Click on the link for this post from Rune Moelbak in the U.S. Rune is psychodynamic in orientation, so his language and ideas differ somewhat from our person-centred perspective – but we resonate with the points he makes. Our service is founded on the idea that people need real relationship in therapy to support them in healing and actualizing – just as Robin Williams’ character offers Will Hunting in the movie – and that therapy stands or falls on the quality of this relationship.
It’s not about ‘doing to’, but ‘being with’. And that is far more subtle and complex than may appear. Presence and connection require a willingness to be seen, to engage with uncomfortable emotions, and to accept uncertainty and risk. It takes a high level of personal work and realization on the part of the therapist, to become someone with the inward resilience, intuitive awareness, self acceptance, integrity and coherence to offer Rogers’ core conditions at depth – which is why at this service we look for therapists who of course have the training and qualifications – but above all show a willingness to sit with their own humanity and vulnerability, and work at depth with their own process.
There are, of course, many other roads to therapeutic growth, besides the forms of talking therapy offered by Rune or this service. However, we agree with Rune about the importance of talking therapy, and its nature:-
‘Talk in talk therapy is of course a lot more than talk. It is about facilitating the kind of speech that evokes forgotten or suppressed feelings, and may never have been spoken before. It is creative or novel speech, not simply the rehashing of old events or the telling of stories. In and through speech people discover what they really think, just as is suggested by the expression: “to know what I think, I must first see what I say”. Speech, when it is therapeutic, or spoken from the right place, is a lot more powerful than we give it credit for…’
It is, we think, fundamentally necessary to us as human beings for our words and meanings to be witnessed, heard and received with love. When someone offers us this in relationship, they support us in witnessing, hearing and receiving ourselves with love, and thereby in healing and growing.
In our experience, the therapeutic values we at this service share with Rune are by no means present in all ‘therapeutic’ environments, especially those favouring standardized or formulaic ways of working – which thereby inevitably devalue the personal, subtle, complex, ‘in the now’ qualities of real human relationship.
‘….the kind of therapy that benefitted Will Hunting, would not have been accomplished through CBT. A person does not experience a transformation in how they feel about themselves by filling out worksheets, or approaching their problems by becoming more rational about them.
The cure of Will Hunting was an emotional cure. Robin Williams was attuned to Will Hunting and was able to work with him so that Will was able to speak new words, and speak them from a new place within.
This new place within has to be accessed and discovered in and through a gradual and unfolding process, where a person first has to become vulnerable. Will had to trust his therapist, not by some rational command to do so, but by having a new experience of relating to another human being.
In the process of deepening his trust, Will had to be made aware of all the barriers to letting his guards down, including his fears of his emotional pain, his anger at others, and a host of other feeling and reactions that this kind of therapy process evoked in him.’
Rune touches at the end of his article on one of the aspects of therapy we consider the most important – acknowledgement of the potential of the deep inner wisdom we each hold, and the trustworthy, sacred nature of this. It is this inward knowing – Carl Rogers’ ‘internal locus of evaluation’ and ability accurately to symbolize organismic experience – and the profound empowerment this brings, which we can access through the experience of a relationship characterized by the core conditions. And of course, this can be difficult to get to, in a culture that tends to invite us to approach ourselves and others ‘as a technical machine in need of a quick fix, or think of our problems as “issues” that should be managed, mastered, and controlled’.
Rune describes the true task in these terms, again using the film as his example:-
‘Will, however, needed to let go of control, not increase it, and he needed to speak from a place that was different from the place he inhabits in his day-to-day life. He did not need his issues to be turned into problems to be mastered like another work-assignment. He needed space and patience, so he could begin to hear the voices of his subdued and suppressed feelings. He needed therapy to be an experience, not a set of procedures or dictates convincing him to be more rational or act opposite to his feelings. He needed to stop “doing”, and start “listening”. He needed to let go of his need for mastery, so he could begin to receive a different wisdom from within.’
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter