Sunday, March 10, 2013

Therapy Headache

Some of the most infuriating experiences with therapy seem to involve nothing at all. While the therapist will claim that there is 'inner turmoil' / 'a complex interaction of unconscious forces' and other language bites, the client or patient in a therapy session may feel that the therapist is making much of nothing. He or she may even feel that the therapist is going out of the way to create trouble.

Such was the case in one therapy apppointment I attended years ago. The therapist had a mind to try Carl Roger's famous passive approach to therapy, in which the client is encouraged to change and grow with minimal actual influence.

I will report on the dialogue that transpired:

Therapist: "This time, I'm going to try an experiment. In this therapy appointment, I'm going to do absolutely nothing. I'm just going to listen"

Me: "Well, I don't know what to say"

Therapist: "Is something wrong?"

Me: "I just get a kind of terrible hollow feeling. I don't think that it works"

Therapist: "Well, does that mean that you feel like nothing inside?"

Me: [smiling]

Therapist: "Hey, you tricked me"

Me: "I really don't think that it works. If you insist on it, we'll just end the appointment"

Therapist: "Very well, I have no choice"

I was disappointed, like I had swallowed one big zero. In retrospect, it seemed valuable only because the therapist had insisted that it was significant. But since even that seemed debatable, I continue to look back on it as a negative experience. But if nothing else, I did become interested in psychology.

Looking back, it does seem like Carl Roger's therapy supports big hollow feelings, and that isn't what I should have to contend with. What would it do for depression? What would it do for people that don't get a natural high for that matter? His approach seems to assume that the client is happy, or that anything can be solved by just going back to loose ends. On the other hand, it does loosen authority, and as many people know, authority has been cited as one of the problems with capitalism. But should I become a socialist just because I received a certain type of therapy? This has both positive and negative influences. If nothing else, it is an honest approach which asks the client/patient to deal with exactly what his or her issues are, independent of any kind of judgment. Which seems okay, as an idea, but may fail when the specific emotions of inadequacy are involved. Perhaps the only problem was that I didn't feel the empathy that the original guru tried to offer.

I get the feeling that therapists are doing some very basic calculations, and the result is sometimes supportive in the context of authority / lack of authority, and much of everything in therapy comes down to the difficulty of putting it into practice. How overbearing! Or how mistaken! (As Freud might say) yet how 'uncontentious', how 'inspiring'---!

Much seems to cook down to the fulfillment of needs, when many patients really have very little genuine fulfillment. How to synthesize? How to dispute? Hidden facts bear down on us like angry trolls.

I can discover what I want, but it is much more difficult to discover what I need to do to feel better. Drugs are still treated as a karma-band bargain, an awful sacrifice, in which all is lost if there is not equilibrium.

1 comment:

Person-Centred Forum said...

I think you just had a lousy therapist. Don't blame Rogers or client-centered therapy.

Check out his session with Gloria and then see if you think it's 'passive' or a big zero.