You can only get as high as your therapist. ~ Ram Dass
This is a very important question, but one that needs some context. When Ram Dass says “high,” he’s talking about a level of consciousness, not a psychedelic drug-induced high. Or, you could think of a level of emotional maturity or emotional intelligence, as one author calls it.
This question connects to the idea I implied in another article (This is Your Brain on Therapy, Part One) that your therapist’s emotional health directly relates to the results you’ll get in therapy. Ram Dass says the same thing with different (catchier?) words.
Imagine a client going to a therapist who has a need to control things going on around them. Not so high on the emotional maturity level. Let’s say our therapist might feel the need to “impose” (my word) various methods, techniques, or interpretations on our innocent client. This helps the therapist feel in control and imagine that what they do actually helps, or fixes, the client. After all, the therapist certainly knows what needs fixing, right? (He said, sarcastically.)
Now imagine that the client experiences life, including this therapist, from a relatively low level as well. This seems reasonable, since the client is struggling with their own issues. They are the one seeking help. The client may find the therapist’s methods very helpful. After all, it probably feels like “going to the doctor” and the client doesn’t have to get too involved. Feels just right. So far, so good.
Unfortunately for our hapless client, while they may feel fixed in the short term, they may also begin to feel dependent on the therapist who has all the answers. The next time our client has an issue (and there will be a next time, since nothing really changed and the client remains at the same “level”), they once again allow the therapist to tell them what to do and think and feel. (No, I’m not bitter!) And so on, and so on …
Now, imagine that our heroic client can no longer see their therapist. The therapist moved away, does not take the client’s insurance, retired, has taken ill, any number of reasons. So, the client finds another therapist, this time one at a “higher” level. Therapist Number Two does not feel the need to control things. They meet the client at the client’s level. They operate such that the client’s natural change process kicks in.
As a result, the client discovers not only how to address their current issue. They also discover how to address future problems. They now know something more about themselves that gives them a path to follow when they get into trouble. And, it is their path, which feels just fine to the second therapist (actually, it is their preference). The client now operates at a “higher” level, which they probably would not have reached with their first therapist.
I love it when a story has a happy ending, don’t you?
(Part Deux of this series will address the need for therapists to get as “high” as they can, so they can best serve their clients.)
Copyright 2015 Daniel J. Metevier