Therapy has been a hot topic (Dare I say trend?) lately. There are articles featuring celebs normalizing therapy on every magazine stand. There are literally thousands of memes and tweets about people’s experiences with their therapists, whether it is a joke or actual helpful insight.
So, with all of this talk you might be wondering what therapy ACTUALLY is like…
Do people lay on some long fancy couch?
What does a therapist look like?
What kind of degree do they have?
Is therapy even helpful?
What does therapy consist of…?
A couple of months back, I bought a book titled The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients.
This is written by psychiatrist Dr. Irvin D. Yalom who has decades of experience as a therapist. Through a series of brief chapters (85 chapters OMG), he discusses various issues and facets of therapy, from “Remove the Obstacles to Growth” to “Cherish the Occupational Privileges.” While I don’t necessarily agree with every chapter in this book, there were some portions I thought were worth highlighting.
“Though there are many phrases for the therapeutic relationship (patient/therapist, client/counselor, analysand/analyst, client/facilitator, and the latest… user/provider), none of these phrases accurately convey my sense of the therapeutic relationship. Instead I prefer to think of my patients and myself as fellow travelers, a term that abolishes distinctions between “them” (the afflicted) and “us” (the healers).” p. 7-8
I like this quote because it illustrates the type of relationship which should exist in therapy. There shouldn’t be one person ‘above’ the other, telling him/her/them what they should do. Instead, it should be a collaborative effort among equals to work together towards the therapy goals.
“Look out the other’s window. Try to see the world as your patient sees it…
Therapy is enhanced if the therapist enters accurately into the patient’s world.” p.18
Don’t understand someone? Try to get some insight by changing your perspective. This could improve the therapist/patient connection and the progression of therapy.
“Throughout life, our surrounding interpersonal environment- peers, friends, teachers, as well as family- has enormous influence over the kind of individual we become. Our self-image is formulated to a large degree upon the reflected appraisals we perceive in the eyes of the important figures in our lives.” p. 47
This quote emphasizes the significance of interpersonal relationships! For many, therapy deals with their “inability to form and maintain enduring and gratifying interpersonal relationships.”
“Perhaps wounded healers are effective because they are more able to empathize with the wounds of the patient; perhaps it is because they participate more deeply and personally in the healing process.” p. 107
Not only does therapy help the patient, it may also help the therapist!
“It is through feedback that patients become better witnesses to their own behavior and learn to appreciate the impact of their behavior upon the feelings of others.” p. 114
In Chapter 37, he discusses the Johari window concept, a personality paradigm consisting of 4 quadrants:
- Public (Open)
- Secret (Hidden)
- Unconscious (Unknown)
Through therapy, the public cell should grow larger and the others should shrink. In other words, the patients should share more about themselves, explore themselves deeper, and learn to see themselves as others see them. This can be done through both individual and group therapy.
“…four ultimate concerns, four fundamental facts of existence- death, isolation, meaninglessness, freedom- which, when confronted, evoke deep anxiety.” p. 137
It is interesting to think of common problems as commonly fitting into very few categories.
Even “freedom” can induce anxiety. We design our own lives through our choices, actions, and failures to act; we also help design our world. Responsibility, wishing, and deciding are all versions of freedom which are anxiety-inducing.
“We become explorers immersed in the grandest and most complex of pursuits- the development and maintenance of the human mind… We watch our patients let go of old self-defeating patterns, detach from ancient grievances, develop zest for living, learn to love us, and, through that act, turn lovingly to others.” p. 258
I like this quote because it shows his passion for his field. Therapy helps many people in such meaningful, live-changing ways!
If you are interested in learning about therapy, I’d recommend this book! Obviously, therapy is different from person to person as well as from session to session. However, this book did go into detail about many different components! If you read it, let me know what you think!