Being a Psychotherapist 2: Who is it that speaks?
In this second blog on the theme of being a psychotherapist, I am exploring the theme of who it is that speaks in psychotherapy.
At one level the answer to this question is perhaps obvious, it's the client. The psychotherapist co-creates a space with the client that enables the client to bring whatever is troubling them, to explore their goals and the current gap between reality and aspiration. The lion's share of the talking done is by the client.
And yet, the psychotherapist does speak, and what they say matters. If it did not, people would just talk to their friends and family and the therapeutic profession would not be needed.
Asking a client about previous experiences of therapy recently, they replied ‘It was excellent. The therapist didn't say much, but what she said was really powerful.' No pressure then!
If you conceptualize the speaker as a psychotherapist to be simply you, then there would be a pressure, a weight of responsibility in this. You may feel weighed down with an obligation to be profound, or to get it right.
Thankfully the truth of who speaks is much more subtle. Steve Gilligan reminds us that we are engaged in relational fields as we move through life. In the therapy room both client and psychotherapist are part of a shared relational field that arises when we are together.
Holding the premise that the client has the resources they need to be wise, somehow this client is in this room at this moment together with you. From the relational field you both share will arise what is needed.
Have you ever had the experience of words coming out of your mouth that surprise you? Insights you didn't know you had? That is the relational field at play.
So who is it who speaks? Whoever it is that is needed. Who does the client need you to be? What is present but not yet connected that can usefully be embodied and brought into awareness?
To be impactful as a psychotherapist, stop trying to do anything. There is no need to be clever, pithy, astute or anything else actually. Be there, be open, and channel what is in the ether. Allow it to be present in you, and from your groundedness express what you feel moved by your heart to express.
The most important quality you can bring to psychotherapy in my view is humility. It is not me who speaks. It is my role to enable what is ready to be expressed to show up. I am a conduit, resonating with my client, and continually checking in on what's good to do.
Psychotherapy is transpersonal. It is the relationship that heals. How can you get out of the way and let it be so?