In the preceding Blog entry (What Therapy IS NOT) I was able to address some of the common misunderstandings regarding psychotherapy. I am now happy to be able to write about what therapy actually IS.
First, I would say that therapy IS an amazing opportunity. It is a chance to enter into a new frontier of understanding via a new way of viewing our “selves” and our lives. This is accomplished by what we call the therapeutic process, which refers to the series of methodologies, techniques, and interventions that can be applied and experienced within the encounter.
These methodologies, techniques, and interventions often differ between therapists based upon what orientations they have chosen to adopt. For example, a purely cognitive-behavioral therapist would tend to view thoughts as primary, while a purely psychodynamic therapist may be more interested in focusing upon feelings. Of course it is much more complex than this, but these are two commonly used examples of the differences between various schools of psychotherapeutic thought.
As many of you know, I have chosen to research and practice according to what is known as an Integrated Approach to Coaching, Counseling, and Psychotherapy, which means that I am not captive to one particular school or system, but am able to draw from several based upon the situations encountered and the individual needs of each client/patient. This approach is defined in great detail in the many Blog posts that precede this one, and has been captured colloquially via the concepts of The Journey to Wholeness and The Integrated Life, which defines two very meaningful and inspirational experiences that are available via therapy.
However, as I mentioned in the previous post, this journey towards integration is definitely not devoid of “pitfall and peril.” Hence, our second point is that therapy IS indeed a challenge.
Ask anyone who has ever done real therapy, and I believe s/he will tell you unequivocally that s/he either once quit, or at least thought about quitting therapy at some point in the process. The seasoned therapist’s response to this would be “Of course! Why wouldn’t we want to quit?”
What this response means is that we fully recognize and acknowledge the difficulties that come with this very bold endeavor. We therapists really do understand what our clients/patients are feeling and thinking as we co-journey with them through the pain, the sorrow, the loss, the regret, the confusion, etc. This is especially true of those therapists who have passed through the process themselves (all training programs should require it!).
However, on the other side of all of these challenges and difficulties lies a life of clarity, healing, and personal freedom. Point three: Therapy IS transformational.
Therapy can relieve repressions and suppressions, it can release self-doubt and condemnation, it can heals wounds, it can foster self-knowledge, it can clarify personal meaning, it can correct faulty thinking, it can rectify wrongs, it can highlight what is right, it can encourage motivation, it can enhance relationships, it can improve physical health, it can restore purpose and joy, it can make dreams come true . . . . .
It CAN indeed do all of these, and more, if one will only engage it, work it, and allow it.
Many who have walked this heroic journey could not imagine a life without having done it. The greatest fans of therapy are those who have experienced it. Surely that means something quite significant?
I leave you with a quote about therapy from Words that Heal:
“Some have referred to our work as ‘heroic,” but the seasoned Therapist knows that the true heroes of therapy are the Patients.”