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What is Psychotherapy?

There are so many ways to conceptualize what therapy is, that choosing any one feels absurdly restrictive – if not downright misleading.  However, I love the challenge of paring concepts down to their simplest, most accurate and most pragmatically useful (i.e., pithiest) forms.


In that spirit, here is my current best “irreducible” definition of psychotherapy:


Psychotherapy is a collaborative and intentional relationship

aimed primarily at

    reducing suffering    

by catalyzing healing and evolution in the person called the “client.”



Beyond these essential elements, one could say that there are

as many ways of “practicing therapy” as there are therapists.


Nevertheless, from my perspective, there are several other “fundamentals” that apply to what I would consider “good” (i.e., deeply healing) psychotherapy, regardless of the particular way an individual therapist conducts his or her work:


Good therapy involves focused self-inquiry and courageous intra- and inter-personal honesty -- both on the part of the client and the therapist.


Good therapy is exactly NOT about changing you from who you are naturally into some other person that you (or anyone else) thinks you’re “supposed to be."  Rather, therapy is about creating the conditions for you to blossom into a more and more authentic, vibrant and beneficent expression of exactly who you already are.


In my experience, the primary conditions that allow this blossoming to occur (and which are largely my responsibility to provide) include, necessarily, the safety of being accepted exactly as you are -- AND the discomfort of being challenged beyond your comfort zone to face what you’ve been avoiding in yourself and in your life.


Said another way: If therapy isn’t a place where you feel at least a little more safe -- AND a little more challenged -- then not much of consequence is likely to come of it.

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