How It Works
What It Takes
WHAT to expect
- To better understand, with more insight and self-compassion, how you have ended up being exactly where you are in your life.
- To learn how to better rely on another person’s embodied presence and thoughtful mind, rather than just your own way of thinking and being.
- To work with a psychotherapist who is responsive and alive, who can be sensitive and attuned to your inner experience, and who thinks about you and your life differently than you.
- Expect a non-linear process, a series of highs and lows, movements forward and setbacks, revisiting familiar territory and finding yourself on completely new ground. Expect to make space for the familiar dilemmas and struggles to surface in the therapeutic endeavor, and allow for new ways of working with them.
- You will learn to call into question the most basic assumptions you have made about yourself and others; you will re-assess how these subconscious beliefs and expectations have served or not in the past, and how well they work, or don’t, now.
- You can expect face the tensions and contradictions of opposing forces within yourself, choosing between the uncertainties of living life with more zest and possibility, and inevitable pull back to the deadening security of self-protecting defenses.
– what it takes
A commitment to effective psychotherapy is a mutual one, made by both the client and the therapist. Two people start out as strangers to one another, but there is an inherent understanding that the client will enter inner territories and speak about things that are rarely addressed anywhere else.
The process requires the willingness to open up, to take risks, to face uncertainties about one’s self and about another. It is through this process that some our most important and essential learnings about ourself – both as client and as therapist – will take place within a therapeutic relationship.
In the therapy process, a client has the opportunity face and bear many aspects of their inner and outer worlds that have been previously off-limits, inaccessible, or have simply gone unspoken.
Talk in psychotherapy is much more than just talk. Giving language to experiences that have not been heard from before is a potent and powerful tool, especially when the language of what is spoken is embodied and felt by one’s self, and witnessed by another. The shared and felt sense of immediacy of such vital exchanges cannot be over-emphasized.
What I've Learned
It has been my experience, in working with hundreds of people over the past 27 years in both individual and group therapy, that most people who come for help really do want to change something about their lives. The painful issue is that they really don’t know how to access and make use of the resources needed to make meaningful and lasting changes. Some people secretly doubt their ability to be helped, and others can’t conceive of a better future beyond the life they currently live.
I find it to be the case, over and over again, that people must learn how to make use of another person (the therapist) in order to benefit from what psychotherapy has to offer. This task often mystifies the client, as they have often over-relied on their own minds for too many years, and are often reluctant to engage the perspective of a caring and informed professional, who can act on their behalf as well.
People who seek out psychotherapy have to gradually learn that do not have to be ‘more or other’ than they already are. They do not have to entertain, or constantly demonstrate their knowledge base, or caretake or impress their therapist in order to be properly attended to. They have to learn to be themselves as they are, to allow their struggles to surface in the presence of an attentive other, and open themselves to being moved by another’s accompaniment.
Clients can eventually come to understand how the revelation of their vulnerabilities and flaws can, in turn, move the therapist towards a deeper respect and more useful engagement with them, which is usually the opposite of what the client expects. This non-judging presence can validate their worth as a human being, beyond any personal accomplishments or successes in life.
By learning to see themselves through the eyes of a more realistic, compassionate, forthright and vital other, a person in psychotherapy can learn to better see themselves more clearly, and care for themselves in more realistic and doable ways.
Helps us live a realistically good life, making us better able to work and love.
Shows us how to better rely on other people, rather than simply be dependent on them.
Helps us to take responsibility for our strengths as well as our deficits.
Brings into awareness more resources for our growth and maturation.
Confronts the illusion that we can have it all, and points us towards what is possible now.
Helps us to stop indulging infantile wishes, and to start exploring doable adult pursuits.
“There is nothing you can do that’s more important than being fulfilled.
You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence;
in this way, you will find, live and become a realization
of your own personal myth.”
– Joseph Campbell
“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
– James Baldwin