How Do You Know If You Are Doing Course-Based Psychotherapy?

by Robert Perry

Most of the following principles apply to any interaction in which you are attempting to be helpful.

You don't see your patient as mistreated by the world and needing to uncover just how mistreated she has been. Instead, you see that what has hurt her is her angry perception of the world, and nothing more.

You don't see your patient as needing to take responsibility in the form of more confidently and assertively managing his external world (through taking care of himself, drawing his boundaries, stating his needs, etc.), but through letting go of his resentments.

Whatever the patient says is causing her pain, you realize that the real source of all her suffering is her guilt (which comes from her own unforgiveness). Whenever your patient weeps, you realize that, down deep, she is weeping for her own lost innocence.

No matter how deeply the patient believes he is a vulnerable victim, you realize that the weak self he believes in is the fantasy construct of his all-powerful mind.

You deeply appreciate just how desperately attached the patient is to his weak and guilty self-concept, and therefore gently and lovingly help him loosen his grip on this self-concept, which is the cause of his anguish, yet which he considers his most precious possession.

As a matter of course, you expect the patient to attack you in order to defend her cherished self-concept. You realize that the core of psychotherapy is to respond to these attacks without defense, and thus show her a way of being that is so secure it doesn't need to protect itself with attack and defense.

Even if the patient is sure that the goal of therapy is to take charge of her life in a difficult world, you realize that the goal is to unconditionally forgive the world.

As you listen to your patient describe his problems, you are keenly aware that the problem is never out there, that the problem is always his resentful perception that the problem is out there.

As you communicate with your patient, you place more focus on how charitably you see her than on how understanding and therapeutic your words sound.

No matter how confident or callous your patient is, or how clean his conscience seems, you realize that the remedy he needs is for you to tell him in your heart that all his sins have been forgiven him. You know that, even if he doesn't realize it, he has all along been praying that you will tell him this.

You try to remember always that anything unworthy of love you see in your patient, anything that makes you recoil, anything that seems inferior, is your own song of guilt projected onto the patient.

Rather than seeing the patient as a diseased, unworthy lesser being, you try always to remember that she is your savior. She will save you through seeing the sinlessness in you. She will absolve you through forgiving your sins. She will do these things for you as a natural response to you doing them for her.

No matter how ugly the material your patient trots out, you see your job as telling him, "That's not who you are"—and believing it yourself.

You realize that success depends on establishing a real collaboration with your patient, an authentic joining, in which you and the patient eventually lose all sight of separate interests. You realize that to be a master therapist, you must be a master at joining with other people.

Rather than being the therapist holding yourself aloof from your patient, you realize that you both will find healing as you become simply two people who have joined. The form of your relationship will remain that of therapist and patient, but the underlying content will be the same as when any two people join.

Though your words can be extremely helpful, you know they will not carry much power unless they are backed up by your love and by the example of your life.

You realize that you can only give this person healing to the extent that you have accepted healing inside yourself. Thus you realize that your first responsibility is to walk your own path of healing and awakening, that the life you lead outside of the session is the basis for whatever you can give within the session.

You recognize that, by yourself, knowing exactly what this patient needs requires an omniscience that is completely outside your range. And so you lean upon a Power beyond your limited understanding for how to deal with this particular patient.

You listen deeply to the patient, so deeply that you are able to hear the Holy Spirit speaking through him, between his lines, telling you what he needs.

You may interpret the symbols in the patient's dream and thereby uncover hidden personality traits, negative thought patterns or past wounds, but you realize that these reflect the patient's ego, not the patient's true identity, which is far beyond all these.

As a matter of policy, you never turn a patient away because he cannot pay. Why? Because you trust that everyone who comes has been sent by the Holy Spirit; because you recognize your gain comes from the holy encounter between you and he, not from money; and because you know that, after a lifetime of demands, this person needs a true gift of love, not another demand.

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