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Therapy Skills: Body Therapy

Key Words: Probes, taking over, little experiments. Defense behaviours


"Probing, taking over and little experiments" are terms coined by Ron Kurtz (1990). Kurtz had a genius for enquiry interventions. Mostly these terms are used to find the parameters in a client's problem. There is a sense of "what happens when". This can be compared meaningfully to Malan's (1979) term of defense behaviours. With defense behaviours we are interested in what is going on in the body emotionally at a deeper level, especially at the level of the adaptive feelings in Malan's model.
A probe is delivered in a mindful manner. This means the client is quiet and tuned inwards to observe semi meditatively, the reactions of their body. It is as if the client becomes the detached observers of their own body.
Some probes are:
Please notice what happens when...(Eg "you're a good person")
Please observe what you experience when... (Eg I say, "I want you to be my little girl")
What happens if I say, "you are safe here"?
Probes are delivered with good timing and sympathy towards the client's mindful state.

Taking over

Although similar to probes in essence taking over is the notion of 'taking over something the client does already'. For example they might pick at their nails each time they discuss their pending exam. So you could offer to pick at their nails in the same way whiles they mindfully observe their body experience. Or it could be that there is a pressure in their shoulders that the therapist literally can apply. In this instance the procedure is explained as a therapeutic technique and that "nothing weird is going on!" Such applications should be sensitive to gender or client characteristics. (Eg touching parts of body that would be inappropriate or touching someone who has been sexually abused at all if you were same sex as original perpetrator). Often the person is taking over defense behaviours or affecting these.
Taking over can be active or passive involvement on client's behalf or may involve verbal or physical taking over. (Notice this resembles probes but a probe is not necessarily taking over a client behaviour or defense.)

Little experiments

Probes and taking over are specific kinds of little experiments. For example Kurtz quotes a client who had difficulty in maintaining eye contact. He said, "Notice what happens when I sit here with MY eyes closed". They repeated this several times gathering information about core material regarding avoidance of eye contact. Little experiments are very spontaneous and creative. They differ from behavioural experiments in that they are very internal whereas behavioural experiments are designed to act out experiences in the real environment to conflict or confirm client beliefs. Little experiments, probes and taking over are designed to evoke inner experience and gather information.