Traumatic Incident Reduction Association

Articles on TIR and Related Technique

The views and opinions expressed in these articles and interviews are those of the individuals speaking, and do not necessarily represent those of Applied Metapsychology International or the TIR Association.

Case Planning and the Use of Exploration

By: Marian Volkman, CTS
This article originally appeared in the TIRA News & Views Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 3 (October 1999)

Let us first take a look at the gradient of techniques from easiest for the viewer to do, to the most challenging. It is much easier to increase the gradient of difficulty with a client than it is to bail out from a too difficult technique. Simple Exploration[1] is the least demanding of all techniques for the client. Ironically, it is one of the most demanding for the facilitator because, unlike techniques with set questions, which are used repetitively in a pattern, such as Unblocking and TIR, Exploration has no set questions at all. The facilitator must be nimble enough to keep thinking up new relevant questions in the moment, while still maintaining the Rules of Facilitation. Of course all therapists and counselors make use of these skills, and must have command of them in order to get results with their clients. However, doing Exploration as a technique within a purely person-centered framework offers special challenges and is a skill in itself.

When in doubt, always start with Exploration. If a Traumatic Incident presents itself and your client is eager to address it, by all means do so, but if you are not exactly sure whether an area of interest to the client would be best addressed by using TIR, Unblocking or another technique, start by doing some Exploration to get a fuller picture. Sometimes you will find an issue to resolve completely just with Exploration alone.

Next on the gradient is Unblocking. It asks the viewer to look at an area in a variety of ways but it is a gentle technique in that, if there are no answers to a question, you just move on to the next one. This technique is very productive, given that you have chosen a fruitful area to address; and it is easy on both the facilitator and the viewer, allowing each to work steadily without having to contemplate where to go next.

A refinement on the use of Unblocking from the case planning standpoint is to make a list of possible topics around a subject that has come up in order to be sure of getting the most productive wording to address. For instance, if your client comes in with difficulties about his or her job you could just do Unblocking, "Concerning your job, is there anything that has been              ?"

The more thorough way to approach the subject is this:

  1. Make a list such as: "Your job, your work environment, your boss (or your employees, depending on which fits the situation), your productivity, your success at work, your abilities at work."
  2. Read this list to your client.
    1. Ask him/her to add any phrases she feels belong on the list. (This is often where you get the most useful items to address.)
    2. Ask the viewer to pick the item which seems the most interesting for the purpose of bringing about clarity on the subject. Take the one s/he gives you and do Unblocking on it.
    3. Once you have reached an end point on that action, check the list to see if there is another item which now attracts his/her interest to address with Unblocking. You may run out of items which have enough emotional charge and interest to warrant Unblocking, but are of sufficient interest that Exploration on them is useful. Determine this by consulting with your client.

The next gradient is repetitive Recall techniques, such as the one at the back of the basic TIR Workshop Manual (Remedial Recall List). Within this category, recalling something pleasant is a lighter gradient than recalling something more challenging. Handling Disturbances[2] (Upsets; Problems; Withheld Communication) is intended to be a fairly light technique, but it does require the client to look at events in a very detailed way. Since quite a number of earlier similar events may need to be found and handled as well, Disturbance Handling may present more of a challenge to the viewer than the techniques covered up to this point.

A special application of Disturbance Handling is to explore and handle Disturbances in a particular area. For instance: "At work have you had an upset?" (If so, handle it.) Then, "Is there another upset you have had at work?" etc., until all upsets in the area are handled. Then, "At work have you had a problem?" (As above) and "At work have you withheld some communication?" (As above).

Between Basic TIR and Thematic TIR, theoretically the Basic application is easier on the client, as he is dealing with a known incident and the technique often goes to an End Point within the context of addressing that one incident without having to go earlier to find another one. In Thematic TIR, since the client is starting with a feeling rather than an incident, he must go looking for incidents. We expect him to need to look for a number of earlier incidents with the common theme in order to reach an End Point. Accordingly, Technical Directors tend to write case plans which emphasize Basic TIR early on and don't bring in Thematic TIR until later.

As long as your client is up to the demands of TIR in the first place, however, he will probably do fine with Basic, Thematic, or Future TIR[3]. It's more important that you use the right tool to do the job at hand than that you be too strict about which TIR application to use in which order.

The Overwhelmed Viewer

When you have a client who has become overwhelmed by life events (or by application of too difficult a gradient in session, though this should be rare) even Exploration may be too much. In that case, use Remedies[4], specifically the Orientation Remedy and the Touch Remedy to orient and stabilize the person. If a client is very distraught, some Communication Exercise 2 (CE2) can be very stabilizing.

For chronically overwhelmed viewers only the lightest methods should be used in short sessions to build up their resilience. An example of this would be starting each session with an Orientation Remedy (to a point of the client feeling more present and stable); a Touch Remedy (to make the person feel more comfortable in his/her body); some Exploration on fairly light topics; and eventually one could try some TIR on pleasant memories. This last is helpful for building up the confidence of someone who feels buffeted by life. You explore to find a specific pleasant memory, then use the TIR steps as you would in Basic TIR to an End Point of your client brightening up and extroverting his attention.

Regardless of whether a viewer is experienced and running well, just getting started with viewing, or overwhelmed, the values of having a written case plan are that it makes your job as a facilitator much easier and it keeps you from forgetting to cover an area of client interest and concern. The broader subject of Applied Metapsychology, of which TIR and its related subjects are a part, contains a wealth of further techniques and case planning strategies.


1Exploration: A relatively informal viewing technique in which the facilitator asks questions to get the viewer to look at and talk about different items and records the answers given. Exploration may be done as a separate interview or as part of a viewing session.   Back to text

2Handling Disturbances (upsets, problems and worries, misdeeds, withheld communication) is taught on the TIR Workshop, the TIR - Expanded Applications Workshop and the Life Stress Reduction Workshop.>   Back to text

3Future TIR is taught in the TIR-Expanded Aplications Workshop. Future TIR can be used when a viewer's attention is fixed on events that have not occurred yet, but that s/he is sure will occur or that s/he is afraid will occur.   Back to text

4Remedies are Applied Metapsychology techniques developed for the specific purpose of providing immediate help to someone who has had a physical or emotional shock. Remedies can be found in Appendix One in the textbook Psychology: An Introduction to Metapsychology by Frank A. Gerbode, MD, and in Life Skills: Improve the Quality of Your Life with Applied Metapsychology by Marian Volkman. See www.tirbook.com.   Back to text

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