Kelly’s Circle of Safety and Healing: An Extended Schema Therapy Narrative and Interpretative Investigation
This is a narrative case study of the psychotherapy of Kelly (pseudonym) that describes processes that took place within the last 17 sessions of a longer therapy of 67 sessions over a period of 26 months. A phenomenologically grounded and coherent account takes readers on an experiential journey that enables them to live through aspects of the process at least partially. These processes began in session 52 in which Kelly saw an image of a circle of caring people within which a series of child parts of herself were able to find a sense of safety and holding. Over the course of the sessions, eight different child parts approached and eventually entered the circle, each representing a different dissociated set of early schema patterns, each with its own related emotional distress. Through dialogue work and imagery rescripting, the predicament of each child and her unmet needs were brought into focus. This served as the basis for providing corrective emotional experiences that led to the child parts feeling able to voluntarily step into the circle. The material serves as the basis for theoretical-interpretative investigations with a focus on the phenomenology of memory and transformation in experiential psychotherapy. This is organized under several themes: (1) complexes, schemas, and internal working models; (2) autobiographical memory and the working self; (3) the “theater of consciousness” and the “theater of the imagination”; (4) understanding the figures that entered Kelly’s healing circle; (5) how far back can we remember? (6) reparenting, corrective experiences, and imagery rescripting; and (7) coping decisions and demanding and punitive features in coping modes. A brief conclusion aims to contribute to our understanding of the phenomenology of corrective experiences and psychological transformation.