If you come to have therapy or counselling, with me, even just one session, I have to balance two things: on the one hand, I have to make sure I don’t clutter the space (i.e. our meeting) with lots of my wishes, opinions, concerns, ideas etc. I want you to have the freedom to come out with any thought that you want to share with me. This requires space, and it requires my attention, with my concerns about my own life put aside by me. I have to learn to shut up! I have to learn to think, to wait, to ponder things with you before we have an answer. If there’s a question to which we have no answer, I have to avoid rushing in with a comment, just so I have come up with something: I’ll wait until I have something useful to say. There’s a great line in one of the books I read:
‘Don’t do something, just sit there!’
(Note: in case you are interested in the technical aspects of psychotherapy, this is referred to as ‘containment of anxiety’.)
But there’s another side to this coin: I will also talk! I won’t just sit there nodding, saying ‘uhuh…..hmmm…. I see what you mean’. You need to have a feeling that I am engaged with you, connected, and participating. It’s no good if I am remote from you, ‘doing a therapist’ on you, hiding behind my training and behind the idea that I can possibly be perfectly ‘neutral’. So, I will try to be present as a real person, interested and curious, and I will try to get alongside you and not confine my role as some ‘psychological consultant’ wearing a white coat.
It is risky my saying this last point, because whilst some people will be pleased to read the above, other people may well think ‘hang on a minute, I do want a psychological consultant!’ Well, of course, I am versed in psychology and you will receive any comments from me that I think may be useful, but I am trying to say here that I am not a text-book or a computer: I am a bloke sitting together with you in a room, and if we spend any time together you would probably sense that I am a person as well as a professional.