Many people come to therapy for healing. While I cannot offer a quick fix for whatever brings you to therapy, what I can offer is a process, a space, a relationship through which healing may occur. I can help to create the conditions in which healing is possible.
What are some of the conditions that may facilitate healing in therapy? These may differ for different people, they may differ for the same person on different days or within the same hour. Here are some possibilities for conditions which may promote healing for you:
- Permission and encouragement to share whatever is on your mind, no matter what it is. I don’t usually set an agenda at the start of a therapy session but rather allow space for you to bring whatever is on your mind. Any thoughts, feelings, emotions, associations, dreams, fantasies, imaginings are welcome. A relationship with another human being where your full subjective experience is welcome and can be explored with kind attention can be very healing.
- Welcoming of any feelings and thoughts about therapy or about your therapist. This may include doubts about the therapy process (eg. This won’t help), things that annoy you about your therapist (eg. I hate it when you speak softly like that) or any number of things that you may think are not “nice” to share. It can be healing to share these thoughts and realise they are welcome in the therapeutic relationship. Actually, they are to be expected. And by sharing these feelings and thoughts it gives us an opportunity to think about whether there are ways we can work differently together that will better meet your needs.
- Honouring of the protective parts of yourself. The protective parts of ourselves are sometimes called defences. There are many different ways we may protect ourselves. Just a few examples include withdrawing from others, attacking in words or physically, living in our thoughts and forgetting we have emotions and bodies. We may respond with different protective parts at different times or with different people. We have each developed these protective parts of ourselves in response to difficult experiences. These may be significant traumatic experiences or they may be less visible things that we’ve experienced such as lack of emotional responsiveness in a caregiver. It is important to recognise, honour and thank these protective parts for the hard work they have done in taking care of us. Sometimes the process of honouring these parts is healing in itself. It can also be healing to recognise the situations where these protective parts are no longer needed. We can learn to release them and open to new possibilities in the way we respond in relationships and in the world.
- Some guidance in different ways of contacting and storying experience to assist healing. If you have a painful story that you have told in the same way for many years, to yourself and/or others, it may be healing to explore this story in new ways. Your story may contain mainly third person, descriptive narrative (eg. When I was in grade three I made a piece of art and my teacher threw it in the bin. When I saw my artwork in the bin I walked out of the classroom). I might help you explore whether there are any beliefs you’ve developed based on this story (eg. I’m no good at art). I might help you to notice, remember or imagine other parts of this story by asking questions eg. How did you feel when you were creating the art? How did you feel when you saw it in the bin? Who else was present in your story? How might you have liked others to respond to you in this moment? I might help you contact any feelings in the body as sensations. By exploring your stories in new ways this can allow stuck patterns to shift and new experiences and possibilities to emerge.
These are some possibilities for conditions which may promote healing for you. Are there other conditions that come to mind for you as you read this?