What is psychotherapy really for?
It seems there is an ongoing debate between differing approaches in therapeutic circles. Is psychotherapy at its best when we are creating a strong relationship and the potential for clients to just be, exactly as they are? Or is it most effective when we are using set interventions that have been tried, tested and evidenced for particular mental health conditions? In a nutshell, is our role to be, or to do?
As an outcome-oriented, constructivist therapist this apparent dilemma often leaves me scratching my head. I see psychotherapy as an endeavour in modelling. The job of the therapist in my mind is to assist the client in developing an understanding of HOW it is they do what they are currently doing. What patterns are at play? How do they show up? How is the client being and is that working for them?
Oftentimes simply observing, making space for and accepting our way of being is enough. For sure it is from a place of compassion and sponsorship that transformation flows. In the therapy room, if we judge symptoms and attempt to end or minimise them, we risk cutting off a part of the client that is seeking expression and validation.
Wholehearted acceptance and attunement are essential ingredients for healing. Only by completely facing into and accepting what is currently present can we hope to set ourselves free from it. How is it that symptoms can reveal their truth, their gifts? You might think this means I fall on the being side of the debate.
However, once the structure of a client's experience is illuminated, then using interventions that match that structure are likely to be beneficial. Techniques may well have a place, and it is useful to know which have an evidence base for which circumstances. Therapy is about experimentation, about new learning, about doing something different.
Let's end the infighting about whether we are in the room to be with clients or to do with clients. For me the truth is that both matter. We can be a catalyst only by being real, by being present, and by handing power to the person to whom it belongs, the client. We may well need to be an active agent of change to achieve this.
For psychotherapy that helps you to be yourself, at your best, get in touch.