intervals of genuine intimate conversations are necessary for depth confrontation and major life change.

The participants are readily receptive, sensing is maximal and intuition is fully engaged.  They can be instances where extrasensory perception or telepathy occurs.  This place of mutuality of intimacy is a distinguishing feature that can take on different forms.  The client is open and expressive of thoughts, feelings and inner processes.  The therapist is less verbally open but maximally receptive of the client’s experience which allows impact to be revealed and become evident to the client.  In this place, the potential exists for confrontation of lifelong patterns and the hope for reorganization of one’s way of being alive in one’s lifestyle and circumstance plus one’s vision for authentic being can be revealed.

In moments of true intimacy, subjective being is vitally involved in inner recognition that has lasting consequences.  The awareness that ‘one knows’ but had ‘not let the self-know’ is that  awareness of a larger, enlarged ‘inner’ vision referred to as the healing – growth dynamic that exists and is difficult to reduce and explain utilizing words.  Very close emotionality is achieved and noted in mind-body-spirit connections with movement towards each other and a place where physical touch may or may not occur.  This place of true intimacy is an explosive exchange of charges and confrontations that results in new awareness of inner processes and emotions. 

Intimate conversation is a place of immediate experience of deep sharing that is not a lasting condition of relating as these moments come and end.  I refer to these priceless moments of depth connection as megamomentaries for the self and the other are empathetically embraced in a flash of relational loving-kindness that is truly redemptive at the seat of the soul.

Author:  Dr. Linda AK Thompson, PsyD, CCC, FAAETS  �
Owner, Matrix of Trauma (© MOT ™):  Research, Advocacy, Healing


  1. Shadow Psychology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow
  2. Thompson, Linda A.K. (1996).  The Matrix of Trauma:  A dissertation – partial fulfilment for requirements for degree of doctor of psychological traumatology in psychological assessments and etymology.  © Unpublished/Sealed.  Summit University of Louisiana, New Orleans:  Louisiana.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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