Psychotherapeutic relationships in critical situations

lpsys2733  2021-2022  Louvain-la-Neuve

Psychotherapeutic relationships in critical situations
6 credits
45.0 h + 15.0 h
Main themes
This course intends to acquire advanced psychotherapeutic relational skills within the person-centered and experiential approach. The theoretical and empirical bases of the efficacy of psychotherapeutic relationships will be presented together with the efficacy of teaching programs to helping skills. The acquisition in depth of psychotherapeutic relational competences will be done through the illustrations of themes and critical situations and practical exercises facilitating the development of the student's congruence (i.e., the identification-awareness of what is going on in oneself and in relation to other persons and the adequate expression of the psychologist's experience during his/her contacts with clients), empathy and unconditional positive regard. It will also occur when reflecting and analyzing other factors that contribute to therapeutic change (i.e., the client's characteristics and extra-therapeutic factors, therapeutic techniques and tools, client's expectations).
Themes/illustrations/witnesses will be provided where the psychologist is confronted to interpersonal difficulties that are at the intersection of their own person, that of the client. For example, how to deal with the therapeutic distance, the therapeutic setting, and therapeutic ruptures/drop outs, the (lack of) motivation to change. These will help to develop the student's knowledge (psychological processed involved), know-how-to-do and way of being. In addition to face-to-face settings, more complex situations will be explored and experienced (couple, family, and group). The critical situations involved deal with for example suicide, death-bereavement-grief, the affective bonds between the therapist and the client, ambivalence to change (no or partial change or relapses).

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :

1 In line with the LOs of the Master in psychological sciences,
On successful completion of this course, each student will be able to:
Primary LOs :
F1. To use the means and opportunities for self-development as a person;
D1. To actively listen to others in learning situations
B3. To implement an interpersonal intervention, totally or partially, and to evaluate its effectiveness
D2. To interact and collaborate in a network in a manner appropriate for learning situations
E3. To act as a professional in the field of psychology, referring to the principles of, among others, ethics and deontology
Secondary LOs :
A1. To master knowledge that may help explain and understand an individual
B1. To master knowledge concerning interventions intended to improve a given situation (individual, group);
C1. To present a summary verbally and in writing, adapting it to suit the different target objectives
D3. To adopt an open and critical attitude to others and oneself in learning situations
This course proposes a person-centered and experiential approach, both in its contents and learning methods.
The courses covers:
1. the theoretical and empirical bases of the efficacy and effectiveness of psychotherapeutic relationships with adults as well as of the forms of trainings to helping skills.
The chapters deal with aspects related to how one can facilitate therapeutic efficacy through an empathic, congruent and respectful relationship: dealing with the therapeutic distance, affective bonds between client and therapist, the therapeutic setting, client's ambivalence to change, the therapist's role, his/her training, his/her self-care.
2. Illustrations of themes and critical (i.e., complex) situations are provided where the psychologist is confronted with relational difficulties that are related to his/her own person and his/her client/s:
     a. Losses and griefs
     b. Suicidal thoughts, intentions and behaviors
     c. Other therapeutic settings, in particular the use of media and/or group settings
Teaching methods
The advanced helping skills and therapeutic attitudes are learned progressively by the means of lectures followed by practical exercices.
In line with the person-centered and experiential approach, the lectures present the theoretical, empirical and practical knowledge related to the development, maintaining and rupture of psychotherapeutic relationships during situations called "critical", i.e., complex. To illustrate, situations dealing with losses and grief or suicide that clients face are presented. Practionners or witnesses are invited to contribute to the course. The theory and empirical bases of the efficacy of trainings to advanced helping/therapeutic skills are presented, leading to show the usefulness of the various learning methods that are used in this course.
The practical exercices facilitate student's experience and reflexivity. They include:
1. a part centered on the personal development of the student by means of a non directive encounter group that facilitate the student's authentic way of being, their personal and interpersonal emotional competences. Encounter groups of max. 16 to 20 students are formed (12h, i.e., 3X4hours) and are co-facilitated by two persons (from the team composed of the professor and the assistants).
2. a personal investment in self-learning with the website (e-learning) developed by  Jaeken et Zech (2014) to develop 5 advanced helping skills (those following the 7 basic helping skills learned during the course LPSP1308: Helping interview)
3. guided but unsupervised practical sessions "at home" in subgroups of 3 to 4 students (debriefed role plays, recordings, written summaries of the exercices that are done)
4. practical sessions in subgroups of 16-20 students that are supervised by the professor and the assistants and which involve the collective debriefings of the homework, several practical exercices on oneself and role plays that are video-recorded and debreived
5. the use of a reflective journal to address, confidentially and personnally, the student's learnings throughout the semester of courses and personal and professional experiences
the practical exercices aim at directly experienting relationships, at developing an open and critical attitude toward the components of the psychotherapeutic efficacy/effectiveness but also student's personal and interpersonal therapeutic skills (know how) and attitudes (way of being), including his/her presence, congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard.
Evaluation methods
The written exam with open questions related to cases (written or recorded) provides 100% of the grade. The student will be evaluated on the personal integration that he/she will have made between the theoretical contents (his/her knowledge of the studied material) and his/her practice of psychotherapeutic relationships as experienced in these cases (development of know how and way of being).
Participating in the practical sessions will only be allowed provided the signature of an informed consent dealing with the student's participation, professionalism and self-disclosure. Participating to the practical sessions is highly recommended and is not subject to certificative evaluation. A serious breach to respect the code of psychologist's conduct leads to failing the course (0/20) and being excluded from the practical sessions.
Other information
Course regristration
The official course registration is to be done in conjunction with the submission of a letter of motivation explaining the coherence between the participation to this course with regard to the student's learning trajectory and professional projects (to be provided in paper version after the first lecture and by the second lecture). The participating student is required to registrer on MoodleUCL.
Learning supports
The slides of the course are available on Moodle. The students are required to register in Moodle for their assignment to the practical working subgroups and for the exchange of information. The main references are also available on Moodle (articles and chapters) or at the library.
Target audience
This course is a deepening and personal development course for students in adult clinical psychology and health psychology.
Online resources
1. e-learning website (Jaeken & Zech, 2014)
2. MoodleUCL course LPSYS2733
Les ouvrages suivants sont conseillés :
- Zech, E., Demaret, G., Priels, J.-M., & Demaret, C. (Eds.). (2021). La psychothérapie centrée sur la personne et expérientielle : Fondements et développements contemporains. De Boeck Supérieur.
- Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2006). L'entretien motivationnel: Aider la personne à engager le changement. InterEditions-Dunod.
- Zech, E. (2006). Psychologie du deuil. Impact et processus d'adaptation au décès d'un proche. Editions Pierre Mardaga.
- Séguin, M. et Huon. Ph. (1999). Le suicide. Comment prévenir, comment intervenir. Editions Logiques.
- Lafleur, Ch., & Séguin, M. (2008). Intervenir en situation de crise suicidaire. Chronique sociale.
Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Master [120] in Psychology