When people think about therapists, the first image that comes to mind is of a patient lying on a couch while the therapist sits across from them doodling on a notepad and watching the clock. Too often, therapists are labelled as shrinks or analysts. Unfortunately, therapists are not usually associated with words like … guide or ally.
According to Wikipedia, psychotherapy is “a general term referring to therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client, patient, family, couple, or group”. Therapeutic treatments for clients are usually in linked to mental disorders. Wikipedia defines mental disorders, using the medical model for psychotherapy, as a “psychological pattern or anomaly, potentially reflected in behavior, that is generally associated with distress or disability, and which is not considered part of normal development in a person’s culture”.
Many therapists don’t think of their clients as being “ill”, but as individuals who are stuck in life patterns that are no longer working. They need the eyes and ears of a trained professional to help them identify these patterns and help to change them. A good therapist will interact with his/her clients, builds relationships, and listens to their goals and dreams. This approach falls under the ‘relationship model’ because therapeutic treatment depends on the relationship that is created between the therapist and client.
Author and clinical psychologist, Michael Owen’s poignant description in his book The Maya Book of Life puts words to the experience of the psychotherapeutic process. “Psychotherapy is not about alleviating symptoms or becoming better adapted but rather about developing the capacity to suffer, experience, and enjoy truth – the truth about oneself and the truth about others. As a result, life gets better.”
Which psychotherapeutic approach appeals most to you? If you’ve ever gone to a therapist, how did it help you and what might you do differently in the future?
Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto-based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.