Psychotherapy is about forming a relationship. And relationships are about growth and ways that we find and know ourselves.
We are relational creatures. From our earliest days through our development, we relate to others. As infants we owe our existence to the interaction with caretakers. And while our physical dependency shifts as we mature and become more autonomous, interpersonal relationships are key to our development and unfolding as people. We remain emotionally dependent on others.
Through intimate relationships, people communicate openly and honestly, and by communicating hear themselves think. In this way people go beyond the limitations of their own thought. It’s not that a person is incapable of thinking on his or her own. It’s that the reciprocal process of communicating with someone else helps to unlock previous closed doors of thought. And in this way a person comes to better find him or herself. In this way a person better knows what he or she thinks and feels.
And from the accumulation of relationships, a person feels less alone when alone. It is as if these relationships reside inside a person; even when alone, a person is not alone. Even when alone, and another person is not there to converse with, there is that inner dialogue, that relationships to oneself.
While there are many psychological theories and differing techniques of therapy, to me the heart of it is the relationship. That is what my clients and I form: we form a relationship, albeit one that is different than all other relationships that person has. But the qualities of an intimate relationship remain the same: honest and emotional communication and empathy (that feeling that the other person understands you). Essential to the therapeutic relationship is the sense that someone cares about you. And from that experience of understanding and caring comes a sense of security which often replaces insecure feelings of being alone, being fundamentally different from others, of not mattering. From being understood and cared about by another human being, a more compassionate and understanding of oneself grows. This is what happens in psychotherapy when psychotherapy works.
Within the psychotherapeutic relationship, people come to hear themselves think and feel themselves feel. The result is that they better know themselves and their capabilities and feel more enriched by relating with others.