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Six Categories
of Interventions
Mark Stancombe, Psychotherapist & Counsellor
mstancombe@move-forward.org
• Because when we are with a client it is imperative to understand
how we are interacting with them
• Because we need to understand how we are received/experienced
• Because we need to understand ourselves so that we can
understand our client [“how am I experienced?”]
• Because understanding empowers us in the therapeutic relationship
• Because how we deliver ‘help’ determines success & impacts the
relationship we are building with the client
• Because NOT ALL INTERVENTIONS ARE SUPPORTIVE*
* let’s choose carefully then 
If the idea of categories seems a little technical or
impersonal [after-all, we are looking at people in a
relationship] then replace the word with ‘style’ instead..
The six styles of interventions………
• A conceptual framework for understanding interpersonal
relationships
• A means of analysing a range of possible therapeutic
interactions between a client & their helper
“ An intervention* is an identifiable piece of verbal and/or non-
verbal behaviour that is part of the practitioner’s service to the
client ”
Heron 2001
IMPORTANT: Emphasis is on what the practitioner intended
to achieve in the interaction/intervention rather than on
the actual effect
* How many interventions can you name..?
• Two Fundamental Styles - Authoritative and Facilitative. These
sub-divide into six styles
Authoritative
Therapist is giving information, challenging the other person or
suggesting what the other person should do – We can say that the
therapist is taking a more assertive/dominant role, taking
responsibility for and on behalf of the client
Facilitative
Therapist is drawing out ideas, solutions, self-confidence, and so
on, from the client that can help them to reach their own solutions
or decisions. The therapist is seeking to enable the client to
become more autonomous and take more self-responsibility
• Prescriptive
Explicitly direct the client by giving advice and direction
• Informative
Provide information to instruct and guide the client
• Confronting
Challenge* the client’s behaviour or attitude
* not aggressive. Positive & constructive. Helping client see behaviour
they have been unaware of
• Cathartic
helping the client to express/overcome thoughts or emotions
that they have not previously confronted
• Catalytic
help the client reflect, discover and learn for them-self.
Towards self-actualisation. Self-reflection, self-direction, self-
awareness
• Supportive
build up the confidence of the client by focusing on their
competences, qualities and achievements
DEGENERATE: An inappropriate intervention which is
delivered in a misguided manner. Ineffective / Potentially
Harmful Interventions
“ Degenerate interventions are rooted in lack of awareness,
in lack of experience, lack of personal growth, lack of
training “
Heron 2001
• Unsolicited
Formal relationship hasn’t been established and proceeds
without the client’s consent
Intervention is overly intrusive or disrespectful despite the
relationship having been established
• Manipulative
Inappropriate interventions motivated by self-interest or any
interest other than those of the client
Being in control is most obvious. Where the therapist always
wants to lead and never follow the client
• Compulsive
Therapist projects their own unresolved psychological problems
onto the client during the intervention. Could involve
inappropriately attacking the client, colluding with the client or
overlooking important aspects of the client’s welfare
• Unskilled
Incompetent interventions caused because the therapist has
never had appropriate training and so has no grasp of the
quality, scope or suitability of their intervention
• Prescriptive Degeneration: -
* Benevolent take-over
Creating dependency by giving advice to an insecure
client who needs encouragement to be self-directing
* Moralistic Oppression
Creating rebelliousness by imposing authoritarian ‘shoulds’
‘oughts’ ‘musts’ on a client who might appreciate the
rationale but feels emotionally compelled to reject the
way in which it is presented
• Informative Degeneration: -
* Seductive Over-teach
Excessive information giving such that the client is
seduced into passivity and away from self-directed
learning
* Oppressive Over-teach
Therapist goes-on too long, giving out too much
information, insensitive to any evidence of the client
becoming fatigued or needing to contribute. The client is
held back from self-direction
• Confronting Degeneration: -
* Sledgehammer
Therapist raises issues aggressively, displacing their own
anxiety into a punitive attack on the client rather than on
the client’s attitude or behaviour
* Smiling Demolition
Therapist says hurtful things to the client in a smiling,
friendly or jocular way. The feedback is indirect,
therefore, confusing to the client who may deny hurting
badly
• Cathartic Degeneration: -
* Encouraging Dramatisation
Therapist mistakes dramatisation for catharsis then colludes and
encourages the client to act out in disruptive and destructive
ways. The drama that created the original hurt is re-enacted
rather than the release of harmful emotions
* Nut Cracking [too deep too soon]
Therapist takes the client’s defences by storm & makes a steep
intervention into deeply buried stress, which the client isn’t
ready to handle. This can cause the client to defend more
intensely or dramatise in an uncontrolled way
• Catalytic Degeneration: -
* Implicit Take-Over [compulsive search for order]
Therapist unwarily imposes meaning & order onto the
client’s story. The catalytic intervention centres on the
practitioners’ search for meaning & not the client
* Scraping The Bowl
The therapist, with discreet compulsion goes beyond
productive enabling & tries to enable the client to find
more to talk about in the same area. Therapist becomes a
Ferret
• Supportive Degeneration: -
* Moral Patronage [or ‘your character is coming along
nicely’]
Therapist handles the anxiety associated with true caring
& sharing by climbing into the pulpit to congratulate the
client on their self-improvement. Result is client feeling
subtly insulted & put down
* Qualified Support
Therapist can only give support if at the same time the
client is reminded of their inadequacy in some respect
Perverted: -
An inappropriate intervention which is deliberately malicious
& intentionally seeks to do harm to the client. It can leave a
client disabled, disadvantaged and in distress. A perverted
intervention damages!
• Perverted Prescription: -
“The deliberate use of force, threat, pain, compulsion in
constraining a person to act against that persons’ needs and
interests”
Heron 2001
• Perverted Information
“The deliberate use of misrepresentation, lies, calumny and
slander to harm the person about whom they are put forth, or
to whom they are addressed”
Heron 2001
• Perverted Confrontation: -
“Deliberate, punitive psychological attack on a person to wound
and incapacitate him or her emotionally. Torturing a person to tell
the truth or to confess to things never said or done”
Heron 2001
• Perverted catharsis: -
“Deliberately producing cathartic collapse and disintegration
through subjecting a person to extreme mental and physical stress
and pain. The disintegrated person may then be re-integrated in
terms of imposed suggestions and indoctrination”
Heron 2001
• Perverted Catalysis
“Deliberate and malicious seduction. Both in the sexual and in the
wider sense; intentionally leading a person on to his or her own
undoing by eliciting self-indulgent and self-destructive tendencies”
Heron 2001
• Perverted Support: -
“Affirming, supporting or encouraging the weak, distorted and
corrupted behaviour of a person”
Heron 2001

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An Introduction to the Six Categories of Intervention perspective [based on Heron]

  • 1. Six Categories of Interventions Mark Stancombe, Psychotherapist & Counsellor mstancombe@move-forward.org
  • 2. • Because when we are with a client it is imperative to understand how we are interacting with them • Because we need to understand how we are received/experienced • Because we need to understand ourselves so that we can understand our client [“how am I experienced?”] • Because understanding empowers us in the therapeutic relationship • Because how we deliver ‘help’ determines success & impacts the relationship we are building with the client • Because NOT ALL INTERVENTIONS ARE SUPPORTIVE* * let’s choose carefully then 
  • 3. If the idea of categories seems a little technical or impersonal [after-all, we are looking at people in a relationship] then replace the word with ‘style’ instead.. The six styles of interventions………
  • 4. • A conceptual framework for understanding interpersonal relationships • A means of analysing a range of possible therapeutic interactions between a client & their helper “ An intervention* is an identifiable piece of verbal and/or non- verbal behaviour that is part of the practitioner’s service to the client ” Heron 2001 IMPORTANT: Emphasis is on what the practitioner intended to achieve in the interaction/intervention rather than on the actual effect * How many interventions can you name..?
  • 5. • Two Fundamental Styles - Authoritative and Facilitative. These sub-divide into six styles Authoritative Therapist is giving information, challenging the other person or suggesting what the other person should do – We can say that the therapist is taking a more assertive/dominant role, taking responsibility for and on behalf of the client Facilitative Therapist is drawing out ideas, solutions, self-confidence, and so on, from the client that can help them to reach their own solutions or decisions. The therapist is seeking to enable the client to become more autonomous and take more self-responsibility
  • 6. • Prescriptive Explicitly direct the client by giving advice and direction • Informative Provide information to instruct and guide the client • Confronting Challenge* the client’s behaviour or attitude * not aggressive. Positive & constructive. Helping client see behaviour they have been unaware of
  • 7.
  • 8. • Cathartic helping the client to express/overcome thoughts or emotions that they have not previously confronted • Catalytic help the client reflect, discover and learn for them-self. Towards self-actualisation. Self-reflection, self-direction, self- awareness • Supportive build up the confidence of the client by focusing on their competences, qualities and achievements
  • 9.
  • 10. DEGENERATE: An inappropriate intervention which is delivered in a misguided manner. Ineffective / Potentially Harmful Interventions “ Degenerate interventions are rooted in lack of awareness, in lack of experience, lack of personal growth, lack of training “ Heron 2001
  • 11. • Unsolicited Formal relationship hasn’t been established and proceeds without the client’s consent Intervention is overly intrusive or disrespectful despite the relationship having been established • Manipulative Inappropriate interventions motivated by self-interest or any interest other than those of the client Being in control is most obvious. Where the therapist always wants to lead and never follow the client
  • 12. • Compulsive Therapist projects their own unresolved psychological problems onto the client during the intervention. Could involve inappropriately attacking the client, colluding with the client or overlooking important aspects of the client’s welfare • Unskilled Incompetent interventions caused because the therapist has never had appropriate training and so has no grasp of the quality, scope or suitability of their intervention
  • 13. • Prescriptive Degeneration: - * Benevolent take-over Creating dependency by giving advice to an insecure client who needs encouragement to be self-directing * Moralistic Oppression Creating rebelliousness by imposing authoritarian ‘shoulds’ ‘oughts’ ‘musts’ on a client who might appreciate the rationale but feels emotionally compelled to reject the way in which it is presented
  • 14. • Informative Degeneration: - * Seductive Over-teach Excessive information giving such that the client is seduced into passivity and away from self-directed learning * Oppressive Over-teach Therapist goes-on too long, giving out too much information, insensitive to any evidence of the client becoming fatigued or needing to contribute. The client is held back from self-direction
  • 15. • Confronting Degeneration: - * Sledgehammer Therapist raises issues aggressively, displacing their own anxiety into a punitive attack on the client rather than on the client’s attitude or behaviour * Smiling Demolition Therapist says hurtful things to the client in a smiling, friendly or jocular way. The feedback is indirect, therefore, confusing to the client who may deny hurting badly
  • 16. • Cathartic Degeneration: - * Encouraging Dramatisation Therapist mistakes dramatisation for catharsis then colludes and encourages the client to act out in disruptive and destructive ways. The drama that created the original hurt is re-enacted rather than the release of harmful emotions * Nut Cracking [too deep too soon] Therapist takes the client’s defences by storm & makes a steep intervention into deeply buried stress, which the client isn’t ready to handle. This can cause the client to defend more intensely or dramatise in an uncontrolled way
  • 17. • Catalytic Degeneration: - * Implicit Take-Over [compulsive search for order] Therapist unwarily imposes meaning & order onto the client’s story. The catalytic intervention centres on the practitioners’ search for meaning & not the client * Scraping The Bowl The therapist, with discreet compulsion goes beyond productive enabling & tries to enable the client to find more to talk about in the same area. Therapist becomes a Ferret
  • 18. • Supportive Degeneration: - * Moral Patronage [or ‘your character is coming along nicely’] Therapist handles the anxiety associated with true caring & sharing by climbing into the pulpit to congratulate the client on their self-improvement. Result is client feeling subtly insulted & put down * Qualified Support Therapist can only give support if at the same time the client is reminded of their inadequacy in some respect
  • 19. Perverted: - An inappropriate intervention which is deliberately malicious & intentionally seeks to do harm to the client. It can leave a client disabled, disadvantaged and in distress. A perverted intervention damages!
  • 20. • Perverted Prescription: - “The deliberate use of force, threat, pain, compulsion in constraining a person to act against that persons’ needs and interests” Heron 2001 • Perverted Information “The deliberate use of misrepresentation, lies, calumny and slander to harm the person about whom they are put forth, or to whom they are addressed” Heron 2001
  • 21. • Perverted Confrontation: - “Deliberate, punitive psychological attack on a person to wound and incapacitate him or her emotionally. Torturing a person to tell the truth or to confess to things never said or done” Heron 2001
  • 22. • Perverted catharsis: - “Deliberately producing cathartic collapse and disintegration through subjecting a person to extreme mental and physical stress and pain. The disintegrated person may then be re-integrated in terms of imposed suggestions and indoctrination” Heron 2001 • Perverted Catalysis “Deliberate and malicious seduction. Both in the sexual and in the wider sense; intentionally leading a person on to his or her own undoing by eliciting self-indulgent and self-destructive tendencies” Heron 2001
  • 23. • Perverted Support: - “Affirming, supporting or encouraging the weak, distorted and corrupted behaviour of a person” Heron 2001