An abreaction is something that can occur whilst a client is in trance.

  • Understanding what an abreaction is and how to effectively deal with in an ethical and safe way it is a very important part of working as a practitioner.

  • An abreaction can be defined as "the weakening or elimination of anxiety by the 'reliving' of the original tension-evoking experience.

  • 'Reliving' can refer to an imaginable or emotional re-experience as well as to an actual one" (Reher 1995).

  • Emotions expressed can include tears, laughter, shouting, contorted facial expressions or shaking.

There are two points to remember:

  • Always acknowledge an abreaction by saying something like:

“… it’s fine to feel whatever you are feeling …”

  • Always have a box of tissues available just in case.

An abreaction will in some way be beneficial to the client and aid in the therapeutic process.

  • An abreaction is natural, cathartic, and cleansing.

  • It is a form of release, lessening the intensity of whatever the client is experiencing.

  • An abreaction can be seen as a healing crisis.

It is important that the practitioner is aware of potential contraindications and the danger of re-traumatising the client.

  • Most abreactions will run their own course with only beneficial effects.

  • However, abreactions should be handled properly so that the client does not re-traumatise themself when reliving or re-enacting a traumatic experience.

  • Do not attempt to interrupt or stop an abreaction.

  • Abreactions often look worse than they are, so the general rule is to allow them to happen.

  • However, if you are concerned you can ask the client if they wish to continue.

  • If the client does not wish to continue, then it is important to follow a safe and ethical approach to any interruption or curtailment of the abreaction.

  • Never touch a client during an abreaction.

  • You can take your client “under” during the abreaction by giving suggestions to go

“… deep … deep asleep …”

or by using

“… NOWwww …”. deepener.

  • You can also use the suggestion:

“… let your mind go blank …”.

  • Taking your client to their favourite place of relaxation, or to a safe place, can get them away from the cause of the abreaction.

  • If your client seems to have spontaneously regressed, you can use the suggestion

“… back here … with me … in the present …” and state the time, date and location.

Practitioners will naturally want to offer comfort to the client on awakening, however it is important and ethical to maintain a neutral position.

  • So, only refer to the abreaction if the client talks about it.

  • They may not be ready to discuss it or they may have developed spontaneous amnesia for the abreaction.

  • If they do want to talk about it, let them know that they have done a good thing by letting this emotion out.

  • And, never put your arm around your client, or hug them.

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