I am often researching mental health modalities that can alleviate human suffering, build a steady bridge to the authentic self and increase creativity in the way people approach the issues troubling them. Voice Dialogue is a technique that fulfills all of the above. Here is my conversation with Bridgit Dengel Gaspard, an expert in this field and founder of the New York Voice Dialogue Institute.
MM: How do you use Voice Dialogue to help people overcome success blocks?
BG: Voice Dialogue operates on the fundamental principle that all of our selves are originally designed to protect us. When working with success blocks I facilitate different aspects related to the goal. For example, if I were working with someone who wanted to quit smoking (or was debating breaking up a relationship or whether to start their own business), I would genuinely listen to the pro and the con selves in relation to the issue. Obviously there is no debate about smoking. It’s unhealthy. From a voice dialogue point of view, I honor the concerns of a self that doesn’t want to quit. For example, a shy self might be nervous about how to hold a conversation without the security of a cigarette in their hand. In Voice Dialogue resistance is not necessarily the problem, but the pointer to underlying motivations that are at odds with the desire to successfully move forward. We explore this and often find the problem is that many selves are working with outdated ideas and methods they’ve used since childhood. We would address the social anxiety directly and come up with ways to stay connected to the community and cease smoking.
MM: Is there a connection between change and creativity and if so can Voice Dialogue expedite the change process?
BG: The non-judgmental and innovative aspects of Voice Dialogue make it uniquely qualified to enhance the natural connection between change and creativity; which are linked as change inherently includes getting out of your usual habits and comfort zones. As Master Voice Dialogue facilitator, Miriam Dyak notes in “Voice Dialogue Facilitation: Exploring New Ground”, the important focus is to create real evolution rather than a lot of dramatic upheaval that may ultimately revert back to the same old patterns and not support lasting change. Voice Dialogue works gently with each self. Think about it like the trim tab on a rudder of a large ship. The trim tab is a tiny little rudder that is easy to move and as a result the giant rudder begins to move easily as well. But if you were to try to move the big rudder directly, you’d meet a huge amount of resistance (and potentially crash the ship!).
By working closely with the different Selves (respecting their armor, concerns and gifts) and honoring how this is embodied, Voice Dialogue strengthens the ability to perceive and experience everyday reality through a more aware ego place, rather than by reacting directly through the selves. This develops new habits of centeredness, balance and self-awareness to support and hold the changes and new patterns of living. In Voice Dialogue, resistance is a self you can facilitate and enjoy the particular jewels of its wisdom. When we learn to do this, we have easier access to our inner selves and much more mastery over our energetic expression.
MM: What advice do you have for therapists who are curious about Voice Dialogue but feel hesitant about its use?
BG: Attend the workshop as it includes a full, live demonstration of a classic voice dialogue session, so you will see how an individual self is facilitated and encouraged to express itself, full-throttle from its point of view, with no editing. Afterwards information that was communicated from the self is processed. Attending the workshop lets you see for yourself some aspects that are non-verbal as another element Voice Dialogue focuses on is “linkage,” the underlying energetic connection that can enliven all human interactions. This is the picture of the “invisible” part of a relationship, the energy that is behind our actions and words. Becoming aware of linkage (or the lack of it) and learning to link consciously (instead of just experiencing energetic connection and disconnection through the selves) makes it possible for us to be intimate with others and at the same time maintain healthy boundaries. Being aware of linkage lets us see a whole new layer of reality in relationships that was previously invisible.
To learn more on your own time I recommend Embracing Ourselves, by the Drs. Stone & Stone, who developed this work. Another amazing how-to book I recommend is The Facilitators’ Voice Dialogue Handbook by Miriam Dyak.
Keep in mind that on a simple level, our entire society thinks of themselves and others in terms of parts, so you can rely a bit on your common sense when adding parts work to your clinical practice. An example I use is that nearly everyone has experienced the phenomenon of the alarm clock ringing at 5:30 AM. A part of you is adamant about staying in bed. Another part of you wants to be responsible and get out of bed. Still another part of you wants to play hooky and is excited to get up ONLY IF it means sneaking to the beach. Inner struggle ensues. This is a simple demonstration highlighting the fact that we are composed of many Selves, many parts of you, which is the basis of Voice Dialogue.
Submitted by Marianela Medrano, PhD, LPC, Founder of Palabra Counseling & Training Center, LLC.