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Beyond the self.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 4:57 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we have been having a debate about what the goal of therapy might be. Our discussion arises out of questions we are often asked as to how exactly therapy works. People ask us what it involves; how the weekly sessions might go and where it leads to. Often the reasons for someone attending therapy have to do with difficulties in coping with their work or romantic lives. Sometimes they report a kind of dull feeling of dissatisfaction and a sense of a directionless or unfulfilling existence. We have been considering things recently from the perspective of the aloneness of the individual in relation all aspects of the world.

Therapy is first and foremost an individual process. You come on your own each week and you talk about yourself. You might talk about your childhood and your relationship with you mother or father. You can spend some time considering your relations with brothers and sisters and with friends. The focus is on the paths that these significant attachments take and how their ups and downs inform our subsequent ways of being. The focus of the therapy is very much on the self and our feelings; our hurts and our reactions to things. After we spend some time working through these things we hope to learn about our own patterns of behaviour.

Sometimes therapy works a bit like an archaeological dig in that we begin with the deposits from the most recent events and work backwards through time to earlier ones. Past events can be seen to exert an influence over how things develop from there. Learning about how we might repeat the patterns of the past becomes a big part of therapy. We talk about these things and sometimes have moments of insight where we can see deep inside our own self. But therapy is not just about our own self. In the first instance all these personal explorations are done in the presence of another: the therapist. We are relational beings and we develop and live to the full when we achieve good relations with others.

To some extent individual therapy is about working out a hypothesis of our own inner life. It is in relationships outside of therapy where we put this to the test. Our work and love lives are the places where we try to put into practice what learn in our therapy. We work things out in the privacy of the therapy room and even test them out on the therapist. One aim of therapy then would be to try to work firstly on our relationship with our own self. This is done in the presence of and with an active relationship with the therapist. Good relations with the world may mean working things out on several levels including bringing meaning and purpose into our daily lives. Each of us has to work out these values for ourselves. This is a personal journey but not one which requires that we have to go it alone.

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