I could have called this ZT Skills, but I don’t like the idea of reducing therapy to a set of skills, as though you could build it up like a set of lego bricks. Rather it is an art. To play music you might need certain abilities with a keyboard or set of strings, but good music is not primarily technical in that way. It requires a feel for the whole, an acumen that is difficult to teach and cannot be broken down into component parts. Nonetheless, we can list some things that a good therapist using a ZT approach will do.
1. Notice what comes first
This is a principle of wide application that fits into several others that I shall mention. Thus, notice the very first thing the client says. If you are busy making the client feel comfortable or dealing with preliminary administrative matters you may miss it. Often clients give away a key to the whole matter in their first utterance. The personal koan seems to press forward and take precedence.
2. Note rupas
As the client tells his story, there is likely to be embedded a parade of rupas. Notice them all, but particularly, again, notice what comes first. If the client starts by saying, “I have three daughters and I’m having a lot of problems with the youngest, Emily…” then some time will now likely be spent talking about Emily, but when that ebbs, the therapist will say, “You said you had three daughters…” Even if the client dismisses this with “Yes, but the others are no trouble,” the therapist can persist a little, “That’s nice, tell me about them, what are their names?” “Charlotte and Jane.” “So tell me about Charlotte.” again picking the first. We’ll come back to Jane later.
3. Notice when the rupa has power
Sometimes it seems as if Emily is actually present in the room standing before the client. You can tell this from the client’s eye movements and general animation and orientation. The client, talking of the rupa, is in a samjna trance. During these periods the client will experience all the thoughts and feelings he has in relation to the real Emily. However, he is not yet seeing Emily as she actually is, only seeing the rupa, not yet the dharma.