by Carolyn Wood, CCT-Scotland
(Written after attending a Contextual-Conceptual Therapy (CCT) Level One Training workshop with Fredric Matteson, James Hayes, & Catherine Hobson in Cork, Ireland.)
The thrust of the CCT Level One Training workshop was that suicide is not something we need to medicalize and try ‘to get rid of’. Instead we need to go where the person is—where they are trapped. The client themselves directs us there, through their metaphoric language—their words/pictures/signals, and we, the therapist, need to hear, see and follow these, rather than ignore or treat them (the signals) as ‘madness’.
In CCT, suicide is seen as an identity crisis. The person is struggling between their two ‘selves’—who they are trying not to be (who think they are, as in the ‘bad’ person) and who they are trying to be (the ‘perfect’ or ‘good’ person). But the reality is that neither is the TRUTH—they are based on intrapersonal views of what they believe to be their self.
The suicidal person is caught between these two states yet neither of these states are real—they are both part of the false self, the ‘you’. The person struggles between these two, and at some point finds this impossible to live with. It is this that drives the person to want to kill their ‘self’, or what they believe to be their self.
What the person at this point is unable to see (and likewise, neither the family nor the clinicians—thus the “blindspot” from which the “blindsiding” happens) is that this “struggle” is with the split, or bifurcated, self and that their TRUE self is hidden beneath this struggle out of view. So when suicidal persons talk of feeling ‘lost’, ‘trapped’, ‘stuck’, or ‘being on another planet’—they actually do experience this TRUTH but they are initially unaware of the context that they are operating in. That is why suicide is seen as the only solution—‘the only way out’. The suicidal person needs to understand the context they are operating in before they can understand the actual problem.
The beauty of this model is that it works with metaphors, myth and creativity to challenge the false self and welcome back the TRUE self. Mythologist Daniel Deardorff, writing about Matteson’s work in “Suicide’s Untarnished Twin: The Paradox of Self & Soul”, says that when looking at the traditional cultures and initiation rites of passage, an elder guides the person into this area of the paradox—of the messy, dangerous, dark area—not ‘away’ from it; and through the person going into this place, a transformation happens and ‘re-birth’ occurs. This can be seen through other modalities where rituals and more traditionally cultural methods are drawn on, but which has not been brought into the health services of western cultures in regard to suicide.
So, with the CCT model the therapist does just this. Rather than trying to steer the person away from the pain, distress, suicide through soothing or sedation, the CCT therapist listens carefully to the person and goes into this confusion with them. Through entering into this confusion, the therapist works alongside the person both challenging and welcoming them. In the process, the limited false self “dies”/is transformed and the true self is reborn.