Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

All these steps of interaction are obvious to any sensitive person, especially once they are drawn to his or her attention. But why must the therapist be conscious of them? Only a couple of the answers are addressed here. First, of course, in order to exercise maximum influence over the client, the psychotherapist needs to know what he or she and the client are doing, if only to ensure that the interaction progresses at the speed and in the directions set by the therapist – the presumed ‘expert.’ If a purpose of psychotherapy is to influence another to change in any way, then part of that influence will be exerted through regulation of the quality and nature of the interaction.
Second, the state of the other will be revealed in the nature of his or her contribution to the interaction. The process of social interaction is a well-learned tool which the client will also use as a communication tool. If the client does not follow all the steps in an interaction, he or she is communicating that something is wrong which demands the therapist’s attention. For example, if the client’s opening utterance is most relevant to the ‘abreaction’ phase, the client is indicating acute distress – such that he or she cannot wait to ‘unload’ something important. Any such utterance ought to be recorded verbatim as it will certainly be revealing – and probably rather cleverly revealing. Alton’s first contact with Felicity illustrates this phenomenon. If the client’s opening interaction is most properly relevant to the ‘termination’ or ‘parting’ phase, the client is indicating acute depression, and probably suicidal feelings or ideas. Alvin’s third meeting with Felicity illustrates this phenomenon.

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