One of the most important issues when choosing a therapist is finding one who has travelled their own path and faced, if not completely worked through, their own difficult issues. They don’t need to have everything perfectly resolved, even if that were possible. Though they do need to have done the hard work of looking at themselves in their own therapy. This may involve becoming more aware of what they project onto others, realising that they suppress certain feelings like anger or vulnerability, gaining some understanding about their own blind spots and learning to cultivate some love and acceptance. The danger of seeing a therapist who hasn’t done their own work to a deep enough level is that certain areas of the client’s life may subtly become “off limits”, at an unconscious level, in the therapy room.
I remember one therapist whose client told him that whenever she brought up anything to do with her sexuality, the blood drained from his face and she got the non-verbal message it was not ok to talk about this subject. He was unaware of this until she gave him the feedback. This story shows the importance of therapists having done their own work in therapy, and also continuing to be curious about where their blind spots might be because it is never possible to become completely free of them. This ongoing work can be done by the therapist in their own therapy or in clinical supervision.
I was reminded of the importance of this area recently when reading a book by child expert, Margot Sunderland, about using stories to work therapeutically with troubled children. She says it can be tempting for some adults to make the story have a happy ending, even though the child has left the ending unresolved. For example, the listening adult may say, ‘No, don’t leave the little peanut in the gutter – let’s find it a nice home to go to.’ This is an example of the adult’s need to make everything all right, when maybe by leaving the peanut in the gutter the child is trying to communicate his feelings of hopelessness. “This is a common problem when the…listener (usually out of conscious awareness) is running away from her own hopelessness, despair, grief and so on.”
So, seeing a therapist who has not done enough of their own psychological work can make the therapy less rich and less effective. Instead of unconsciously giving permission for the client to bring whatever they need to, the therapist can turn into an advice dispenser or a rescuer who needs the client to behave a certain way.
How I work
I am a Psychosynthesis counsellor. This means that as well as giving you practical help, I also work in a soulful way. This involves seeing painful experiences and problems as important influences that shape our character and can, ultimately, bring wisdom and self-knowledge.
Patrick McCurry Counselling – t: 07891 295649 – patrickmccurrycounselling. co.uk – UKCP Member