The client’s internal dialogue with the therapist

as a stage of interiorization of the therapist’s image

Nadeeva Elena

Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Russia

Research Supervisor

Professor Alexander I. Sosland, MSUPE

Starting the study of internal dialogue, it is necessary to rely on the works
of the Soviet psychologist L. S. Vygotsky, who developed the concept of internal
speech and the transition of the external speech into the internal speech,
i.e. interiorization. This is one of the central concepts of the theory developed
by Vygotsky, which has been confi rmed in many studies conducted by himself
and his followers. The works of L. S. Vygotsky show that the internal
and external sides of speech form a unity, but each has its own characteristics.
Vygotsky’s ideas remain relevant to this day and give support to new
research in psychology. Developing Vygotsky’s ideas, we can assume that
the process of interiorization extends to many mental processes, in particular,
to embedding the image of the psychotherapist in the client’s mental reality.
In our study, we attempt to describe the general characteristics of the process
of internal dialogue between the client and their therapist and analyze the
client’s internal dialogue as a process of interiorization of the therapist’s image.
Our hypotheses.
1. In the process of long-term therapy or after its completion, the client may
experience an internal dialogue with their therapist.
2. The internal dialogue of the client with the therapist has certain characteristics.
3. Internal dialogue can be part of the process of internalizing\ interiorization
the therapist’s image.
We have compiled two questionnaires with open and closed questions,
and 61 people were invited to participate in the study. The fi rst questionnaire
includes 25 questions and is aimed at describing the relationship between
the characteristics of long-term therapy and the characteristics of the client’s
internal dialogue. The second questionnaire includes 10 questions and is intended
to describe the characteristics of therapy for those clients who do not
have an internal dialogue with the therapist.
Analysis of the client’s internal dialogue process as a process of internalizing
the therapist’s imaginary image has shown the following:
– the quality and features of imaginary contact are directly related to the
duration of therapy: when the duration of therapy is more than 5 years,
more than 39 % of respondents have an internal dialogue; when 3–5 years
of therapy, more than 27 % of respondents indicate the presence of this
– according to our data, more than 80 % of respondents have an internal
dialogue during therapy. After the end of therapy, it gradually stops: in
15 % of respondents, it lasts for about 3 years after the end of therapy; but
in some cases (about 2–3 % of respondents) it continues for quite a long
time (more than 3 years after the end of therapy);
– respondents describe the quality of their therapeutic alliance with the
therapist as excellent (54 %) and good (41 %): the presence of internal
dialogue is associated with the client’s personal perception of the quality
of contact with their therapist;
– more than 60 % of respondents do not discuss their internal dialogue during
real sessions. At the same time, about 40 % of survey participants do so;
– analysis of detailed responses from respondents about the reasons for voicing
or omitting the fact of internal dialogue, as well as clarifi cation of
clients about the topics of dialogues, their experiences and considerations
about the imaginary dialogue, shows that clients go through a long process
of building internal contact with the therapist and internalizing their image;
– when the period of collaboration is short (about 1 year), 21 % of respondents
say that they omit the fact of internal dialogue;
– insuffi cient contact with the therapist or lack of trust in them for 47 % of
respondents becomes an obstacle to voicing the fact of internal dialogue;
these respondents, probably, are only at the beginning of the process of
interiorization the image of the therapist in their internal life; these respondents
indicate the “lack of any strong feelings” towards the therapist
and to the fact of their imaginary dialogue with them;
– 40 % of the respondents, as we pointed out above, state the fact of their
dialogue during sessions, and this also occurs for a variety of reasons:
long period of work or high quality of contact and confi dence in the therapist
are critical factors for making internal dialogue the focus of the live
sessions; these respondents speak of “continuity of work”, “the transition
of the real sessions into the internal work”, “the importance of dialogue”,
“the importance of the therapist”, interest, shame, joy, anger and other
feelings in the process of therapeutic work. It is interesting to note that
this percentage of respondents does not correlate with the duration of
therapy. These respondents are probably in the process of internalizing
the image of their therapist based on good real contact with them. This
process is not linear, but takes place in stages and “spirals”: respondents
say at the same time that they can discuss the internal dialogue, and are
afraid of it, and are ashamed, and are happy to have a good contact;
– about 19 % of respondents also indicate that they do not mention the fact
of internal dialogues, but they seem to do it for other reasons: all these
respondents have been in therapy for more than 5 years; in addition, their
responses indicate the presence of a “pocket therapist”, “internal” therapist
and awareness of working with a real person in sessions. It is possible that
the process of interiorization in these respondents is at a deeper level, when
the image of the therapist is embedded in their internal life and communication
with the internal therapist goes in parallel with the actual work in
the sessions, but this observation requires clarifi cation in further research;
– internal dialogue with the therapist is not a full-fl edged dialogue, there is
a redistribution of dialogue activity: during the dialogue, the client mostly
“speaks” themselves, almost without entering into internal interaction
with the interlocutor (72 % of respondents). Out of this number, 43 % of
respondents say that their internal dialogue is similar to the real one at the
sessions, and 37 % specify that they would like to continue this dialogue at
the session. Probably, these respondents have a process of internalizing the
image of the therapist and the image of the “session”, for them the process
is continuous and passes from the imaginary plane to the real one and back.
Thus, the description of the features of internal dialogue can be useful
for a more complete and deep understanding of the process of psychotherapy
and the process of internalizing the image of the therapist by the client and
building their internal contact with him. For practicing psychologists, understanding
the process of embedding their image in the client’s internal life can
help when working with the dynamics of psychotherapy, and using a questionnaire
will give an idea of the structure of the client’s internal dialogue.
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