Therapy Soothes and Challenges

I love my work, and I know this work delves deep into who I am. When I first started to do counseling with couples, I studied complicated techniques like Milton Ericson’s hypnosis, and Virginia Satir’s work on anxiety that burrows inside your body. I watched in amazement 15 years ago as trauma was eliminated with EMDR (Eye Movement Reprocessing by Shapiro). I then studied with Judith Herman who wrote “the Book” onSueSerena healing after acute trauma. One never gets bored with the study of family therapy. Consider these requests by parents:

  • “Can you cure children suffering from enuresis?”
  • “What happens when my partner uses spyware on my computer?”
  • “When I suspect Janelle’s using drugs and she denies it, should I sureptiously read her journal?”

It is my pleasure to help families, but I don’t take credit for curing the problem. Therapy can help make crushing schedules more bearable; realign the meridians of power among parents and children; get parents paddling in synch instead of rowing against each other. The stress level and complicated after school activities packs in too many expectations. Headaches and stomachaches can give cues as to whether stress is high. In therapy I deal with the irritating pebble in the shoe, and the chaos of flashbacks. Plus I now know how much the work is helping myself. The old adage says, “You teach the subject that you most need to learn.”

In family therapy, clients often confuse us with social workers or psychologists. We do not pathologize clients nor diagnose learning disorders. These questions by Jay Haley (the savvy guru of brief interventions) give us pause to consider our stature as family therapists.

  1.  Is the therapy goal to change people to become members of special elites or to change them to be normal?  In other words, Does therapy adjust us to a maladjusted world?
  2. Should the therapist join in the madness of others or remain outside their universe?
  3. Should the therapist work swiftly or leisurely?
  4. When one thinks of therapy as poetry, does a skillful therapist write sonnets or free verse?
  5. Should a therapist insist upon change?

I’m ignorant of how people change. And blissful about my unknowing. I know intuitively that the relationship helps the change as much as the intervention. I could not answer these questions without asking my clients, “What do you think? What are you willing to work for?”



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