Thoreau wrote “Simplify, simplify, simplify” before he went off to live in the woods (well, really the pond in town) for what turned out to be a short stay. And while human beings are complex creatures, and psychotherapy and psychoanalysis endeavor to understand a person’s complexity, it is useful to simplify at times. So I want to step back and try to articulate simply what the practice of psychotherapy (and psychoanalysis) is all about.
In short, it is a conversation. Though a unique conversation, one between two people (sometimes more) who, through time, have come to trust one another and build a deep relationship where they can talk about anything and everything. And that is what they do: they talk. And in that process, they sometimes sort through what feels confusing, convoluted, or confounding. Sometimes they focus on emotions, identifying and expressing feelings. And sometimes they develop deeper understanding.
Perhaps to simplify even further: they think together. Mostly about the client’s life, sometimes about the way the two of them interact. They put their heads together; their thinking often goes farther than just one person’s thoughts can go.
The end result? Well, sometimes both people (the therapist included) feel more strongly, engage more deeply and authentically (with each other and the rest of the world) and have greater compassion for others and most importantly themselves.
Doing this every day, I am often humbled and awed by the power of talk in people’s lives and what can come from it.