The Pattern System for Psychotherapists, Part 3

The is the continuation The Pattern System for Psychotherapists


The patterns and capacities are arranged in dimensions, where each dimension corresponds to an area of psychological functioning. There are interpersonal dimensions, such as Intimacy, Conflict, and Power. There are personal dimensions, such as Accomplishment, Pleasure, and Self-Esteem. Each dimension contains two or more patterns and also two or more healthy capacities arranged in a way that makes clear which capacity is a healthy version of each pattern, and which capacity is need to transform each pattern.

You can create a client’s psychological profile by charting which pattern(s) and capacity(s) they have in each dimension. Or you can encourage a client to do this on their own and share it with you.

A Dynamic Profile

You can create a client’s psychological profile by charting which pattern(s) and capacity(s) they have in each dimension. Or you can encourage a client to do this on their own and share it with you.

This profile of your client’s psyche can change over time because it is based on how a client’s experience and behavior is determined by patterns vs. capacities. In fact, your goal in therapy is to help clients convert pattern into capacities, so the Pattern System focuses on exactly those aspects of a client’s psyche that are relevant to therapy.

People who have been working on themselves for years will often recognize that they once had a certain pattern, but now they have the corresponding healthy capacity. Or they may see that they used to have a certain pattern triggered under certain circumstances, but now it in no longer triggered in some of these situations.

This dynamic aspect allows clients to use the Pattern System to set goals for themselves in therapy and to track their progress over time.

Transference and Countertransference Patterns

Each pattern also has typical transference issues. For example, clients with a Caretaking Pattern may try to take care of their therapist, while clients with an Entitled Pattern often push the therapeutic boundaries by asking for special treatment. The Pattern System can help you to recognize your clients’ patterns that may be playing out in their relationships with you.

We all know that it is important to recognize when our countertransference reactions to a client are interfering with their therapy or undermining our therapeutic alliance. You have probably felt that niggling uncomfortable feeling when something with a particular patient isn’t quite going right–when you feel more reactive than you are comfortable with. The Pattern System can help you understand what might be going on in these situations in two ways.

(1) Each pattern that a client has elicits typical countertransference reactions from therapists. For example, therapists can get into power struggles with clients with a Controlling or Defiant Pattern. Or therapists can become overly involved with clients with a Dependent Pattern. By seeing clearly the interpersonal patterns of any given client, you can be on the lookout for reactions of yours that might interfere with their therapy.

(2) You can also can get insight into possible countertransference reactions by examining your own patterns. For example, a therapist with a Caretaking or Dependent Pattern may try to connect with schizoid clients too quickly and thereby frighten them. A therapist with a Prideful Pattern may become too dependent on having clients idealize them.

The Pattern System can be particularly helpful when a client’s treatment seems to be stuck. By understanding the client’s patterns, you can gain an understanding of where the bottleneck lies. The client may have one particular pattern that is blocking their going deeper into the issues they need to explore, or is keeping them from changing. Or the client might have a pattern that is undermining their therapeutic alliance with you, or triggering certain reactions in you that are waylaying the therapy.

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  1. Amanda Geffner says:

    Hi –
    I appreciate IFS and the creativity of your work. I’m introducing “Self-Therapy” to a client and wanted to access the companion workbook for us to use. I can’t seem to find it here on the website. Thank you for directing me to it, if possible!