Three Container Theory
I wanted to share with you all my Three Container Theory developed through my work facilitating Yoga and Talk Therapy Groups. I love this way of working because it offers clients three powerful, safe, and reliable spaces for connection, support, insight, community, emotional self-regulation, and ultimately transformation:
1. A safe relationship in individual therapy where patterns are uncovered, insights awaken the possibility of different choices, and the client feels seen, heard, and affirmed.
2. Group therapy allows members to risk connection as they support and learn from and sometimes confront one another. Through group therapy, members see beneath the exteriors we all present in our social lives to understand the commonality of the human experience.
3. Yoga is an ancient container for transformation.
Andrea joined the high school Yoga and Talk group as a junior in high school. In the group she shared that she was staying with a boyfriend she had outgrown for fear of being alone.
While she had been embarrassed to talk about it at first, she was surprised to find several kindred spirits who were experiencing the same thing or had in the past.
She was also able to articulate her worries about beginning to have an unhealthy relationship with food as a way to comfort herself.
Like many participants, she relates her discovery of her “true self” through yoga and meditation, and her willingness to share her self with group members as being key to her willingness to have a softer façade in her “real life.”
As Andrea’s defensiveness lessened, her relationship with her parents and her openness to receiving support from them improved dramatically.
Now a freshman in college, she has become adept at identifying and expressing her thoughts and feelings in ways that allow her to have a variety of satisfying friendships. She continues her yoga practice as a tool for gaining equanimity and awareness of how to make conscious steps on her path.
The groups that we have going at any one time are a group for high school girls, young adult women, Adult Women (27+), support group for therapists, groups for parents, and meditation groups for mothers. There are a few openings in each of the groups which all begin soon.
The yoga gives us an avenue to befriend our body (instead of feeling detached and acting against it), and through the body, to befriend our spirit and our soul.
With the yoga as the third container, integrated into their therapy experience, when a client is feeling dysregulated emotionally, the resource is built into the work – its already an available shared experience with the therapist that can be practiced in session or alone or in a community class.
I have many clients who report using yoga practices on a regular basis –it might be breathwork or repeating a particular mantra. It might involve creating daily practices, attending early morning sadhanas (daily practice), teaching friends or family, doing breath exercises in the car on the way to work or school, signing up for teacher training, and otherwise making it their own.
In yoga, just like in therapy, we alternate between equanimity (learning to soothe ourselves and regulate our emotions) and awareness (of patterns and opportunities for change). Each of these three containers offers a chance for deeper understanding and connection with ourselves and each other.