Individual psychotherapy is among the most important AND the most difficult endeavors a person can undertake in their lifetime, with results both meaningful and gratifying. Psychotherapy is not like a physician/patient relationship where a patient describes his or her symptoms and the physician prescribes. Nor is it advice giving or problem solving, although these activities are certainly a small part of the process.
Psychotherapy is a relationship between two people, the purpose being the greater understanding, awareness and resolution of emotional and interpersonal problems of the patient. In psychotherapy there exists a mutuality that is unique among professional relationships. The patient is the historian of his life, and the clinician is the expert on human development, psychopathology and interpersonal relationships. Together they form an alliance that makes understanding and treatment possible.
The patient is encouraged to speak freely and uncensored. Social conventions are left outside the door. The therapist listens in ways that ‘hear’ deeper meanings and fragments of emotions long since buried. The therapist listens in a supportive and nonjudgmental way which creates an atmosphere of trust for the patient to take those risks to face the loss, disappointment and pain–to resolve and detoxify what is possible, and learn to live with the rest.
Psychotherapy is a time-consuming process requiring commitment, patience and diligence. It is not surgery where we can cut out one’s problems. Rather, through our communication, there is a gradual unfolding of the self, an opening up and resolving of those emotions and experiences long repressed.
The intensity of therapy is a critical factor. The standard frequency is once a week but I have found that insufficient for the resolution of long standing psychological issues. As with any endeavor the more time you commit, the greater the results. I prefer working with patients twice weekly and ideally three times a week.
Through the ongoing verbal exchange, therapist and patient together weave a tapestry of understanding that enables the patient to develop a realistic appraisal of self, an understanding of their place within the family of origin and within the grand scheme of life–giving up the delusions and illusions that numb our capacities, make us passive and compliant, and dull our senses of curiosity and wonder.
To begin the journey of psychotherapy takes great courage and a willingness to face the pain and the truths of one’s life—truly a courageous undertaking.