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  • Fe Robinson

The being and doing of psychotherapy

I’ve been following a debate amongst some fellow psychotherapists recently musing about ‘doing’ and ‘being’ in psychotherapy. You may know therapeutic work is broad and varied, some approaches are quite busy and technical with the therapist using specific techniques and approaches, while others are more spacious and organic, allowing whatever it is that needs to emerge to emerge, in its own time.

Like many of my colleagues debating, I don’t sense there are two opposites that are mutually exclusive. It’s not really possible to just be and not do anything in a therapy room, given everything we say or do not say, and our body language and actions all have impacts on the client. We are doing, whether we like it or not.

Just as much, I am not sure how one would do without being. There is not just one way of being, we are there, unfolding in the moment. We have an energetic presence that can vary wildly in quality and impact, regardless of what it is we do with it.

So, for me, doing and being are an and/both. There are some wonderful therapeutic approaches that I make use of when the moment calls for them. Examples include symbolic modelling, a way of inviting clients to discover and develop their metaphorical experience of what is happening for and within them, and EMDR, a body of approaches to processing troubling or limiting bodymind experiences from the past that impact experience and quality of life in the here and now.

Neither technique is of any use without my willingness to be with it and my client with humility, curiosity, openness and awareness. Nor is my way of being enough without a theory of mind, some skills and ways of holding myself and my client that enable the magic of therapy to happen. I am not simply being there, I am being there therapeutically; there are things I am doing and not doing that make me effective in the role.

Sending a thank you to my colleagues for stimulating me to reflect on the nature of my work, and how I do, and be, within it. It’s a useful call to reflect on what is essential, and what is superfluous, and how I continually check in and know the difference.


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