How psychotherapy works

ConsultI have been practicing psychotherapy for nearly 30 years now, continually asking myself (and others) the question: how and why and where and when does therapy get results?

Here are some of the things I have learned:

    1. No one technique or type of therapy works all the time (or even most of the time)
    2. The experience of the therapist is more important than any other qualification
    3. Therapists who can work on different levels – thoughts, emotions, relationships, the body/brain, behaviour and the environment are more likely to be effective
    4. Therapists who adapt to the client with different styles of communication: listening, teaching, nurturing, challenging, directing and humorous – are also more likely to be effective
    5. Analysis of past events or ‘the unconscious mind’ is only marginally useful
    6. It is not what the therapist says that is important; it is what the client does with the information given
    7. Most of the changes the client hopes for will come in the first few sessions
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The Buddha and Psychotherapy

After Siddhartha Gautama was enlightened he became the Buddha. Before that time he had been first a great prince and then, after his renunciation, a wandering monk. His aim was to uncover the secret of suffering and find enlightenment. He tried several teachers, starved himself close to death, practised self-torture and meditation, but none of these worked. In despair he decided to sit under a Bo tree, not leaving until he had found either enlightenment or death. Four weeks later it came to him in the night. He ‘saw’ into the ultimate nature of reality: that it was without names, time or permanence. He realised that he was it and it he.

A few weeks after that he gave his first sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath to five disciples. He told them that he had discovered that everything that arises is subject to cessation, including suffering. The path to enlightenment lay in the Four Noble Truths:

1.   Know that there is dukkha

2.   Understand the origin of dukkha in attachment

3.   Let go of attachment and dukkha

4.   Follow the Eight-fold path

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7 things they don’t teach you at therapy school

When I graduated as a psychotherapist in 1990 I had been taught a lot of things that were never any use in therapy – watching out for ‘transference issues’ was one of them. I had also not been taught a lot of things that I really needed to know but only found out later. So like most therapists I had to make it up as I went along. But now I have been doing it for 23 years I have learnt a few things I am going to share with you.

Here is my list of seven things that really do work.

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