How I Work in Psychotherapy

At times, during my teaching students about psychotherapy, I am asked to describe how I work in therapy. This same question can also be a part of the beginning of initiating therapy with a patient. 

I found an article by Dr. Max Sucharov that captures much of my orientation, and does so beautifully. 

Max Says:

"Imagine yourself to be a patient of mine, having come to visit me for the first time. After having told me your story, you sit back, you look at me and say, “Well, Dr. Sucharov, could you please explain to me how you work and how you see yourself being able to help me?” 

I will say something to the effect that I see myself as being helpful, not only because of the insights I may provide you concerning your long-standing, restricting relational patterns and out of-consciousness emotional beliefs but also, more importantly, that hopefully something in your experience of our relationship will be such as to provide you with something new, something that contributes to your healing. I will also find myself saying that a useful way to describe our process is that we are here for you to teach me to be the best therapist I can be for you. I will also try to meet you unconditionally, exactly as you are, with no expectations that you fulfill any predesigned therapeutic goal. There will inevitably be moments when I fail you in this attempt, and when I do, I will do my best to be mindful of this, acknowledge my slippage, and return to the space of unconditional meeting. 

Our sessions will be open-ended conversations with no plan or agenda, with the faith that this non-directed approach will allow new and useful understandings to emerge. I will also explain that even though we are here to understand the nature of your suffering, the process by which we arrive at that understanding always includes the influence of my own unique personhood, both its strengths and vulnerabilities. If you express any discomfort with regards to your experience of me, I will never assign that experience exclusively to your own “problems” but will always attempt to identify and acknowledge my own contribution, conscious or unwitting, to your experience. 

If your story has been one of continuous and horrific trauma, I might add that healing includes not only our capacity to make sense of your experience but also to come to peace with dimensions of your traumatic world that may never be adequately understood. I might also add that I have sometimes found a spiritual approach to be a useful complement to our process."