Guarantee? My informed consent form that clients sign before working with me states that no guarantee comes with psychotherapy. Yet psychotherapists and clients strive together for healing and recovery. Five phases for the work create the strongest possibility for success.
Despite the lack of a guarantee, clients have hope and willingness to work as do psychotherapists. The client puts energy and commitment into her work because she wants health, freedom and happiness. The psychotherapist puts energy into the work because she’s seen healing and recovery in others and has a growing framework of what makes recovery possible.
When the psychotherapist sees the commitment of the client energy the psychotherapist’s commitment and energy for the client’s wellbeing grows and vice versa. Therapy is a partnership on the healing journey.
I love my work as a psychotherapist. To be the intimate companion with a person on their journey to greater health, freedom, and joy in life by bringing my accumulated knowledge and experience to guide, support, reveal and inspire is a rich and satisfying way of life. Despite the lack of a guarantee, this profession gives me opportunity to support the necessary healing and development of my client.
A client seeks psychotherapy because she is suffering. She may not know why or she may think she knows why. She doesn’t know how to help herself because she wouldn’t seek help if she could. She's not looking for a guarantee. She's looking for a way to start.
So seeking help is the beginning of the work.
Her goal is to stop her suffering. That means that she will expect a direct approach, i.e. look at the suffering, what she thinks causes it and find solutions to end her pain. Often that means she wants someone else to change.
We will talk about her pain and her relationships. We’ll talk about her history and her dreams. We’ll talk about gradual steps to consider new opportunities and new perspectives. She learns that she doesn't have a guarnateed method to change someone else. We then review many times the obstacles she faces when she cannot bring herself to act differently when she meets her challenges.
Eventually, after trust is established and she feels known by her psychotherapist, the deeper work begins. This, if moderately successful, will be the foundation of her continued recovery and healing in life.
She needs to grow beyond her current limits psychologically and emotionally. She needs to respect and develop her inner resources so she can cope awkwardly, then gracefully, then with confidence and sureness, the challenges that face her now and will face her in the future. This may not be a guarantee she will reach her ultimate goals, but it's pretty much ofa guarantee that if she doesn't heal and develop she won't.
This developmental growth is essential for her healing and stamina throughout life. It’s so much more than remaining the same and having troubles, suffering and pain disappear or lessen because she avoids challenges and obstacles.
A vital part of the psychotherapy work we do together involves noticing and then stimulating and nurturing interests and abilities that lay dormant within her.
Perhaps they were never encouraged. Perhaps they were actively discouraged. She might be afraid to stretch into the unknown with a tender interest not fully developed. Without a guarantee to succes in the past she may have stayed with her fear rather than attempt to reach. But the stretch is what develops her ability to live that interest. And when she follows what she cares about she discovers meaning and satisfaction in her life.
Then she not only has the inner resources to follow her authentic self and cope with challenges. She also has the emotional and psychic charge to continue to grow and develop when she meets challenges beyond her present capabilities. She feels an inner guarantee that if she stretches, is courageous and honest about what she honors she will advance on her path.
That’s what propels a person through a meaningful life, and that’s what psychotherapy can bring when two people work deeply together with trust and commitment.
Guarantee? No. But a good chance? Oh, yes.
Joanna Poppink, MFT, private practice psychotherapist, Specializing in eating disorders, PTSD and Anxiety recovery.
Licensed in CA, AZ, UT, FL, OR.
Author: Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder
E-mail for free telephone consultation.