What is required is a deep and genuine sense of how damaged they really are. This brings real humility and a then necessary complete dedication to being "client centered" in their interventions.
During work when the client enters realms where we have not ourselves been, we do not have to despair. What we do have to acquire an ability to keep our mouths shut and handle within ourselves very high levels of ambiguity. In other words, we must be able to tolerate not knowing what is going on in moments of extreme tension without leaping into the process and interfering with the client's journey. Therapists handle their own fears in a variety of ways, especially by giving advice. Advice shuts down the openness in the client's mind which is so crucial to the forward movement of primal processes.
This need on the part of therapists to explain things, is attached to their own terror of what is unknown within them. We comfort ourselves when we explain things to people.
This is just the tip of a very significant iceberg in the deep therapies. I have seen therapists of good will and ability who are incapable of realizing that everything they do in their practice is essentially a self or inner plane balancing act. They just don't "get" that what they are doing with their clients' issues is minutely and precisely what they are doing to and with similar material within their own deepest self.
In this area, the analysts have always been very concerned but have. in my opinion, placed undue emphasis in being so neutral that they create an environment of death dealing deprivation, when what is really necessary is a reparenting presence.
The ability to be deeply present for clients without derailing their processes is one of the subtlest and least explored areas in all of psychotherapy. I attempt to deal with this in my online book, Help Me-I'm Tired of Feeling Bad in Chapters Six, Seven and Eight, especially the latter under the heading, Beyond Therapist Neutrality.
There are times when I awaken from my sleep in terror. Has my therapy been just a sham? Are my clients simply extensions of my own defensive self-balancing? The answer to some extent, unfortunately is, yes, they are. The real question, however, since we are all damaged is, am I good enough?
Am I calm when I listen and is my reflecting accurate? When it isn't I notice right away that the client's forward and deepening flow of process is interrupted. I ask my clients to correct me at any and all times if my understanding of their process doesn't match theirs no matter how minutely it deviates. Even small inaccuracies can lead to a failure of therapy.
At the start of each day, during an intensive and at regular intervals during all therapy, I ask if there is anything at all in our relationship that might be interfering with our work. I call this necessary regular questioning, "house keeping".
If I think the client is losing sight of therapeutic technique I will gently offer corrections and teaching regarding method. I call this, "course correction" and is not about where they are going but about how they are getting there. It is to enhance their ability to open their own inner doors.
I believe in answering client's questions fully, and if necessary doing some of my own work in front of them. This must be approached judiciously since new clients often can't tell the difference between working on one's self and acting out one's feelings. It would in fact be safer to do in a group setting. I do belong to an ongoing peer group so that I may be challenged about my processes in a public arena.
I believe that therapists should be transparent and willing to do some of their work in front of others. To me, openness and full presence is a hallmark of growth. There is nothing harder than demonstrating your personal process publicly. This is one very good indicator of what you have actually achieved, which is after all, the final real measurement of what you say you know.
To the extent that a person finds it necessary to hide, that far precisely are they disabled..
It seems that they are operating from a fear of something within them that remains unacknowledged. Therapies that "hide" the practitioner are most convenient for hiding that within us which we secretly wish to avoid.
At any rate, these are some thoughts about some of the things required of us, before we hold ourselves out to the public as teachers of wisdom.
*In this article I have assumed that the therapist has had many years of training and of personal depth feeling-oriented work.
Other pages on this website about Dr. Vereshack's writings include:
Book Review of Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad
The Primal Page's Favorite Quotations from Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad
The Primal Psychotherapy Page Interviews Paul Vereshack, M.D.
Return to Index of Dr. Vereshack's Questions