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This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Healing Relationship

Yesterday a patient was in for her last session.  As we were reviewing the road we had traveled together---the work she had done, the progress she had made, her plans for future growth, I commented on the importance of what we were doing.  In other words, therapy has stages, a beginning, a middle and an ending stage.  We were, by doing this overview and tying up loose ends, moving through the last stage.
These stages will take place in varying time frames, anywhere from a few months to a number of years.  As we talked about that, I told her that many people skip the stage that she had been doing.  They terminate their therapy relationship by leaving a voice mail message.  (this is a disadvantage to both the patient and the therapist).  Her response was that she imagined that most people think of a therapist as simply a service provider who doesn't really care personally about them.  She thought it would be a common assumption for a patient that they are just one of many and don't matter much to the therapist.

I felt stunned when I heard this; it is such a different view from what my experience is.
After thinking about it a bit, I realized that, indeed some therapists do function this way; there is a position of indifference on the part of some. They may have a particular theory they have adopted and each client is run through that system, put through their paces, so to speak.   Other therapists take a teaching position.  Some say they can do therapy with anyone - it makes no difference; they do what they do regardless of who's in front of them.  I once had a therapist say to me:  Therapists sell their time.   These are all cold, detached positions to take, in my view, but the last struck me as burned out and bitter.

Fortunately, this grim picture is not my picture nor is it what I see most of my colleagues doing.  The truth is, I put my heart out to the people who come to see me.  I treat my patients with the highest regard.  I honor the fact that they are sharing their personal triumphs, the painful parts of their lives, their confusion, and sometimes their innermost secrets.  The empathy I feel is real.  The compassion I offer is true.  The respect I show is genuine.  In fact, it's difficult for me to imagine how a therapist could witness these intimate personal expressions that patients offer and not be moved.  Do we have to remain professional in demeanor, ethical in behavior, and, all the while keep our thinking caps on?  Yes, of course.  But, most of us are also human!

Part of the position I take in conducting therapy is that the therapy relationship itself is (or should be), healing.  I am there to learn about and accept this individual before me with all their assets and all their flaws.  I am there to join with that person, to create together, something completely new.  As I have said in earlier posts, I am convinced that each person in this world is unique.  So, while the problems presented in the therapy office have commonalities, the resolution is always different.

Therapy offers good attention.  You can't fake that.

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