7 - Privacy: The Essential Ingredient
The most important ingredient in the secure frame is privacy. You have a right to expect absolute privacy and confidentiality in therapy. You need to know that no outsider is listening in (either in fact or in unconscious perception), and that anything you say is safely contained in the therapeutic space, with no leaks. This assures you that it is safe to speak, because nothing you say can ever get outside the room.
But your privacy can be contaminated in subtle ways. Your unconscious mind will sense intrusion if you have to discuss an appointment with a secretary, if you can hear someone speaking outside the therapy room, or if your therapist talks to a friend or family member for any reason. In all of these cases, your unconscious mind will sense that outsiders have invaded your therapeutic space, and that it is not safe to talk because there is not sufficient privacy.
As an example, one therapist I saw occasionally discussed my case with my employer, who provided the therapy. Consciously, this seemed acceptable to me, since I felt my employer cared about me. But I never understood why it was so hard for me to reveal important feelings to that therapist (or to myself), or why I had so many dreams about betrayal and entrapment. After I learned what a secure frame was, I understood why -- and understood that I did not have one there.
Another therapist I know of violated the frame in another important way. My group member, his client, did not have a regularly scheduled appointment time with him. Each week she would call him and arrange an appointment. Consciously, they both said this was preferable since their schedules were so flexible. However, the fact that she had no assured place with him -- a reality perceived by her unconscious, of which the appointment behavior was a symptom -- prevented her from expressing any negative feelings in his presence. Unconsciously, she felt the frame was not strong enough to contain her anger.
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Copyright 1991,1996, 1999 Martha Ainsworth. All rights reserved. Please refer to reprint information before reprinting or distributing all or any part of this text.