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The Process of Therapy

copyright Angela Taormino licensed to Geoffrey Steinberg, Psy.D.

There is an art and a science to this work. I experience the art as a kind of intuition, listening not only to what a client says openly but also listening between the lines. Sometimes this feels like I’m serving as a satellite dish, or a stethoscope, picking up emotional signals. I’ll catch a feeling that a client perhaps doesn’t yet know that he or she feels and comment on it. Then there it is, out in the open, to examine and try to understand.

I experience working with clients as something like an artistic collaboration. The joint effort is aimed at reaching a shared understanding and striving for desired change by weaving together threads of the past and present, current relationships and the working relationship between myself and a client.

This is not simply a matter of making a tapestry that depicts the client’s life–it’s also about the rhythm and coordination required to create something of meaning and value together. Ultimately this process informs what the client may begin to do differently in his or her life, particularly around the quality of relationships with others.

The science of this work involves application of a certain body of professional knowledge. It’s an ability to recognize patterns within a particular client’s life and understand what’s happening from multiple perspectives—theories of personality development, statistics of diagnostic categories, biological and socio-environmental influences of behavior, to name a few. The challenge is to derive meaning from multiple frameworks and then offer what the client needs in such a way that collective professional experience has shown is most likely to work.

Research on psychotherapy is overwhelmingly consistent in its conclusion that the therapeutic relationship that is the primary agent of change. I experience this agency not simply in what I may say, but more generally in an attitude conveyed to a client–a feeling of being valued, a conviction that life can make sense and become more satisfying, that what was once a burden in one’s life can change into lightness, humor, and curiosity about oneself.

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