• From practice to theory and back again •
Self-Guided Pilgrimage: Trusting the Process
Barb’s bewilderment was justified. The guided tour approach—working within the framework provided by Prochaska, DiClemente, and Norcross (1994)—while undoubtedly valuable in other contexts and for other purposes, was not the route for us. The changes I most seek and desire to support—in this instance as well as in my day to day work—are those which contribute to various aspects of growth on a personal level. In particular are those aspects that support emotional growth which in turn aid and support intellectual growth. In this instance the approach (my attempt to initiate exploration of the topic by introducing what proved to be an essentially abstract concept in this context) was not the one best suited to achieve this. While the smoking context provided a form of personal connection, there was no emotional connection to further bridge the gap, to “bring it home.” What was missing was a link between the process and the emotions. During a much later conversation, Barb summed up her response to this approach; she covered her heart with both hands and stated, “I felt empty in here.”
Recognizing the need for a stronger personal connection, I moved from a detached and theoretical approach to a more personal and practical approach—from studying change in its entirety to the exploration of options that would help Barb deal with pressing “in the moment” dilemmas in her life. These dilemmas varied in intensity, and during the span of the research we explored a number of personal and confidential issues that relate to her life as it is and as it was—with the hope of seeing how it might be.
Thus we turned away from the tour guide approach towards a self-guided pilgrimage. The emptiness Barb described in relation to the first approach seemed to be restricted to its use; as we moved away from it, she responded “from the heart.” As need prompted, she would set the agenda with her opening comments. On many occasions she came with a topic for conversation—a specific issue that was weighing heavily on her—and I would pick up the thread and work with her to explore it by introducing a tool for critical reflection.
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