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March 26, 2015

I Cannot Fix You: Thoughts on Therapy.

listen hand

Engaging in the therapeutic process is no longer as taboo as it used to be.  Many now come to engage in therapy, particularly at a time in their lives that is painful or confusing.

From what I have witnessed, therapy is often viewed as an external solution for an internal struggle. Sometimes, with the idea that it will make someone a better, more whole person.

Having gone through my own therapeutic process, I remember those moments of “ah ha” awakening, the moments I felt like I was seeing something for the first time, where I felt more whole. In fact, all of my years of and dollars for therapy were worth it for one single moment.

My moment? I realized I didn’t need to know everything.

When I have tried to put into words the immensity of this moment for me, I sometimes hear, “Of course you don’t need to know everything.” Or, “Everyone knows that.” These responses have come from sources both without (friends, family, colleagues) and within (my own self-talk).

The thing is, I didn’t know that. It doesn’t matter what childhood experiences or events lead me to believe something like that; it was just not something I could understand. More importantly, it was not something I knew in the whole of my being, at my core. I couldn’t feel it until that moment.

As a matter of fact, that was the moment that gave me everything I needed to succeed in my life.

As a therapist, it has also been one of my greatest tools; not to teach others this exact experience, but to hold onto within myself as I hold space for others. Because of my personal experience, I understand now that for everything I know, there is an equal amount that I don’t. For each time my world view expands, so does the world. There are an infinite amount of things to know, which means there are infinite things I don’t know. That is my freedom. That is my personal therapeutic process. It may, or may not, be someone else’s.

Because of this personal experience, I am able work with others from a curious rather than prescriptive frame of mind.

I do not feel it is my job to tell someone what to do, to give advice or to “fix” problems. I don’t care to spend much time thinking about which method I read in a book to use if the result is losing the person in the room with me. To me, exclusively using the model method defeats the purpose of the connection.

In my experience, some of the most cutting edge, successful and powerful methods are in development. They are not the result of the process that creates a method, but rather in the creation of it. Once it has been created, the movement often stops, so it is hard to pin down something that truly works because to do so stops the source of the success itself and removes the individual.

Thus describes my view when sitting across from someone in a therapy session. We are in motion. We are not who we were or who we will be. The connection and remembering is in the now. I do not know better than someone else what they need, therefore I cannot fix them. I feel it is a disservice to even try to do so, to assume that I know better.

I have been asked, “So then, what am I paying for? If you are not going to make me better, why am I coming to see you?”

The answer is not an easy one, and I would rather respond with, “Why do you think you are paying me?” What I do know is that when I sit across from someone, my energy is invested in them. I will question them, not because they are right or wrong, but to tease out what they already know about themselves. I will listen to their stories, I will see their emotions, and I will even see and feel those things right alongside of them.

I will hold their pictures as they show them to me, I will inquire further when I can’t see what they are trying to show me, and I will present those pictures back to them, maybe from a different angle. I will watch their reactions and body language, because they may not be able to in the moment. I will draw their attention to all of it. There are no Jedi mind tricks (as some I have worked with call it lightheartedly).

My job, in my opinion, is really just to help someone remember who they are; to mirror a moment where they can see those pieces that will give them what they need to succeed in their life.

For some, this will take longer than others, or the time will be more complex or dynamic, but in the end I hold to: “I cannot fix you.” Because there is nothing broken. And maybe, time with me will help someone remember that.

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Relephant Reads:

8 Things I’ve Learned Practicing Therapy

Emotional Health is the new Sexy

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Author: Christine Laplante

Apprentice Editor: Keeley Milne; Editor: Caroline Beaton

Photo Credit: Flickr, Rosengrant/Flickr

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