Fifteen brave souls journeyed with me on Wordier Than Thou, Tuesday the 28th of July (my brother’s birthday). I can’t tell you how much fun I had on Zoom sharing – for the first time – excerpts from my memoir: Fear, Folly & Freud: A Psychotherapist in Psychoanalysis. Here is a photo from the event:

Those of you who witnessed my debut know how captivated I am by by Freudian psychoanalysis. Today, I thought of another way to explain what I like about psychoanalysis.

When we decide we need therapy, we think we are going to a therapist to get guidance and loving support. We think the therapist will have answers. We think our job as a client, is to listen to the therapist, be compliant, do what the therapist advises.

This is what, unconsciously of course, I was expecting when I signed up for what I initially called depth therapy. I expected that the person I was consulting would know things I didn’t know and give me advice.

When this wasn’t what happened, I was miffed. The analyst I was consulting didn’t act like I acted with my clients. I wasn’t sure that she even liked me. I felt criticized when she didn’t agree with me and unloved when she didn’t give me the approval I thought I deserved.

In psychoanalytic treatment, the patient (in this case me) is instructed to say anything and everything that comes to mind (a technique called free association). This means that the analyst takes a more passive attitude, uses a different kind of listening and responds to what the patient offers from the unconscious.

This means that the patient remains largely autonomous. Has less chance to become dependent. The patient, instead of looking to the analyst for direct advice, positive suggestions, or detailed instruction, has to come up with their own insights and trust their inner self or what is often called the unconscious.

The analyst gathers together the material that the patient presents and then develops interpretations, short statements that shock or surprise the patient that are designed to help them change. I found that I could chew on a good interpretation for many years and feel how it was changing me.

The more the patient hears her own self talk and integrates the analyst’s offerings, the more able she is to solve her own problems. The more confidence she has in herself.

Of course it is much more complicated but this is the basic framework.

Let me ask you this: What has been your experience of seeking help? Do you like to get the answers, pay the helper & go on your way? Or do you want the helper to guide you in finding your own answers and journey with you?

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10 Responses

  1. Very insightful, Nicky. I believe I prefer the helper to guide me in finding my own answers. I’m discovering that dependency isn’t good for either party. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • So good to hear from you again Susan! I think of you often and wonder how your writing is coming along. I know
      that you speak from experience about dependency not being good for either party and appreciate you writing me
      about it.

      You are most welcome for sharing my thoughts – it is so fun to hear yours! Stay well and in touch!

  2. When it comes to getting a computer problem fixed, I prefer to get the answer and be on my way.

    When it comes to the creative endeavor of my own life, it’s like any art. I don’t want anyone telling me how to do it. But I do appreciate being introduced to new tools and ideas.

  3. Re your blog: ” the helper guiding you in finding your own answers and journeying with you” is the basic ethos for professional counsellors/therapists here. We must make a contract with a new client, and leave them clear that they are in charge of the process, the professional does not have the answers but will help them find their own. ‘Advice’ is offered only rarely, e.g. when a woman is in physical danger from a partner and is wondering what to do, She needs to get out! So part of the deal is teaching the client about the process. If they come
    believing the therapist will have answers, thinking their job as a client will be to listen to the therapist, be compliant, do what the therapist advises, they would need rapid clarification that it doesn’t work like that. Can it really happen like that in US?? How can anyone ever believe they ‘have the answers’ for anyone else? A culture difference, perhaps?

    • Hi Trish in beautiful New Zealand! I think that many of us, me included, unconsciously believe that there is an answer outside
      of us that if we can just find, our lives will be flawless. Growing up is figuring out that the answers we want and need are
      inside.

      You are obviously a Grown Up! Thanks for reading and sending a message! Much appreciated.

  4. Interesting…. it never occurred to me the my therapists… two of them!!!) had answers for me….my assumption was they would guide me to find my own solutions… which they did…. I was a very slow learner for quite a while!!! Now, looking back I am astounded at their patience, humor and kindness!!! I am very grateful I had the wherewithal to thank them both before they died. I will have my 80th birthday at the end of this year!!!
    Nicola, I enjoy reading your vignettes ( not sure it is the word I want…am too tired to find another one..) as well impressed at your energy to be doing all the intense, and I expect at times,
    difficult work. Also courageous!! Very courageous.
    Best…. Viivi

    • Viivi – It is so good to hear from you. I know what you mean about being thankful for your therapists’ patience.
      It has taken me over a decade to get clear about some of my patterns and I still need reminders.

      Thank you for your kind words. I am so glad that you enjoy the posts. I hope you have a great birthday!

  5. So interesting, Nicky!
    As a person who has been in therapy on and off (in many therapeutic modalities) for many of my adult years, I have found that the particular modality means less than the skill of the therapist. I don’t believe any good therapist–unless there is an immediate situation of danger–incorporates “direct advice, positive suggestions, or detailed instruction.” A client may be looking for those initially but will not be satisfied if that is what is provided. We all need to find our own solutions and develop tools to create solutions. A good therapist in any modality knows this and practices accordingly.
    Can’t wait to read about your journey in analysis!

    • Hi Diane! I totally agree with you about the skill of the therapist being vital. I would almost say that skill is secondary
      to the person of the therapist and by that I mean that the client needs to be curious and interested in the therapist and feel
      that the therapist has something to offer.

      I can’t wait for you to read about my journey! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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