Counselling & Personal Development

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Love and Psychotherapy

The essential ingredient that makes psychotherapy effective and successful is more than "unconditional positive regard", more than clever words, techniques or postures; it is human involvement and struggle. It is the willingness of the therapist to extend himself or herself for the purpose of nurturing the client's growth - a willingness to go out on a limb, to truly involve oneself at an emotional level in the relationship; to actually struggle with the client. In short, the essential ingredient of successful, deep and meaningful psychotherapy is love.

There is nothing inappropriate about clients coming to love a therapist who truly listens to them hour after hour in a non-judgemental way, who truly accepts them as they have probably never been accepted before, who totally refrains from using them and who has been helpful in alleviating their suffering.

Similarly, there is nothing at all inappropriate in the feelings of love that a therapist develops for his or her client when the client submits to the discipline of psychotherapy, co-operates and is willing to learn from the therapist and successfully begins to grow through the relationship.

To the contrary, it is essential for the therapist to love a patient for the therapy to be successful, and if the therapy does become successful, then the therapeutic relationship will become a mutually loving one. It is inevitable that the therapist will experience loving feelings coincidental with the genuine love he or she has demonstrated towards the client.

No matter how well trained and credentialed psychotherapists may be, if they cannot extend themselves through love to their clients, the results of their psychotherapeutic practice will generally be unsuccessful. Conversely, a totally uncredentialed and minimally trained lay therapist who exercises a great capacity to love will achieve psychotherapeutic results that are equal to those of the very best psychiatrists.

Ethical boundaries

Since love and sex are so closely related and interconnected, it is appropriate to consider briefly the issue of sexual relationships between psychotherapists and their clients.

Because of the necessary loving and intimate nature of the psychotherapeutic relationship, it is not surprising that both clients and therapists sometimes develop strong sexual attractions to each other.

It is difficult to see how a therapist who related sexually with a client would not be using the client to satisfy his or her own needs or how the therapist would be encouraging the client's independence by so doing. Even if it is not a sexual relationship, it is detrimental for the therapist to "fall in love" with a client, since falling in love involves a collapse of the ego boundaries and a diminution of the normal sense of separation that exists between individuals.

The therapist who falls in love with a client cannot possibly be objective about the client's needs or separate those needs from his or her own. It is out of their love for their clients that therapists do not allow themselves the indulgence of falling in love with them. Since genuine love demands respect for the separate identity of the beloved, the genuinely loving therapist will recognise and accept that the client's path in life is and should be separate from that of the therapist.

Social contact with the client outside of therapy, even after therapy has been formally terminated, is something that should be entered into only with great caution and stringent self-examination as to whether the therapist's needs are being met by the contact to the detriment of the client's.

When to terminate therapy?

Clients frequently ask when they will be ready to terminate therapy. The majority of clients, even in the hands of the most skilled and loving therapists will terminate their therapy at some point far short of completely fulfilling their potential. They may have travelled a short way or far along the road towards personal and spiritual growth, but the whole journey is not for them. It is or seems to be too difficult. They are content to be ordinary men and women and do not strive to be God.

Exploration and Discussion

1. Personal Development is a major investment in terms of money, time and energy. It is high risk in the sense that if the choice of psychotherapist is right, your spiritual dividends will be greater than you could ever have imagined. How do you feel your investment in your relationship with THE ROAD™ is bringing the returns you hope for? Are the returns so far greater than you hoped for?

2. You are travelling a less travelled road towards personal and spiritual growth. To what extent do you find it comforting to have a psychotherapist accompanying you in your journey? Does it diminish your sense of aloneness?

3. Do you feel comfortable in the idea that it is essential for a psychotherapist to extend themselves in love, to be genuinely caring, that you should successfully grow?

4. How have you submitted to the discipline of psychotherapy in order that you may grow?

5. Can you see that, while you may learn from your therapist, your path in life is uniquely individual, separate from your therapist?

6. Most clients terminate therapy short of fulfilling their potential. What will be your criterion for terminating your active participation in this course?