Online counselling tool of Externalise

Use of Externalisation in Online Counselling



Use of Externalisation in Online Counselling

Externalisation is a tool from Narrative Therapy and it is one of my favorites.  It helps clients to see the problem as external and separate from them. 

Too often our clients experience a psychological problem, such as anxiety or depression, as part of their identity. They tend to generalise and personalise it so that it becomes part of who they are. The impact is a sense of hopelessness, helplessness and toxic shame.

With Externalisation, we help clients create a unique perspective from which they perceive the problem as an object, or as some kind of ‘psychological bug’ that they need to manage.  During the process, not only do they develop more astute awareness of the problem, but they strengthen identification with themselves  as an aware and mindful observer while weakening identification with the problem.  Loosening the grip of that ‘psychological bug’ will result in a sense of liberation and relief. Clients often feel de-shamed, self acceptance and empowered. 

Referring to the problem as a ‘psychological bug’ will help acknowledge the pain and the unpleasant impact a bug can have on the mind. Similar to a physical bug, we are going to put this psychological bug under the microscope in order to learn how it operates. Once we are clear about the mechanism of the bug, we can develop a ‘vaccination’.

externalisation in online counselling

Application of the tool in an online counselling sesssion 

  1. Introduction – Your explanation of the purpose of this tool will enable the client to engage in the exercise in a constructive, creative and humoristic manner. You need to be ready with a compelling and inspiring introduction.
  2. Shared investigation –  With online counselling, you can use the video app to share your  screen. Open the powerpoint Doc (See download) and save a copy with the name of your client. Address the points one by one while you type in their answers. If you try it first on yourself it will give you an idea about the challenges your clients will face while trying to answer the questions.
    Click to see a sample. 
  3. Using the new ‘discovery’ – Once you have named the ‘bug’ and established an understanding of it, you are ready to run conversations about it. You may encourage the client to share the story of the bug with their loved ones. 

In the next sessions, you may inquire about the way the client managed the bug, or refer to the bug each time it interferes with the client’s life. In my experience these references always bring a smile to the client. When clients ‘curse’ or condemn the bug you understand that your intervention is on the right track.

Click to Download the online counselling tool.

This is the content of the tool:

Know your psychological ‘bug’ 

  1. Vulnerability – 

What is the Emotional impact?  How does it make you feel? 

  1. Impact – How does it make you think? 

(Worldview, self-perception etc) I am… I will… People are…. 

  1. Impact- How does it make you behave? 

In general… In relationship… At work… 

  1. Image – What does it remind you? Can you think of an image? (animal?! character?!) 

Let’s name it: (naming is essential for future conversations about the ‘bug’. It should be a name with humoristic connotation so that it evokes humour and acceptance) 

  1. When – When does the bug get activated? what triggers it? What conditions does it need to attack? 
  2. Bug’s weakness – What makes it weaker? When do you manage it well? 
  3. Purpose – How does it serve you? What is the purpose? (must be positive) 
  4. Motto – If this bug was a character what would be its motto? 
  5. Biography – How did you come to adopt this bug as your sub-identity? 
  6. Payoffs –  Are there subconscious reasons to hold on to the bug? any pay-off?! outcomes you like? 
  7. What if –  If you get immunised against the bug what possibilities open up for you? 

What would be the most important change for you in terms of your behaviours?

I encourage you to read more about Externalisation in this link

About the author:

Guy is a psychologist with more than 30 years of experience.

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