In Defense of Psychotherapy


“Cut them loose!” my sister tells me. She has just learned that I continue to see some clients for over 10 years. And she’s horrified. As if by continuing therapy I or my patients are engaging in something awful.

“But,” I reply, “their lives keep getting better. They make more money, have better relationships, and report being happier overall.”

My sister’s comment made me realize that the general public has no idea what happens in therapy. What we do in that closed chamber is a secret. And even if individual sessions are portrayed in TV shows, no one really sees the overall, cumulative effect of all that time and all that money and all those Kleenex boxes. No one really sees how much a person can change.

And most in therapy do change — a lot.

It’s an artificial world we create where one talks and one listens. One pays money and one receives it. One gets helped and one helps. One is the receiver and one the giver.

Or so it looks. My clients give me more than money; I give them more than time.

It’s a private world of pure human contact, aimed at excavation, of unburdening oneself of excessive, unnecessary weights. Of sorting our chaff from treasure.  

A world where eagles soar and heroes ride into sunsets. Where defeated armies get back up again and again to fight. Where burned and scarred skin gradually learns to bear exposure to the air. Where hurt and battered children — lost children — learn to play and sing and dance. Where celebrations are honored. Where souls wrestle with their demons. Where hope always triumphs for those who stick it out. 

Cut them loose? Why cut them loose when they are at the strongest place ever?

I think to myself, This client is dancing again. Honoring herself again. And for the first time ever, seeing her own wisdom and brilliance. If she needs to hang with me until her last dying day once a week for an hour, I will respect her for it. How brave. How courageous. How wise of her to seek help for herself and to stick with it!

For some people, coming to therapy is their only time to reflect on their life. 

Cut them loose? They don’t need to be cut from anything; they are already more free, alive, and hopeful than they’ve ever been.  

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