What is Chairwork?

Chairwork is a psychotherapeutic technique that takes two basic forms. To start, two chairs are placed several feet apart – each facing the other. In the “Empty Chair” version, the patient sits in one chair and tries to imagine an important person or figure in their life – past, present, or future. They then talk to this person as if he or she were actually there. For example, a patient who has been grieving over a loss can “speak” to the person who is no longer in their life and express their love, anger, and grief.

In the “two-chair” version, the patient will shuttle back and forth between the two chairs. In this way, they can have a conversation with an imagined person or they can have a dialogue with different parts of themselves. For example, they can speak from the part of themselves that wants to look for a new job and, switching chairs, from the part that is afraid of change.