Empty Chair Technique

by | Feb 5, 2023 | Bereavement and Grief, Coping, Emotions, Psychotherapy | 0 comments

I am reading the autobiography of Billy Connolly. As a boy Billy was sexually abused for years by his father.

Decades later, as his father lay dying from a stoke, Billy finally told his wife about the abuse. He broke down in tears and did not go in the hospital to see his dad before he died.

Billy later went to s psycotherapist, who use the open-chari technique. This technique involves a client imagining that a certain person is sitting in the chair. The client says what he wants. He can then imagine a positive response, which might include an explanation for misbehavior and an apology.

Billy said the technique helped him overcome his negative emotions, including shame, relating to the abuse.

I once used the empty chair technique with an elderly women who told me about a time when her husband was in a hospital after having a massive heart attack. A doctor invited her to go in to see her husband to say good-bye, but she could not bring herself to go in. After 50 years with her guy, she could not face losing him. He then died, and she had felt guilty for years since then.

I asked the woman to explain to her husband right then her actions — as if he was present. She did. Then I asked her to tell me  what he would say in return. She said he would say something like this: “Don’t be silly.. You gave me decades of just what I wanted, what I needed. One moment does not matter.”

I considered my work a success.


Photo by Jean-Jacques Halans on Unsplash



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