What is the real help of counseling?
Psychotherapy has been thought of in several key ways:
1. The focus has been on the competence of the therapist.
2. The focus has been on the personality characteristics of the patient.
3. And most recently, the focus has been on the fit between both people.
Counseling is the Comfort of a “Good Fit”
The “fit” refers to the intangibles of connection between therapist and client. We know so little, and yet so much about emotional engagement. We really need to turn more to the poets than the scientists, to appreciate the invisible emotional dimensions and depths that people bring to their encounters.
It turns out that emotional fit is important because it’s through a tuned-in relationship that people can begin to understand what’s going on inside.
Emotional problems consist of emotions buried deep inside a person. Those feelings are perceived as a threat because of their feared intensity which, of course, is why they were buried in the first place. What we need is help to understand, accept, and come to terms with those buried feelings. Then, we can become more whole and wholehearted.
Counseling Bolsters the Capacity for Understanding
Historically, the first idea in psychotherapy regarding help to a patient was called the “interpretation.” The interpretation was and is an explanation that enables the patient to think about unconscious forces or emotions that remain hidden and misunderstood.
In order to understand something, it must be conscious, in a state of awareness. Interpretation may go something like this: It may be that you’re angry because your boss looked at you in a way that reminded you of your father.
The effort is made to expand and extend awareness, allowing feelings to become more accessible to the thought process.
The patient only knows that he or she is suffering, sensing the inner disturbance, but unable to think about it clearly. Today, psychotherapy can more immediately help clients by sensing the hidden emotions that cause the distress. Through articulation, emotions begin to be felt and understood. It is through understanding hidden emotions that an individual moves toward health and well-being.
Counseling Supports the Regulation of Emotional Intensity
Once there was a man who couldn’t finish his assignments. He was struggling to contain, and conceal from himself, deeply angry feelings that he’d harbored most of his life. He created a standard of perfection, insisting that he knew and understood everything before he began any assignment.
As you can imagine, he never began anything. Motivation is essentially emotion; when emotions are poorly regulated, problems arise. Regulating the intensity of emotions is one of the principle tasks we face throughout childhood and, indeed, throughout all of life. We all have various difficulties and problems large and small, but we struggle on in spite of them.
When babies struggle with intense feelings, they become overwhelmed. They cry, needing the help of someone else to help regulate them, calm them and assure safety again. This helps explain a critical quality of psychotherapy. At times, when we are troubled or distressed, we can’t provide ourselves the comfort, safety, or answers we need. It all must come from the outside us– from somewhere else, with someone else.
Counseling Provides the Time to Heal
Classical analysis has been criticized for taking too much time. Some of this criticism has been addressed through a more rapid attunement to the emotions that are creating problems. Still, therapy is a time-consuming process.
Emotional growth and development are not the same as intellectual development. It all takes the right fit, significant effort, consistent repetition, and devoted practice.