Therapy isn’t easy. Most of our wounds and defenses are the result of what has happened to us and those around us. Numerous factors contribute to how the process of counseling evolves: your readiness, your fit with your therapist, and even aspects of yourself of which you may not yet be consciously aware.
The Elements of Good Therapy
As I previously mentioned, it is important to have the right fit between client and therapist. Some of the ways I endeavor to work are:
Whole Person. Viewing a person as greater than his or her problems is the hallmark of non-pathologizing therapy. It means that even though problems exist, there is much more to the whole person than the sum of the problems.
Empowering. As an empowering therapist, I maintain the belief that people can grow, heal, and transform. This hope is held no matter the intensity one’s defenses and wounds.
Working Together. The spirit of this type of therapy is summarized in the words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer who wrote, “Each patient carries his own doctor inside him… We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.” This happens when the therapist trusts the person 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.
Relationship. I believe that the main way that therapy is helpful and transformative is via the relationship that develops between the client and therapist. It represents an 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 feel and grow a sense of Self while in the presence of another.
Depth. Therapy often times needs to go deep. There seems to be a split in the mental health field between types of therapy. One school of thought emphasizes cognitive and behavioral solutions and the other emphasizes emotional, body, and relational healing. Both are important. However, my experience is that healing takes more than insight about a problem, cognitive countering, or surface behavior change. Rather than avoiding, challenging, or compensating for our suffering, healing requires an exploration into what fuels extreme beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. Treatment without going deep can be like stitching up a wound without removing the bullet; it’s more likely to remain sore, to infect, and to require ongoing attention.