This morning while driving to the office, I heard a radio commercial for yet another energy drink on the market. This one is guaranteed to give one energy and vitality. And I thought to myself about psychotherapy and how it too provides energy and vitality to one’s life, only with many fewer calories and no harmful sugars or caffeine.
At the core of the work of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis is the endeavor to live a more robust, vital and enlivened life. That is what the work is all about. The process, while complex, involves locating the various impediments to one’s vitality and figuring out together, client and therapist, how to work through them.
The goals of therapy are freedom, greater range of expression, and truly being more of oneself. When one is living life in that way, there is a natural energy, a natural enthusiasm. Of course, life is a rich experience, one comprised of many moments of sadness and loss. But a life lived authentically includes feeling the losses and disappointments along with the joys and satisfactions.
There is another way that psychotherapy is like, and at the same time very different from, the energy drink. It is also something that you take in. The process of psychotherapy, at least as I understand it, involves taking in the relationship that the client and therapist create. In this way, the relationship becomes an internal part of the client: a model to draw on for a way of relating that is based on authenticity, free expression of one’s thoughts and feelings, empathy and compassion. The client doesn’t need additives or supplemental drinks to feel alive. Energy and vitality are naturally available at the core of his or her being and reinforced through his or her relationships, work and overall sense of self-esteem.