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  • Fe Robinson

Psychotherapy is a relationship, not a race

Do you want things to feel different? If so, you are in good company. This is what brings people into psychotherapy, a gap between what they wish to experience, and what is currently happening. The details vary vastly, from recent, difficult life events that have brought forward uncomfortable feelings, through to symptoms that have been present for a long time, or a damaging history involving multiple traumas or adverse life events.

There are many ways of working therapeutically. I’m trained to work with people psychologically, others support healing leading with the body. Given body and mind are not separate, divisible entities, it is clear that when we work with one, the other is necessarily impacted and changed; how could it be other?

All therapeutic relationships, of whatever kind, require trust. For some people, this is simple. They go to see a practitioner and extend them their trust, relying on their qualifications and experience up front. They then take note of the therapist’s way of being, their actions and words, and they assess ongoing how trustworthy this person is, and with what they can trust them.

For others, trust is not so easy. Sometimes people may be inclined to grant it unconditionally, to then be continually and painfully disappointed when they find people take advantage or let them down. Others may be very wary, and whether they realise it or not, they do not extend trust. They may be cautious, guarded, defended even. There may be aspects of self that they simply do not feel safe to allow to be present when they are with another, be that a therapist or anyone else really.

It’s important to know that defences exist for good reason. It is not wise to knock them down or to insist on exploring what’s outside awareness, without first making sure that a scaffold is in place to safely support the shifts in awareness, emotion, thought and physical experience that can come with therapeutic work. We build coping mechanisms and resources first, then we safely explore what’s within.

Psychotherapy rests on relationship. Without a foundation of trust, how can our vulnerabilities be present? How can we be seen or heard if we can not show all of ourselves? How can we find our own path to healing if we can not reveal what most troubles us?

It’s perhaps natural to want the quick fix, to want short term therapy that gets the job done. We might be tempted to race, to gloss over, and to go for the quick fix. And yet, relationships take time to build. Sometimes going slow, being patient, and waiting for opportunities to deepen to arise IS the essential work of our therapeutic space. Psychotherapy is not a race. It’s a relationship, and it can take time.


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