I have been reading about, thinking about and discussing therapy pretty much every day for the past 30 years and have sat with 1,000 or so clients in this process. Still, I find it almost impossible to generalize about the practice of psychotherapy. That being said, I’ve taken a stab at it below:
If you were to take one hour each week to sit and contemplate your life, you would likely notice some beneficial results. If you were to write about your life during that hour, the process would be altered and provide an additional set of benefits. Similarly, speaking aloud to a person, any person, transforms contemplation even further.
At its most basic, therapy provides the opportunity to engage in the process of thinking and talking about yourself for a sustained period of time to an interested person. So what can I, as a therapist, add to that? I can share observations, ask questions, sometimes suggest an experiment. Sort of simple sounding, but the goal of these seemingly simple acts is to add something to your understanding that might either reduce your distress or enhance your experience of life (or both). Together, we might go a little deeper than you would on your own, encounter some surprises and ultimately, change some of how you view yourself and approach your world. For people who take to it, the process is fascinating and often kind of fun, although it can be scary and at times painful; feelings that have been lurking can coem to the surface. Creating a safe environment for this process is an important aspect of my job.
As I’ve already suggested, each person's experience is stunningly unique. Sometimes we meet just a few times and try to solve a very circumscribed problem. Other times we meet for years and examine almost every facet of a person's life. My hope is that when people leave, they feel more aware of the wonderful tapestry of their minds and their interaction with the world, usually with increased compassion for themselves and increased clarity and confidence in their endeavors.
I have read widely in the field of psychotherapy and incorporate ideas and approaches from many different schools of thought. My home base influences are psychodynamic, existential-humanistic, experiential and Gestalt therapy. For a bit more on what I mean by all of that, please click here.