Why does therapy with you work?
One of the advantages to age is having had the time to muddle through, dig through and ride through thousands of life experiences, both alone and with companions of all sorts, friends, families, lovers, clients and professionals who acted as wisdom givers. Over these decades I have had countless capacities where I provided counseling/therapy and support to various demographics. My experience is vast in both who I worked with and how I worked.
Back in the 90’s I walked the streets of the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, handing out syringes and condoms while having conversations to help addicts and street workers stay safe and feel cared for. Concurrently I hung out in the ER of a tough inner-city hospital providing care to those wounded and those who delivered them into the hands of waiting compassionate doctors. When I returned to Canada, I worked providing spiritual care in an inner-city church. Now I am in private practice as a Registered Psychotherapist (more formal training!) and a large portion of my who I am blessed to work with are students, health care workers and senior level management executives.
I came to each of these roles with some form of training in counselling and therapy. Sometimes that training was in the form of learning a specific therapeutic modality like Brief Therapy, Parts Therapy, Prayer and Meditation, Narrative Therapy, EMDR and Hypnotherapy. There are more of these modalities that have piled on over the years, some more helpful in certain circumstances, some not so helpful. Some of these techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy have more research than others – but what works best is not defined by the research, but by the individual clients.
In summarizing over a decade of research on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapeutic outcomes, Lambert and Barley (noted researchers in this field) conclude[d] that improvements in the provision of therapy “may best be accomplished by learning to improve one’s ability to relate to patients and tailoring that relationship to individual patients” (2001).i
We are all wired differently, and we all see the world in different and interesting ways. Having mastered a broad range of skills has helped me become more effective at supporting people who are looking find different ways of being, most often so they can experience more peace, happiness and success in their lives.
My clinic, TheAnxiety.Clinic has a sister company. TheWorkshopClinic.com. Through TheWorkshopClinic.com I offer practical skill-based training to students and seasoned professionals in mental health care. I love to teach. Teaching is such a great way to put good out into the world. I have even created my modality to treat anxiety. It is called the Anxiety Release Protocol (ARP) and is based in decades of work helping people end panic attacks and manage their anxiety. So yes, I wrote the book on it! (You can see the book here: www.ToddKaufman.ca )
I am a bit of a geek and love to paw over research, and both learn and teach new skills. Imagine both my interest and amusement when I ran into a comment from a noted psychiatrist and theorist Daniel Stern who had to say this:
“Most of us [therapists] have been dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that what really works in psychotherapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client. That’s what does the work. We are all devastated by this reality because we spent years and a lot of money learning a particular technique or theory, and it is very disheartening to realize that what we learned is only the vehicle or springboard to create a relationship – which is where the real work happens” (Stern, 2008).ii
Stern’s perspective is captured in the body of work known as Interpersonal Neurobiology by Daniel Siegel, child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist at UCLA (Siegel, 1999).iii Daniel Siegel is one of my favourite published psychiatrists these days. I’ve attended a few of his workshops.
Much to the chagrin of my students I have on occasion quipped, “the modality primarily buys you enough time to build the relationship with your client/patient.” Yet is not just any type of relationship. Sure, we need to have trust in our therapist and even like them! However, the keys to a successful in relationship with your therapist is two-fold – authenticism and love. (No, we are not talking a romantic, sexual or counter-transferential love.) But we are talking love!
The kind of loving relationship where we feel REALLY safe, we KNOW we matter. We KNOW, deep down, our best interests will always come first to our therapist. There’s no risk in holding back, no fear of losing someone or being judged. You know that no matter what is said, or how exposed your deepest and darkest thought may be, they are here for you and going nowhere. THAT kind of love.
For so many of us this type of deep authentic relationship is foreign. Sadly, many of us have never been a part of such a relationship, so knowing how to create it, or do it, is new territory. Often new things can also be scary things.
Despite all this research and my decades of training and experience, I knew deep down that being authentic and stepping into loving relationships was the key to solving most everything. Ironically this master key is something most of us have a really hard time doing – even your therapist.
Mastering this key is liking mastering your golf game. You’ve got to get out on the green and the driving range and keep trying to hit that little white ball! And if you want to get really good, because you know it makes you really happy, then hire the best golf pro you can. Find one who has ‘been there and done that.’
In the case of mastering the stuff that empowers you to live a life of peace and happiness – that’s where I come in. I will will help you dig into authentic, enriching and loving process called therapy, which in turn helps you master your game of life.
i Lambert, M. J., & Barley, D. E. (2001). Research summary on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapy outcome. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 38(4), 357.
ii Stern, D. (2008). “The clinical relevance of infancy: A progress report”. Infant Mental Health Journal. 29(3), 177-188.
iii Siegel, D. (1999) The Developing Mind: Toward a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience. New York: Guilford Press.
Todd Kaufman is a Registered Psychotherapist and Coach specializing in anxiety disorders. You can reach Todd or book an appointment online at www.TheAnxiety.Clinic 1-800-699-3396.
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