How does a psychotherapist help people? What does “help” mean? Over the past two decades I’ve come to see myself as a helping person. Occasionally a little narcissism seeps in (before it disappears) and I’m possessed of the absurd feeling that my mere presence in the room – and in attenuated fashion, via email – is healing. That feeling is absurd, but not completely.
So, on to the pessimism of my title. I believe that when the roots are injured the tree is damaged. It may be quite beautifully gnarled and bent, and we appreciate it. And Edvard Munch can paint The Scream. What psychotherapists and good friends – all the same – can do is touch as touch was once needed; listen as being heard was once needed; maybe even hold as holding was once needed. The typical difference between the friend and the counselor is that I can frequently offer to and sometimes touch, hear and hold the past – the child. And since that’s who we adults still are, well, that’s pretty good.