Many people facing difficult life challenges or struggling with their internal emotional experience are told to ‘go to therapy’. To obtain this therapy, they are directed toward a mental health professional, often a psychologist. For many people they equate this psychological treatment with other medical treatment that use often complicated practices to ‘cure’ an illness.
Health across all areas, including the physical, is best ensured when there is the active involvement of the person seeking care. Whether it is taking medication as prescribed, holding a positive attitude, changing habits or the like, the person can assist physical healing. Even more so, any healing that comes with psychological care will come only with the support and full involvement of the person facing the challenges.
Therapy is not that of an expert taking control and ‘making’ someone ‘get better’ or ‘get over’ their distress. Therapy is first and foremost a shared experience of two human beings. It is just that at this particular time in this particular setting one person feels weak or lost or confused or beaten down. This person also comes with the unique and personal knowledge of their experience that no one else holds as completely. And this vital knowledge held by this person in distress is the key to ensuring therapy will likely bring healing. The other person, the psychologist, comes to the experience not involved in that which generated the distress, but with some understanding of the causes of distress and some means to relieve the distress. Both have much to contribute to the healing.
Each one of us in life faces challenges that can become overwhelming. As a member of the human race, this is the reality for psychologists as well as those seeking support. This understanding of our shared humanity is vital for both the psychologist and the person seeking support to remember. There is a Zulu proverb at the basis of the powerful concept of ‘Ubuntu’. The proverb says:
“I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours”.
Therapy that matters will always involve an interaction between two humans amongst the humanity around them. And within this interaction between two humans is interwoven a knowledge and science of one with the lived experience of the other….Within this shared place healing may occur that matters to both but most especially to the person facing this time of distress.