Psychotherapy conjures up many different images in people’s minds, including psychotherapists. There are different theories and models of psychotherapy. There are different ways in which psychotherapists look at the therapist and client relationship. There are certain legal and ethical concerns and issues that apply in psychotherapy.
With all the differences I believe that one of the primary common features is that psychotherapy works on creating some kind of change for the person and persons involved in it. Change itself can be defined differently, but simply put, it is about changing something that the client believes is important in creating greater satisfaction, functioning and connection in their lives.
I believe that the therapist and client relationship is a professional one that is collaborative in its approach. This means that I believe that I am working with someone as a team to make changes that feel right to the person. We attempt to find out what appears to be preventing the person from the kind of life they would like to live. We explore that part that is preventing them from moving forward and find out what is needed to move past this blocking aspect within themselves, externally to them or in a close relationship in which their person may be enmeshed to a point where they have lost touch with themselves.
I believe that when the issue is coming from within themselves it has to do with their sense and relationship with their real self (this is who they truly are beyond the effects of their past, present and future environments and relationships with others; it is beyond any personas or defenses they have had to create in order to survive and/ or function in their life). This is separate and apart from any kind of external relationship that they have in their life that may be problematic or going very well. This is a deeper kind of work because it goes past the personas, the defenses, the blocks that have been put up there, most often subconsciously, during their life experiences.
This kind of work tends to create the most fear in us. Often times we think it’s an attack or judgment on who we are, but I submit that this is not the case. In actuality, what we are doing is allowing the real self of the person to come forward into their life and lead it. What is actually happening is we are removing the personas, defenses and blocks from them, so that they can be fully and truly themselves.
External work is able to be done when the person is primarily leading with their real self and they come up against something in the outside world that is attempting to or is blocking their satisfaction in life. Common ones can be parents or other members of their family of origin, their supervisor at work, their boyfriend or girlfriend or partner. It can also be brought about by a natural or man-made catastrophe, such as hurricanes or war zones. In these cases, often it is about finding solutions to whatever is blocking us so that we can regain our balance and move forward.
The issues that develop in our most intimate relationships in which we lose touch with ourselves tend to be a mixed bag of both issues within ourselves and issues within the other person involved. These are often times complicated and problematic because we are involved in the relationship while we are attempting to untangle and separate ourselves from the person we are involved. For example, our partner can put pressure on us, which then can trigger defenses within ourselves or we can actually take them on as if they are a part of ourselves.
One helpful concept is called homeostasis. There is a part of our brains that is unconscious to us that regulates homeostatic processes within our bodies, such as heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature within our bodies. This brain/ body phenomenon has been used to capture what can happen within ourselves, families, partnerships or other kinds of relationships. We humans become very anxious and uncomfortable when these homeostatic states are disrupted. Even the thought of making changes can cause us to become alarmed to the point of not moving forward toward a change that might really be a good one for us.
This is often what makes psychotherapy so uncomfortable for us. We begin to experience emotions and feelings that upset security, stability and comfort (homeostasis) that we have been experiencing in our life, even when we are conscious that not everything is going well.
This blog is a concise way of looking at the work of psychotherapy. It is obviously not anywhere near to being comprehensive and complete. It is mainly a terse way for me to express the basic way in which I look at doing psychotherapy with others.
Thanks for reading, Robert Bowman, LMFTOriginal Post February 09, 2020
Robert Bowman is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) practicing in the State of California and is a psychotherapist for over 23 years with client experience from children to seniors. He works with children with emotional and behavioral disturbance; children and adults with serious mental illness; and children and adults with relationship issues. He understands that life issues are inevitable because we must pass through life stages in our development as human beings. He helps you engage healthy choices as it is a huge benefit to your physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual health. Call (808) 930-9866 or email RobertBowman@iTherapymail.com to set up a FREE 15-minute consultation. Visit Robert Bowman’s Profile.