What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy helps people work through the problems they are experiencing so they can move on and enjoy life more fully. In therapy sessions, you can talk about your problems with someone (me!) who will listen attentively and who will not judge you, who may ask questions to help you think about the problem in a new way and may give suggestions. One goal is to help you find options and make choices to solve problems and feel better. The quality of the listening and the connection with the therapist is vitally important.
Components of Good Therapy
I believe there are a handful of common denominators present in all forms of “good therapy.” These elements are described below.
- Non-pathologizing: Viewing a person as greater than their problems is the hallmark of non-pathologizing therapy. It does not mean problems do not exist, it means NOT viewing the problem as the whole person or the whole person as the problem. For example, rather than labeling a person who’s angry as an angry person, this style of therapy views one’s anger as just an aspect of the person. We do justice to a person’s true nature when we remember that behind the layers of protection, no matter how self-destructive or hurtful to others one has been, there is a loveable and vulnerable soul at the very core.
- Empowering: Empowering therapists maintain the belief that people can grow, heal, and transform. This hope is held no matter how intense one’s defenses and wounds are. People can heal if they want to and if they can contribute to their own growth. When a therapist sees beyond a person’s wounds and defenses and holds in mind their true nature, the person is more likely to discover their own true nature for themselves.
- Collaborative: Collaborative therapy can be established when a therapist encourages a client to become the co-therapist. Therapists who work collaboratively trust people to know themselves (or have the potential to know themselves) better than anyone else, to access their own wisdom, and to attend to their wounds. This style of therapy puts the client in the driver’s seat. Collaboration is not directionless, nor does it put the client at risk of further trauma.
- Self: Self is a state of being that therapists can embody when with their clients. It is a state of calm, curiosity, compassion, creativity, confidence, courage, connectedness, and clarity. Self is considered a requisite of good therapy because it is this state that allows a therapist to work collaboratively without pushing, without pathologizing, and without re-traumatizing.
- Relationship: Beyond technique and theory is the realm of the relationship: the ongoing human-to-human connection which provides the foundation for change. The relationship is the safe container which allows one to more fully and completely be themselves in the presence of another. The therapeutic relationship benefits from a therapist who feels unconditional positive regard in the face of whatever the client may be experiencing. Without a therapeutic relationship, there is no therapy.
- Depth: Good therapy oftentimes needs to go deep. Rather than turning away from, countering, or compensating for our suffering, healing requires an exploration into the depth of the wounds that fuel extreme beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. Healing also requires feeling. As it is often said, “If we can feel it, we can heal it.” Many of our extreme beliefs, feelings, and behaviors are maintained because we have, in an effort to survive, avoided the wounds, pain, and burdens that lurk beneath. Good therapy helps one to process and complete whatever hidden and unhidden wounds one has harbored.
- Therapy in the Midst of Global Crisis: There is growing evidence that environmental and climate issues are creating a lot of challenges for people. Many emotions are surfacing, including fear, anger, isolation, powerlessness, and exhaustion. It is important for you to know that it is safe to explore these issues with me and to explore the depth of these feelings. I can help you break the big fear into concrete questions and bite-sized actions. These are valid concerns to discuss in psychotherapy. I will help you to build resilience and to foster optimism to address the mental health impacts of climate issues.
* This is likewise true of other issues that can have traumatic effects be they political or health/epidemic related. It can be helpful to express the needs and feelings that come up in relation to this.
“For our relationships to flourish, we need to see them in a new way – as a series of opportunities for developing greater awareness, discovering deeper truth and becoming more fully human.”