My first student placement was in a Psychoanalytic setting decades before systematized therapies like CBT arrived.

While in training my supervisor interpreted my words and body language in a traditional Freudian psychoanalytic way. I found some of these wrong or incomprehensible. Was I in denial?

In sessions with clients some obediently took up the offer to explore my insights. Others retained their defenses and postponed accessing the repressed ideas and feelings I had spotted by arguing. Some humored me (collusion) or hunted around for ways that my interpretations might be wrong (resistance). Others seemed politely baffled.

Clients were building on their own insights but I was not sure they were building on mine.

However timely and useful an interpretation seemed I was never certain that it might not be misleading in some way. Interpretations seemed to leave some confusion behind. Not that I minded confusion. Disorganized agencies, workers and chaotic moments can allow clients room to move.

Anyway in the end I didn't gain enough confidence to make interpretations. I did not want to risk anything that might make things worse.

Around this time research was showing that insight into psychological processes can bind anxiety but does not necessarily bring useful change. Activities, feelings and ways of thinking need to change as well..

The idea of compulsive Interpretations was also doing the rounds. Recognizable by the urgency of feelings and clarity of thought arising in a therapist as insight displaces listening. A client says something or a therapist recalls something that triggers a flash of insight. The therapist’s desire to share it becomes overwhelming. The client will be transformed and maybe awe-struck and a bit later grateful.

I began to wonder if interpretations might be for my benefit rather than my client’s. A way to resist taboo topics they were gradually working around to voicing or a way of keeping my frame of reference together.

Interpretation started to seem like compulsive therapist-centered activity. An expression of counter-transference. There seemed to be elements of anxiety here.

Looking through psychoanalytic literature I noticed intrusive and even hostile interpretations arose at moments when a therapist was beginning to feel powerless or frustrated. Given a therapist's' authority and a patients' dependence some interpretations seemed abusive.

How could anyone be sure of the accuracy or usefulness of their interpretations under the pressure to succeed especially if they had to keep publishing to maintain their place in their empire of experts, disciples, money and reputations? And how could I be sure of the accuracy of my evaluation of their insights? Many were very interesting and very enlightening – but were they useful?

When I read Rogers “Client Centered Therapy” I wondered if interpretations were needed at all. Were they heard? If they were heard were they understood? If they were understood were they remembered? Perhaps skipping them would be quicker and more effective.

In Person Centered Therapy a client makes the interpretations. The therapist allows insights to be elaborated by paying attention as they emerge.

A therapist becomes dominant and indispensable if they introduce their own interpretations or say what someone wants to hear or helps avoid uncomfortable feelings. They become part of the problem. Collusive therapeutic relationships tend to be protracted and profitable rather than productive.

A person centered approach helps avoid these comfortable impasses by concentrating on experiencing thoughts and feelings rather than rationalizing them.

No therapist is completely neutral. Their personality influences and leads to some extent. The way a therapist reflects back can evoke something that has not quite found its way into words or is hovering just below conscious awareness. Their tone of voice, timing or wording of a reflection can arouse thoughts that have not come together before.

Even reflecting something that has been said can be an indirectly implied interpretation if it leads too far beyond where a client is at into a therapist’s values or train of thought.