Recently, I was interviewed for a ‘Meet the therapist’ series which included questions about myself as a practitioner - how, why and where I work. And one question stood out;
What do you wish clients knew about therapy?
There’s so many things a client might like to know, as I recollect having lots of questions about therapy before I commenced. Psychotherapy is a commitment, yet it may only be a commitment of a single-session. (Something you don’t often hear within therapeutic culture) and I know that clients often feel apprehensive about seeking support. Moshe Talmon suggests ensuring clients are under no illusion of ‘hocus pocus’ or any other kind of magical fix by clearly defining the role of the therapist and the therapeutic encounter. In his book, “Single Session Solutions. A Guide to Practical, Effective and Affordable Therapy” (1993), Talmon writes ‘a therapist’s introductory letter to a potential client’ (Pg.195). I believe this letter encapsulates a lot of the areas I wish clients knew about therapy;
“To My Clients:
It may be helpful to tell you how I see the job of a therapist. My job is to facilitate your psychological well-being, by helping you to solve the problem or dilemma that may have made you feel stuck and demoralized.
The first thing you need to know is that the goal of the therapist is to help you help yourself. The therapist’s greatest pleasure and reward should be to see you go back to the business of life more confident of your ability to take care of your problems, trusting your judgment and intuition. Therapy should be helpful and efficient, and thus, as brief and un-intrusive as possible to your normal life. Our main allies in achieving this goal are not the latest technologies or scientific findings. They are your mental and physical abilities. The therapist is not the healer. You are! The therapist’s job is to help activate and facilitate your own healing mechanism and your inner wisdom.
The therapist should never doubt that your pains and problems are real. The act of seeking the help of a psychotherapist may make you feel as if you are crazy or a hypochondriac. You are not! The therapist will learn about you by listening very carefully to everything you say and asking questions to find out what got you stuck. Why are your warning signals flashing? Most important, the therapist will search with you for ways to get you unstuck and facilitate the necessary shift or change.
The combination of your available psychological knowledge and the wisdom of your body-mind is a powerful team and knows what to do. Muster your resources – spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, and social. You are not alone. Many sources of help are available to you. Do not panic or give up. Your most powerful tool is your will to live. Your coming to see a therapist is an expression of your will to live and your willingness to do whatever you need to do to recover and regain your self-mastery. Don’t ask yourself to do anything unless you know that you are capable of it and that it will facilitate the necessary changes. At all times you will be in charge of the change and of the healing process. The therapist should not trick you or make you do things that may humiliate or harm you or allow you to lose control.
Although the therapist will be available and by your side whenever and as long as necessary, your job is the make the therapist obsolete as soon as possible. End therapy as soon as you feel that the problem is solved or – more likely and more precisely – that you can manage it on your own.
You are here because you want to stop the pain and regain hope. This will be the time to put into the fullest use whatever capacity is left in you to enjoy and laugh. Talk with your therapist about your joys as much as sorrows, about solutions as much as problems. Therapy is not a place only to complain and blame. You many have come to therapy because you feel helpless and like a victim; do not make therapy a place to do more of the same things that made you feel badly. Therapy is a place to change, take charge, regain hope, and solve problems.
No doubt you have some negative feelings right now and you should express them openly. But watch out! Negative feelings can ignite your entire mind like a fire in a windy, dry summer. When negative thoughts occupy the mind, they can block out other perceptions, prospects and pleasures.
Forgiveness is a gift you need to give not only to others but to yourself. Everyone makes plenty of mistakes and everyone needs to be forgiven in order to move on. Nothing clutters the soul more than remorse, resentment, recrimination. Guilt and blame are the best bet for not changing. The easiest way to deepen grievance is to cling to it. The surest way to intensify a problem is to blame yourself. Change and action come more easily out of a non-judgmental understanding and self-love than out of criticizing and undermining yourself.
Therapy should generate and encourage your confidence in yourself and in your capacity to solve the problem. Form a partnership of hope. Your hope, which you’ve displayed by coming to therapy, is the therapist’s secret weapon. It is the most potent ingredient in any prescription, in any task you decide to take upon yourself.”
- Moshe Talmon -
If you need support, are considering therapy or are therapy-curious, then please contact me to arrange an initial phone consultation.
The letter is taken from Moshe Talmon’s book “Single Session Solutions. A Guide to Practical, Effective and Affordable Therapy” (1993) published by Addison-Wesley publishing company.