Psychotherapy is intended to be an authentic encounter. An intimate, enabling space in which we as clients can be utterly who we are without condition. A place where we are acknowledged, honoured, and met in our wholeness. This is what gives psychotherapy its healing capacity, and without it, I’m not sure what is achieved.
Why is it then that there are commonly held views about taboo subjects that should not be mentioned in the therapy room? Be it politics, religion, sex, race, disability, culture or society, often times clients believe there are bits of themselves that are not welcome, or acceptable, in their own therapy sessions.
The concept of intersectionality illuminates the complex nature of how we each experience oppression and discrimination. Disadvantage is not one dimensional, the different ways in which we are in the minority or without power intersect, and they each need to be understood in context in order for us to heal and find our voice and power.
It is essential that in therapy we are able to hold all of our frailties, vulnerabilities, insecurities, traumas and wounds in the same space. We need to be able to bring it all, whatever it is that is meaningful and charged for us. We may or may not wish to work towards integration of all our inner stories, but at the least we need to know all comers are welcomed warmly. The alternative is to cause clients to split off parts of themselves, which is just another experience of silencing and oppression.
As therapists we are called to examine what it is we each do that stops aspects of our clients (and ourselves) into the room. What are we blocking? Where are we silent, or pretending that we know and hiding behind our ‘expertise’? What do we energetically withhold from ourselves or our clients in our way of being?
Our role as therapists is to be curious, to not know, and to be comfortable in that not knowing. We need to be at peace with silence and to make space for, acknowledge and welcome the unpalatable, the fragile and the wounded.
This work continually causes us to look at our own being, continually to grow and learn, and continually to feel humility in the face of our ignorance, prejudice and ineptitude. By confronting and holding our own experiences of intersectionality and the frailty of what it is to be human, we set our clients free to do the same.
As a client or a therapist, next time you check yourself and think ‘I better not bring that up’ there is a rich dialogue to be had about what just happened, what is happening in the relational space of therapy, and how you can together heal from the rupture.
Therapy is intimate, gritty, and real. In that lies its efficacy, and for me it’s draw. I really do have the most amazing job.