Therapy Is Not Just Sitting There and Nodding

It seems like a New Yorker cartoon. The psychotherapist in his chair and the client usually lying down on a couch. In this cliché version of psychotherapy, the therapist doesn’t say much, just nods and mutters “uh ha.” The client pays for the session and leaves.

I am sure that my clients know that I am not a therapist who works in this manner. I view the client and me as being in an intimate relationship, one where I am an active and interested participant. I do not view the therapy process as one where I tell the client what to do. I do not know what special powers would authorize me to do that. I do not know how I would know better than the client what he or she should do in a situation.

But I do know that together we can think about issues and I can have input that hopefully helps. And I know that often I can see other alternatives or options that the client may not be able to see. It is a common practice in my work with clients that I offer my views and thoughts. And sometimes this view is in direct contrast to the client’s. In doing so, I am not saying that I’m right and they are wrong. Instead, I’m trying to open up the horizons, to help the client see that other options for thinking and acting exist.

This is a fundamental part of psychotherapy as I see it. When offering my feedback or point of view, I don’t want to change the client. It is crucially important for me to understand his or her position and to reflect that understanding back. But when I do see a particular problem differently from the client, or I have an alternative point of view, I usually let the client know. Together we then explore the various ways to see and to think about something. The psychotherapy process is a lot more active and full of words other than “uh ha.”

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