Therapy is often referred to in terms of it being relational, or as a relationship, albeit a particular type of relationship, one that has very specific parameters, particularly around money, time, touch, and about whose inner life is there to be explored.
Despite this, in some ways, very one-way relationship, an awful lot of what goes on is a kind of relating. The therapist will encourage the client to speak as freely as possible and through a careful listening to the client’s words and to what is evoked in themselves, through this listening, they will try and relate as closely as possible to the clients experience and will feed this understanding back via their own comments, or interpretations.
What makes this different from other listening conversations, is that the therapists understanding and feedback will be influenced by the therapists training, specifically their own therapy and their learning of theories, which provide maps of mental structures and types of human experience and distress.
The therapist as well as listening to the stories, will also listen for patterns, for words, they will try and be attuned to what is going on emotionally for the client and also pay attention to the actions of therapy, to the how the client goes about relating to the therapist. When the therapist feels something useful has been understood, they will share this.
Sometimes this may not have been consciously known by the client, and this is why it can be useful. However, it can also be unnerving, as we like to believe we are the masters of our own houses, independent and not in need of the help of another.
Freud said there have been three great blows to man’s ego, the Copernican discovery that the solar system didn’t revolve around the earth, Darwin’s discovery that we are descended from animals, and share an essentially mammalian brain structure and Freuds own discovery that we have a dynamic unconscious, that the rational beings we like to believe ourselves to be is only one part of the story.
Part of this unconscious is the repressed unconscious, the place where we store the things we don’t want to know about ourselves, however these things are known at some level and we can expound a great deal of energy trying not to know them.
Getting to know and understand these parts of ourselves although often frightening to begin with, can actually be a huge relief as we come to know and accept these parts of ourselves, parts of ourselves that may seem like monsters under the bed and cast scary shadows but are usually essentially human characteristics.
Paul Salvage is Psychodynamic Psychotherapist trained to work with adolescents from 16-25 and adults across a wide range of specialisms including depression, anxiety, family issues, self awareness and relationship difficulties. He currently works with individuals in our private practice in Hove.
Further reading by Paul Salvage –