What exactly is the point? How can you be expected to know when being in therapy is the right choice, to know which treatments are actually helpful and which serve merely to give the false sense of reassurance that comes with being proactive, with doing all that we can? Does anyone, for example, really know what “character change” looks like? That, after all, is what contemporary therapy that is more than chitchat for the so-called worried well aims to promote. More pressing, who can be trusted to answer these questions? Looked at a certain way, the entire enterprise seems geared toward the needs of the therapist rather than the patient to a degree that can feel, after a certain amount of time, undemocratic, if not outright exploitative.
The above quote comes from one of the most informative articles I have read this year. It details the author’s experience with psychotherapy over the course of four decades. During this period she consulted a number of therapists all with different methods and manners. I found her insights profound and insightful, particularly given my own experiences in the area.
The first question that needs to be asked is why seeing a professional to help confront and vocalise feelings is still treated as a taboo? Why do people feel that this important activity is still seen as scandalous and indicate that those who seek professional psychatric help are weak of mind? Such societal attitudes are baffling to me, for it seems in retrospect the times where I have been acutely aware of my psychological surroundings are the times in which I feel the most well rounded.
Being involved in therapy is not a one way endeavour. Contrary to popular belief, psychotherapy appears to work best when it operates as a two way conversation. It is only when an individual externalises his feelings and emotions that he can truly notice the effect that they have on other parts of his life.
I suppose it is not a coincidence that the tragically short lived In Treatment is perhaps my favourite television drama of all. As perverse as it may seem, I do enjoy wrestling with my own psychological inner demons, and when I get the chance I examine the motivations of others (often unconsciously). This can both be a handy asset and an enormous burden.
As often as I delve into my own thoughts feelings and motivations, I remain as clueless as ever when it comes to fixing my easily identifiable flaws. This in turn leads to endless cycles of frustration, because although I am acutely aware that I repeat the same mistakes multiple times even whilst they are happening, I remain unable and perhaps unwilling to stop them.
As pointed out in the above article, the process of attending psychotherapy is not about finding solutions to a particular set of problems. Rather it is designed as a process for a patient to develop the right tools to deal with situations that they feel emotionally stifling or uncomfortable. Talking to a professional is not about whether there are a Freudian or a Jungian, or whether they are up with the latest techniques in behaviour modification, but whether they can help steer conversations to a place that is most beneficial for the patient. Furthermore, the therapist must be able to have a comfortable dialogue with the patient so that they can notice subtle changes in behaviour, both good and bad as well as the ability to recognise psychological patterns and themes that emerge.
Therefore psychotherapy is not about being overly vulnerable or discovering life altering secrets as often portrayed in the mass media. For me, at least it acts as a constant process of discovering who I am, digging deep into the recesses of my subconscious that I choose to hide from, and refining the kinks in my personality so that I am able to improve every single day.