When Therapy Feels like “Whack-a-mole” Workshop with Matthew Elton

What do we do when we notice the “whack-a-mole” pattern emerging in therapy? This is...

Last updated 11 June 2024

What do we do when we notice the “whack-a-mole” pattern emerging in therapy? This is the pattern of a client making progress on certain issues, only for new issues to emerge, as if to replace the old ones. Transactional Analysis (TA) provides one way of thinking about this pattern by suggesting it occurs when we work on resolving “contamination” (a cognitive issue) but miss out on tackling “confusion” (a pre-cognitive issue). This distinction can be useful for both clients and therapists, not least because it helps make sense of approaches that, on the surface, don’t seem to relate to the “headline” issues the client is bringing.

The workshop will:

  • introduce some client case studies illustrating the whack-a-mole pattern
  • explain the TA concepts of contamination and confusion in a friendly way
  • talk about how the client’s “confusion” can also get the therapist confused and in this way keep the whack-a-mole pattern going
  • discuss the pros and cons of sharing the concepts of contamination and confusion with your clients
  • explore practical ways of breaking out of the whack-a-mole pattern

Course Content


Matthew Elton

Matthew Elton, DPhil, PG Dip (TA Counselling), BACP Registered

Matthew Elton is a psychotherapist based in Edinburgh and has been in private practice since 2005. He works with a wide range of clients and has a special interest in writers and artists. His formative training was in Transactional Analysis and he has since developed a strong interest in Narrative Therapy. Matthew regularly delivers talks and workshops in Scotland and across the UK on therapy practice and related matters.

This year he published Talking It Better: From Insight to Change in the Therapy Room (PCCS, 2021).

Before becoming fulltime as a practitioner, Matthew was an academic working on the philosophy of mind at the University of Stirling, then a manager in the charity sector. He is the author of a well-received volume on the philosopher Daniel Dennett for Polity’s Key Contemporary Thinkers series, published in 2003.

The Link Centre

This workshop in a collaboration between the Link Centre and Onlinevents

At the Link Centre we pride ourselves in delivering high quality options tailored to needs of clients and delivered in a relaxed, comfortable yet stimulating environment in which people feel safe to learn and develop. We work with individuals, groups, organisations, and educational establishments using the depth of our psychological knowledge, to facilitate growth and development.

Our training centre is located in the heart of the countryside, in Plumpton, East Sussex. It provides a variety of training rooms, extensive parking, and disabled access, to help meet the needs of individuals attending our courses. As well as this the centre has extensive grounds that can be enjoyed during lunch and tea breaks.

We also offer in-house coaching, training and consultancy that is tailored to the needs of our customers.

Our trainers and consultants are all fully qualified, experienced, skilled and accredited to both national and international level.

For more information about The Link Centre Visit thelinkcentre.co.uk