Psychotherapy is a special kind of conversation and relationship that has the ability to heal and rebalance the mind of the patient or client. This healing and rebalancing takes place with the client’s own resources, supplemented by those of the therapist.
We come into psychotherapy because we are stuck in some way. Logic doesn’t really help; if it did, we could just think our way through our problems and we wouldn’t need therapy. The obstacles are ones of emotion and perception, of relationship and meaning. There are things that we don’t understand. Some of them are within ourselves, some are in the situations, and especially the relationships, in which we find ourselves. There is a lot to learn about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going; about who we are and who we want to be. About who we can be. Some of it we already know, deep within ourselves, even if it’s only as a kind of intuition or inkling. Some of it we will have to find out. This is what happens in psychotherapy.
In order for therapy to be effective, there has to be a good working relationship between the client and therapist, and the therapist needs to have the skills to help clients learn and work though whatever they may need to, to rebalance in mind and reengage in life. This means that selecting a therapist is one of the most important decisions that the client will make in determining the success of the therapy.
Many therapists talk about treating conditions, like anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. Medications are also advertised to treat conditions, with the idea that disordered brain chemistry causes the condition and medication fixes it. My focus is on the individual. Sally or Paul may have depression, anxiety, or PTSD, but Paul is still Paul and Sally is still Sally. I have to get to know each person in order to help him or her learn to cope more effectively with whatever problems bring them into therapy. There are certainly skills that I can teach clients to help them improve their self-observation and self-regulation, but not everyone wants to learn the skills, even if they might be helpful, and those who do will still need to learn them in their own way and time.
Some skills, like relaxation training or mindfulness, and some tools, like hypnotherapy, can be included within the context of a regular conversational psychotherapy. The treatment is tailored for the needs and preferences of each person.
My own view is that life is full of emotional, social, familial, economic, interpersonal and spiritual stress and insanity, as well as of truth, love, talent, and opportunity. The problems and disorders that we experience are often responses to the insanity of life, and to our lack of access to the truth, love, talent and opportunity within ourselves and around us. Sanity can be thought of as a more realistic perspective on the downsides and upsides of oneself and one’s life. With a more realistic perspective we can be clearer about what to do, what to avoid, and how to seek satisfaction. That’s the goal of psychotherapy, as I understand and practice it.
It can take several sessions, and sometimes even several months, for client and therapist to be clear about whether a good working relationship is being established. My attitude is that I am here to help my client find a therapist who is the best available match. If that’s me, great, but if it isn’t, I’m happy to help the client find a better one.
I’m not anti-medication, but I think medication is very much over-hyped and over-used. It’s needed when it’s needed. I am very enthusiastic about the potential ability of each of us to tap into our inner resources through appropriate work on ourselves. This can help us to engage in life more fully, more satisfactorily, and more sanely.
© Jay Einhorn, 2014