Brief input on the nature and purpose of psychotherapy, distinguishing it from utilitarian counselling. Some counselling seeks simply to solve practical problems and this is useful, but psychotherapy aims to achieve a deeper change. In the teaching of Four Truths we see that how we respond to suffering can go different ways, into more dukkha or into liberation. Psychotherapy aims to make the difference and facilitate liberation. Thus it is the most precious relationship. The ordinary person tends to create "prisons" for himself and even if, by chance, he find himself outside his prison he quickly seeks to get back inside seeking a sense of security. To live outside the prison takes courage. When we think of the life of Buddha we see that he gave up security and depended wholly on the goodwill of others. Sometimes they put something in his bowl and sometimes not. It is the same for all of us - sometimes our bowl is filled, sometimes not - but we try to so arrange things as to keep control so as to ensure that our bowl will be filled regularly. This effort to control, however, often proves counter-productive and generates dukkha. This dukkha, however, if approached with faith, can lead to liberation and the catalytic assistance of the therapist can facilitate this release. Thus, although the methods of spiritual practice and of psychotherapy seem different, the basic purpose is the same.
In threes: Review of learning so far
INPUT on the importance of having extensive vocabulary for describing emotion and relationships. Recommendation to read novels, biography and poetry.
In same threes: pair describing their relationship to third person, in all three permutations.
Four student counsellors took turns to counsel the course leader, mostly on the theme of aging.
Review in small groups.
- A student asked about "other-centred work". Clisnt's state of mind is conditioned in many ways. One of the powerful ways is that the mind is conditioned by its object. The counsellor notices what object (generally a significant other person in the client's life) is holding the client's attention and helps to sharpen the evocation of this object by prompts, questions or reflections. The client will work on an issue naturally if the significant object to which it relates is held in mind at an optimum level of intensity. We looked at various ways in which this might be done. Other centred, therefore, refers not simply to the client as an other (to the therapist), as in the sense of "client-centred", but also and more importantly to the "other's others", viz the others that are significant in the life of the client.
- The discussion session developed into a counselling as one student shared about her life. She had had an important insight during the morning work and was now working through some of the implications.
- A student talked about a psychotic client whom she had worked with, especially about a particular session in which the client had "faced his dukkha" - definitely a sign of progress. In such a case it is best to think not so much in terms of a goal to be achieved as of a process that is under way. The client has evidently made progress and so one can be confident that he will make more, though one cannot know how far this will go.
Multiple counselling in two groups.
In pairs, processing any personal material warmed up by the course and looking at relevance of material learnt to personal life and work in the future.
There was much positive sharing and we over ran and could have gone on longer.
The topic of "prisons" and "efforts to control" stood out to me in this posting. Sometimes "prisons" seem beyond our control and those can be especially painful. I'm thinking of a client who had a terminal illness and had no control over her body deteriorating. I felt like that there was not much I could "do" per se as a counselor with this client, other than to "be" with her through her journey until she passed.
Yes, we can often do nothing about the basic travail that the person is passing through. We cannot bring back the spouse who has left or the relative who died. We cannot restore them to the job from which they have been made redundant. Impermanence strikes. We can be with them in such a way as to enhance the possibilty that they come through this in better shape than they would have been without us. In the case of terminal illness, this means that they make a better death than they would have done. We cannot make this happen, but we can create the conditions of safety, acceptance, responsiveness and so on that enable them to do what they need to do in the time they are with us, which may be the only place they can. The terminal patient often cannot be frank with relatives or friends, therapy may be the only place where they can do or share whatever it is they need to do before they go. Similarly with other clients, therapy is a special place where the process that they need to pass through may be permitted in a way that is impossible in other company. Thanks for sharing.