Counselling Resource

Psychology, Philosophy & Real Life

Sarah Luczaj

Some of the Mysteries of Therapy

Why is it that if a fascinating or difficult client comes along and the counsellor spends an entire supervision session, or most of it, working out how to proceed, this client invariably never comes back? Is this the widely known and surely scientifically proven by now ‘Sod’s Law’? Or is it just me?

Sometimes I am amazed at the mystery which is the concept of progress in therapy, or rather the real, concrete sense of it. How sometimes after months of hard, insight-yielding work it seems that the client feels they have done nothing but go round in circles, while sometimes the therapist is certain that the work has been going round in circles only for the client to reveal that they have made incredible progress. This often comes to light during the session in which the counsellor has decided, after much deliberation with their supervisor, to bring up the sense of stuckness they feel.

Indeed this brings me on to another fairly consistent phenomenon: why is it that if a fascinating or difficult client comes along and the counsellor spends an entire supervision session, or most of it, working out how to proceed, this client invariably never comes back? Is this the widely known and surely scientifically proven by now ‘Sod’s Law’? Or is it just me?

There is also the phenomenon of a tentative, introductory first 50 minute session after which the client returns saying that they have felt miraculously better all week. There must be a way of drawing these circles of the counsellor’s experience and that of the client’s, sometimes interlocking and interposing, but vast areas of which are a mystery to the other, containing experiences and needs and memories and dreams and ways of feeling quite impossible to express accurately enough, for behaviour to be predicted, intuited, understood by the other, despite the in-the-moment empathy the counsellor may feel and convey. This empathy, along with acceptance, realness and all that happens in therapy, is real, valuable, growth promoting, and yet within the scope of a life, so partial. This is obvious enough, yet maybe a counsellor is fooled by how real their own perceptions and empathy feel. Or too ‘therapy-centred’. Even when you don’t realise you have been fooled, the shock you feel at unexpected disappearances or successes prove you wrong.

A bit of ignorant speculation here: I assume from my cursory knowledge of the psychoanalytic approach that they have plenty of good explanations for the mysteries that I, as a person centred practitioner, largely surrender to. It’s true that these ‘client-surprises’ can always be explained, sometimes in a very satisfying and creative way. While my instinct is to resist them, I suppose these ways of explaining are as true as anything else, just another victory of human creativity and sensitivity over the total unknowableness of the world.

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