Saying the unsayable.
So many of the clients I see come in and without realizing it, are looking for me to do something to them. Or to give them something that will make their lives different or better; that will give them relief from whatever state they find themselves in. This makes sense to me and why wouldn't people want that?
But the simple fact is this is not how psychotherapy works. It's not that people don't come away with something different or feel they have received something from me but that is a product of a relational phenomenon more than it is due to something I have done or given.
When I consistently react in ways that are not the ways this person is expecting based on their history, something important happens. Something we might call reality meets their own internal understanding of what people do and how people behave and they are invited to reckon with the difference. It sounds simple, but over time, it becomes a profound opportunity for them to therefore behave differently and feel differently.
All forms of psychotherapy invite clients to learn to do things in new ways, but this is ancillary to the larger purpose: to find a new way of being in the world. This is not about skills or behaviour. It's about the larger questions of identity, subjectivity, relational truth. This is about fundamental questions regarding what life can mean to any individual.
But it is hard to express this to a new client, especially one coming from a culture that wants solutions and quantifiable results and in a few hours. Many psychotherapists need to learn to articulate this or risk becoming marginalized. And we are offering something radical when we do this; something that runs counter to some of the received wisdom regarding what psychotherapy is or isn't. So we also have to stand firm with our understanding and continue to offer this slightly subversive conversation.