Saturday, December 9, 2017

Some thoughts about psychotherapy

I’ve received a few notes recently regarding my thoughts about psychotherapy...

I am more of a poetic psychotherapist than a clinical one. As such, I am more interested in not-knowing, depth, meaning, and the future than I am in certainty, techniques, the past, or the healing of symptoms. In my experience, there is wisdom in our symptoms, and it is honorable to attend to them without any agenda that they transform or be healed.

This does not mean I am not interested in a person’s past or in the lessening of the pain and suffering they are experiencing. Of course, this is very important and I wish this for everyone I work with. But, for me, psychotherapy is much more than that. It is not a medical procedure, but a procedure of the soul, oriented in the care of the psyche and tending to the heart.

Sometimes we are asked to suffer in order to discover depth, to know ourselves, to know grace, but to suffer consciously, to actually participate fully in the inevitable disappointment, heartbreak, and deflation that life as a sensitive, alive, vulnerable human being will often demand. To find meaning in our suffering, to enter into relationship with it, to tend to it, to even become intimate with it. To not discard it but to discover its purpose and role as a true companion in our lives. To even take it as a lover.

This sort of therapy is not for everyone and I have no fantasy that the work I do is going to be right or most skillful for everyone. It definitely is not. These days, I no longer with psychotic, borderline, or narcissistic personality organization. Nor with severe depression, anxiety, trauma, or other clinical diagnoses. These situations, in my experience, are best responded to with very specific treatment plans and methodologies, and are to be taken very seriously.

My work is oriented toward the “ordinary neuroses” of love and work, as Freud referred to them, our inborn longing for existential meaning and purpose, innate yearning for intimacy and aliveness, and the reality of the transpersonal and spiritual dimensions of the psyche.

My training and interests for a few decades have been in the larger fields of depth psychology and relationally-oriented analytic practice, as well as the contemplative aspects of the wisdom traditions and heart-guidance of the wandering poets.

In my experience, the most important factor in therapy is the relationship between the parties involved, and not the technique or theory the therapist happens to believe or specialize in. It is neither theory nor technique that uncovers the ultimate medicine. While important, these are secondary to the psychic, emotional, and spiritual resonance and attunement between those working together.

And, dare I say, secondary to the love that is there in the field when we meet in this way. Even Freud is purported to have shared that “in essence psychoanalysis is a cure through love.” Some say love has no business in psychotherapy. I am not one of them. There is no psychotherapy (tending to the soul) without love; love is the basis for soul-tending. Of course I am not speaking about the expression of erotic love, but that of agape, the love that arises naturally in any true I-Thou relationship. The love of a midwife bearing witness to the birth of a new soul.

Psychotherapy for me is an alchemical process where client and therapist come together into a very charged sort of vessel to envision and discover the unique gold that is hidden inside each human heart. To discover the wisdom buried in the dark, and to transmute difficult emotions into their wisdom essence. It is not easy work, but is honorable and sacred. And at times really hard. And boring. And annoying. And lonely. And seemingly useless. And utterly alive. And magic.

To chart a course into the psyche with a fellow traveler is an act of love and courage, and shines a special light into a world that needs it now perhaps more than ever.

My new book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available 

My next event will be a five-day retreat, The Place the Light Enters, with Jeff Foster, April 4-9 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, CO.