Therapy Skills: LOCT Skills
(Term Magic Circle is copyright to our department as the procedure is so similar to the "affect-bridge" technique, which exists in research literature. We find the terms are more understandable to clients in a clinical setting.)
Loct Skills (locating original cause trauma) form a procedure for finding a source of distress that has had an earlier time of onset in a person's life. Usually we are referring to childhood but occasionally this could be confined to an adolescent period or even a trauma caused in adult life that one is referring back to.
Why proceed to a regressive point in a person's life? Usually the adult is unable to access the painful period in life where this originally occurred. The first occasion of a psychogenic pain is always of great interest in terms of understanding the onset and course of a person's problem. However, defenses usually form around this time in a person's childhood and these form a protective layer around the pain. Often much of the event is even forgotten via memory protection also.
Hence a regressive procedure offers a point of access to the origins of the problems to understand the nature of the real disturbance and the developmental linkages that were pertinent at this time. Even if you were using an exposure procedure as with PTSD it is usual to go to the original critical incident to do the exposure procedure. If you do sexual abuse work usually you need to access the actual experience that the person suffered. If you are doing counselling you usually try to walk the person through the most specific details of their pain and problem. Hence the procedure is believed to work here because one is accessing the actual original experience when the learnt defensive pattern occurred. Once this is accessed it is presumed that a greater degree of progress is made than a more conscious level approach like CBT.
Take the following 'egg picture':
* It refers to the sense of the experience in the body e.g. the client may feel a deeper feeling in body which they refer to as say the tight band in my chest/nervous feeling, hence "it". It is likely that this comes from the childhood experience, hence child.
It's as if the child lives in an eternal 'now' of inaccessible suffering stored inside the person. This is typical of work from childhood. The pain remains inside or 'down in the unconscious', below the conscious threshold depicted in the diagram. So the adult normally acts in a positive manner until certain situations are sufficient to potentiate the negative experience of the child. At such times the adult defenses are overwhelmed and many clients can even remember feeling 'small' or child like when this happens as with panic attacks and traumatized states. The adult self is identified with the emotional experience and feels 'attacked' by these emotions. Note, the adult does not say "oh I'm experiencing a lot of emotions from a past event"; they are unable to make this connection until they experience the regression procedure. (You might like to read section on Psychotherapeutics.)
The entire objective of loct-skills is to formulate an approach to shift the negative experience, which is usually, felt in the body of the adult, typically the chest or stomache. Hence if the negative experience in the child in purely behavioural terms and by any procedure imaginable and ethical then this is all that is intended. Then the adult conscious self feels this "deeper, more comfortable sense of well being, down in their 'belly'". It is not unusual when this procedure has worked well for adults to even use language like I feel like a whole person now or my life is completely changed. Dramatic sounding but there seems to be a gestalt effect where the pain is not all that shifts, often there is a greater sense that one is 'this larger more adult person' which makes sense if you think that the child-state is not dominating the adult any more. Often for example there is a shift in self-esteem, which is the first time in the person's life that this has been felt.
This forms the basic first point in this procedure to explain the overall method to the client. The reason for this is to avoid the hypnosis mentality and to encourage maximum cooperation and empowerment to the client so that they realize that this is a practical procedure, which has an unconscious target. The actual success of this procedure is dependent on much psycho-educational and client-therapist strategizing.
Stages of Magic Circle Procedure
- Draw egg diagram and explain procedure
- Locate contemporary 'portal' with body therapy
- Focused breathing regression
- Locate original 'portal'
- Form the 'child image'
- Go to the safe 'magical place'
- Child dialogue and affect shift (First half of magical circle)
- Transfer affect to Adult (Complete the circle)
- Re-orient adult and discuss effects/week ahead
- Post therapy constructions and client-therapist dialogue
LOCT Skills Breathing Regression
- Explanation of procedure
"This is a technique which we call breathing regression, it's actually quite easy in that you don't actually have to do a lot. That is, you don't have to think too much, you just let your mind follow the way your body is feeling.
So it's not hard, but it might be a little uncomfortable, depending on where we go, but I'm here to help you, and you're in a safe place."
If client appears uncertain or apprehensive, explain that it's not like hypnosis, and they will be in complete control all the time - it is simply a way to get passed the conscious part of you that might be blocking something your feeling deeper down.
- A point of entry is needed
For this we need a body-feeling that is experienced by the client, for example 'anxiety'.
"Where is that feeling?" (Trying to 'lock-on' to the feeling - use reflective techniques to describe and label the feeling)
"Does it have a shape?" (I.e. a ball or a knot)
"Does it have a colour?"
"Does it have a voice?" or "If it had a voice, what would it be saying to you?"
- Explanatory Dialogue
"Now, I just want you to breathe into that feeling - this often doesn't make much sense to the logical mind, but it works".
"You need to really lock onto that feeling - try to increase it, like on a gauge, try to increase it's reading on the gauge."
"Maybe picture holding onto the tiger's tail and hanging on".
The next piece of info needs to be quite directive!
"You don't need to use your mind at all for this - in fact it's better if your mind doesn't work at all. You just need to breathe into the feeling, that's all you need to do, and just see where the 'anxiety/anger/sadness' takes you."
"Remember you are not trying to get rid of the feeling, so you're not trying to feel relaxed, you need to grab onto the feeling".
- Actual Breathing Regression
- "You don't have to close your eyes, but often it works better if you do".
- "Can you feel that feeling now?" (Must check if they have the feeling)
- "Breathe into the feeling, don't try to get rid of the feeling, just hold it inside". "Remember not to use your mind, and just stay with your body"
- "Let the feeling take you back to an earlier time." (Don't leave it too open because they might only go back a few years - if it is self-esteem related, chances are it is back in early childhood)
"It might be a time at primary school, or even before school - maybe at a kid's party or at Christmas time"
(The conscious mind is not supposed to be doing the searching, so look for signs that may indicate this - if the conscious mind is involved, step out of the process and repeat with greater emphasis on 'following the feeling back and not thinking')
Note: this process requires therapist to be quiet and patient. The actual regression process may take several minutes.
- "Can you describe any memories - do you have an image?"
"How old are you?"
"What are you doing?"
(Trying to lock onto the experience and label it, try to get the client to picture the experience - i.e. being a little child)
- "Is this feeling the same as the one you have now when you..."
(Be mindful at this stage, you may have tapped into deep emotions)
- Establish the contemporary portal
Use current symptoms via body therapies or CBT to elicit the body portal. The portal should have some clear linkages with the 'hot issues' that are associated with client's main goals.
- Egg-Ego Diagram
Establish that loct-skills are indicated from childhood or some past focus.
- Explain how such learnt behaviour can be formed from earlier life episodes, the role of defenses and how the breathing regression works in this process.
- Explain that the client doesn't lose control nor should expect to discover worse pain than currently experienced, in fact the portal is used purely to 'lock on' to the original portal and learnt behaviour not for any other purpose.
- Emphasize that the client needs only to breathe into the feeling in the body.
- Indicate that they will need to be clear at one point that there is a separate image of the child, distinct from the adult (i.e. the adult that is currently understanding the procedure). This is to ensure that they do not go back to being overly identified with the traumatized state.
- Explain the above by drawing the 'ego-egg' picture to illustrate the case conceptualization aspect.
- Execute breathing regression
- Keep your voice low and slow and encourage the client's efforts to breathe into the 'sensation in the chest'. Describe various other key terms that give a certain variety to the input to stop client's mind from wandering.
- Mention how that they could even try to increase the intensity of the experience as if they could make a 'gauge pointer' go even higher.
- Continue for say 5-10 mm in this mode and then progressively mention allowing their unconscious mind to remind them of scenes or memories from childhood that are the same as this feeling in your chest: "still breathing into the tight ball-like knot in your chest" and imagining a younger Karen with smaller hands and legs and body, who also felt this same ball like feeling in her chest, at a much younger age like primary school age or even younger.
- After some additional 5-10 mm, ask if they are aware of anything coming to mind. If not, repeat the patter but try to deepen the state, remembering the longer this goes the deeper the relaxed/regressed state and more likely they are to remember. If they do remember an image, go to the next step. If they remember nothing at all, just bring them slowly back to room being positive that their attempt was good and discuss the experience.
- Locate Portal
When the client is aware of an early age image just check that the experience is the same as the original portal. "And is the feeling in the chest the same you experience as an adult when you hear ambulance sirens?" If yes, continue with next step of procedure; if not enquire into the nature of the discovered memory and continue with regression procedure if not pertinent. Usually one would look for an earlier age than teens or 10-12 from clinical experience, unless those experiences seem either the only ones forthcoming or of noteworthy significance in themselves.
- Child Image
Ask client to describe the child. How old is she/he what are they dressed like, colour of hair and what are they feeling in their body. This is to assist with grounding the memory in as many ways as possible and gives client time to consolidate the connections they are making. Try to ascertain that the child does experience the actual feelings. Ask if they can see a separate image of the child. This can be a fuzzy 'feeling-image' if they do not picture clearly.
- Safe Place
- Establish the child's need by asking adult what does child need now. Add these needs to the 'equation' of needs when you go to the 'safe place'.
- Explain you want the adult self to take the child away in their imagination to a safe place and this can be anything from the past or the future. "Think of this as a magical place where you can have anyone you want or any place real or imagined."
- The main thing is that it helps the child to feel safe, loved, valued or whatever is in the need equation for this individual. If fear is the problem, emphasize a place or people who help the child to feel safe and accepted. If self-worth is required, emphasize a place or people where they feel loved (love is the currency of self-value), special and belong.
- Typically, the adult self should be in this scenario and encourage them to picture them placing their arms around the child. Clinical research indicates the touch aspect in imaginal aspect is important.
- Child Dialogue
- Instruct adult self to let child know they never have to experience this horrible state again, inform adult self that this is because they will never be 4-5-6-yo etc again.
- After a short delay, ask how the child is responding. This is usually answered easily. If there is a problem tell adult self they have special intuition and knowledge of this child and can understand what they are feeling inside. If the feeling has moved to a positive just repeat feelings as if counselling and affirming e.g. "So she feels safe, secure and kinda warm and fuzzy, and she's smiling a lot."
- If there is a resistance to a feeling shift, ask what is happening and what does the child need in order to be convinced, believe or trust the adult(s). (This is not unusual, so emphasize the honesty of the child and their courage to speak up and ask further what they need and continue to make
- Suggestions 'in this magical place where they can have anything they want', that satisfies the needs.)
- Adult affect transfer
- Affirm that child is allowed to keep these new feelings and should really have had them all their life, "however are they willing to share these feelings with you and then I will tell you how to do the next step"
- After child agrees (which is normally the case), instruct adult to place hand around child and make a point of touch, which can be like a "magical-magnetic, emotional-electrical transfer bridge" where the feelings can flow through to the adult. Emphasize the feelings can shine in like a powerful sunny-bright feeling that has a strong energy to push away all the dark old feelings and fill up the whole body with light, energy and the new feelings from the child.
- Encourage this period with some consolidation with the energy and feelings entering body, organs, especially the previous portal site; brain, mind, even blood and bones and all around the person creating effectively a new shield or protective energy and good feeling. (This is to symbolize a new defense system.)
- If adult is able to accept the feelings simply acknowledge and suggest they "tuck the child into their belly or wherever appropriate and can be a nice happy glow inside of them". This completes the magic circle procedure per se. If adult has difficulties continue with next step and discuss this under step 10.
- Re-orientate adult
- Gradually encourage person to be aware of body in the room and "feet on the floor, aware of your adult bigger person's body and slowly bringing yourself back to the room and when you feel comfortable opening your eyes in your own good time".
- This is actually quite surprising to the client and it is good to acknowledge this 're-entry point' by saying something like "quite a journey?" after they have opened their eyes and in fact restating "take your time" and so forth.
- Ask how they feel and clarify that any unusual body sensations like light-headedness or lightness will return to normal before too long.
- Encourage them to not place too much pressure on these new feelings and to just let them 'be' over the next few days. Take pressure off client and therapist by explaining that this can be seen as an experiment and subsequent sessions may even be necessary but don't worry about that now.
- Post-therapy Constructions
- When client returns next session, take a scientific attitude to reports. Ask what were the effects from last week's session if any? Often clients will tend to acquiesce or often because the effects can be unconscious, they don't notice legitimate effects.
- Hence, to focus on key symptom areas can be informative as to whether effects are pervasive. If so there tends to be clinical indications that pervasive effects can be deeper and long lasting. However our research is showing that even partial effects are quite normal and not to be underscored.
- If effects are minimal or less than desirable encourage client to go into greater inner tracking dialogues to discover what defenses or problems were encountered. What mutual strategies could you both employ in a subsequent session with the viewpoint that future success may rest on careful, constructive discussion right now?