We named our organization GoodTherapy.org for a handful of reasons. First among them, good therapy is what most therapists are striving to provide. Regardless of orientation, nearly all therapists can be included in the group of dedicated and caring folks who strive to “do no harm” in the healing process. Secondly, we want to express, in the title of our organization, the importance we place on quality in the psychotherapy process. Thirdly, “good therapy” is catchy. The expression, “I (or he or she) could use some good therapy” has been around a long time. And finally, GoodTherapy.org sounds better than www.JustOkayTherapy.org, no?
But the phrase “good therapy” encourages a misconception: the idea that there is such a thing as pure good therapy, a process exempt from any problems or issues. In the same way that a perfect marriage is not one without problems, but rather one that works through problems, so is good therapy. No therapist is perfect, and no therapy can be provided perfectly, no matter how ideal a therapy may be in theory. Even those of us who do the best we can to be conscious of our inner world and attuned to the therapeutic process have aspects we are unaware of, pieces of ourselves unhealed, and mistakes we make.
It is for this reason that we, as therapists, can’t blindly work with anyone who walks into our office, although many of us would like to believe otherwise. The responsibility we carry as healers requires us to seek not just consultation, but our own therapy, especially when working with someone who is provoking something significant within us. The danger lies in situations in which we are unaware that we are unaware, or unaware that we are defending against something inside ourselves. And because each of us harbors pockets of unawareness which impact our capacity to remain calm, curious, compassionate, and connected, aspects of “healthy” therapy and “not-so-healthy” therapy exist together in our work like the weave of fine cloth, inseparable. Again, like a marriage, good therapy is a process, not a state, and it is filled with the good stuff and, unfortunately, sometimes the not-so-good stuff.
So, in responding to the question of what is good therapy, our best answer is that good therapy is defined by the nature of the whole process and perhaps by the outcome, but unlikely will it be devoid of problems.
Good therapy is the sum of all the experiences, internal and external, that occur as a result of the imperfect psychotherapy process, and it leads toward self-awareness, growth, and the release of extreme feelings, energies, and beliefs. And what a blessing it is that even the best therapy can be lined with areas of unawareness, mistakes, even challenges to the therapeutic relationship, and yet still turn out good, like a marriage. And for me this highlights the idea that, like a yin-yang diagram, we even need a little bad therapy mixed in with all the good. As paradoxical as that sounds, I believe it’s true. I am thinking of the important problems I’ve worked out with my friends, the strong repairs made in therapy with the people I work with. A solid repair makes the connection and the trust deeper and better. So, cheers to road bumps in therapy, within all relationships, and within ourselves!
My hope is that the therapist members of GoodTherapy.org will be among the group of healers in the world who make a conscious effort to heal themselves, to identify their hidden payoffs and blind spots, to avoid harm, to reach for deeper self-awareness, and will recognize that the growth process is a never ending journey for all of us … especially therapists.
© Copyright 2008 by Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.