Balance in Therapy
When I first started therapy I thought it would simply be a process of her fixing me. She would see all the bad things and make them good and all I had to do was wait. I was willing, and even, eager to give my power over to this woman. I had never known the feeling of being in charge of myself so the idea that my therapist would have all the power didn't seem all that strange to me. I saw myself as sick, my badness was the illness that needed fixed, and since she was the professional she would have the answers to fix this illness. However, I had found a therapist that refused to take my power, refused to accept any control over me. Now eight years later I am extremely grateful for that, although in the early years it was awfully frustrating.
The idea that therapy is something that will fix all your problems is something that I believe a lot of people assume. That their therapist will have all the answers and that these answers will automatically fit what the person needs. It seems many people, like we did, place their therapist into a position of power and authority. The therapist becomes all knowing, all powerful, able to fix any problem. I believe therapists have training to deal with this sort of situation, but I know for many, the idea of being seen as almost god-like is too tempting to resist. Add to that a lot of people that go into therapy have never felt being in control of themselves, and can be scared of the very idea of it, the pull towards an extreme power unbalance can be strong.
Therapy, by its very nature, has an unbalanced dynamic. The client has a problem in their life that they have been unable to fix, this problem is usually the underlying reason that they have sought therapy. The therapist does not have that problem, they are not personally involved, and they are there to guide the client to finding ways to manage that problem. This, therefore, begins with an imbalance between guide and traveller, helper and those seeking answers. To us, it is the natural beginning, neither right nor wrong, simply occurring naturally at the beginning phases of therapy. However as therapy continues, as the work begins to take place that imbalance will be addressed.
Therapy I discovered, was not about getting my problems fixed, rather it was about teaching me how to deal with those problems in the way most effective for me. In the beginning I had no idea where to start dealing with those problems. I suppose, if I did I wouldn't of needed to go to therapy to start with. This was were the imbalance came from for me. My therapist had ideas, she provided me with options and possibilities. At first I would talk about these problems, that they were insurmountable, that it was impossible for me to change. She would offer suggestions, ways that I could deal with what seemed to me at the time undealable issues. Each suggestion was made in a way that my opinion of it counted, it was always a case of what I thought about doing it. And when I tried a suggestion and it didn't work, we would discuss why, we would work out what went wrong and together find a solution or alternative. Throughout our therapeutic relationship she always made sure that I was in control of my process, that the path I walked was the one I choose. She was there as a guide, giving me the options to choose from, showing me the paths I could walk. With each step I made she supported and encouraged me, but I always knew it was my steps.
The goal of therapy, in my opinion, is finding healthy, self-affirming ways to deal with life. It is learning the skills to enable someone to have the life they desire, to be able to meet their own challenges and feel good about whom they are as a person. The therapist's job is therefore, to make themselves redundant, to get to a point where they are no longer needed, where their client has the necessary skills for themselves. As long as the therapist makes all the decisions, has all the power in the relationship the client will never gain any life skills, will never be in charge of their own life decisions. The imbalance in the relationship is indirectly addressed as the client begins to take responsibility for their own healing and therefore holds their power. The unbalanced ratio of power at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship should become more balanced as that relationship reaches resolution.