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Beyond Graduation: About Therapy

Thinking back through my life and training to be a therapist, I’ve had a spell or two of resentment that I was carrying matters that needed looking into…and one reaction to this is to begrudge the therapist and the whole mess of therapy in general.

In Against Therapy,  Jeffrey Masson, a psychiatrist, quotes Sándor Ferenczi, a close colleague of Freud. Ferenczi acknowledged the doubt and skepticism of one of his patients, that he could understand what she had gone through. “Ferenczi admitted that her skepticism was justified.” This is in stark contrast to Freud: “To give up authority was something that Freud had never ever considered. It was an idea totally absent from medicine in Europe in Ferenczi’s lifetime…[Ferenczi] envisioned a therapy based on mutual traumas.” This therapy comes down to some form of self-disclosure by the therapist—being honest about the therapist’s countertransference.

When a therapist presents some therapeutic level of his or her own trauma in the session, this can dispel the resistance of the client.

According to Ferenczi, Freud drifted toward an indifference to patients. “[Ferenczi] felt that Freud had treated [him] as he had treated all his patients [in Freud’s later years], with a certain callous indifference to their real suffering.”

Freud, per Ferenczi, in the evolution of his work, “no longer likes sick people. He rediscovered his love for his orderly cultivated superego…This involves, obviously, a degree of fatalism…his method of treatment as well as his theories result from an ever greater interest in order, character and the substitution of a better superego for a weaker one. In a word, [Freud] is becoming a pedagogue.”

Were I a patient of this kind of therapist, I would ask, How do you think you can do anything for me?

“How [do people] come to analysis? Because they believe, mistakenly, that the analyst will treat them differently than they have been treated until then. After all, if they are seeking treatment, they have failed to get the kind of understanding they seek in their everyday life.” Client to therapist: Why are you different from them who harmed me?

It is not that a therapist knows more about me than me. An effective therapist starts with an alliance and rapport with the client which can help her or him reduce the resentment and resistance. The therapist’s job is to accept the “transference” which is taking the form of resentment.  

The therapist imposes nothing, accepts the resentment, and hopefully this disarms the client enough to trust the therapist. The client then plunges into his or her own shadows and traumas, and the therapist deftly hands the work to the client of going into the dynamics of the trauma, of the choices and feelings that have arisen as defenses and misguided reactions that are now troubling and burdensome. In regard to the venture of therapy, I do believe in the efficacy of the client to achieve awakening. 



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