Shoshona Pascoe, MFT
I am always curious about the moment a person chooses to take action and set up the first meeting with a therapist. Often the issues motivating that decision are grounded in a long history. Though the experience of pain and uncomfortable feelings in a crisis are often the apparent motivator, the underlying need for a witness emerges from a deeper impulse.
Seeking the presence and attention of another being to witness our private inner world is often the unspoken longing behind the movement toward a therapeutic relationship. Despite the availability of a wide range of therapeutic modalities, from somatic and expressive arts to narrative or traditional psychoanalytic approaches, it is often the sense of being heard and seen that engages an individual to continue in therapy. The permission to be ourselves in the safety of an accepting, non-judgmental witness can create space for feeling deep, early deficits and needs and the potential for needed change.
I heard a story once about the experience of the first meditation teachers from the East who came to share their wisdom and techniques for self-inquiry with the Western world. They were perplexed and surprised by the level of self-hatred their new students were exhibiting; something they had not seen in their native culture. As a therapist I often see this place of inner criticism and non-acceptance as an inhibiting force that impedes the ability to grow and change. The willingness to allow another person into this place where we have cast out ourselves can be the first step towards a return.
Therapy involves many stages and interventions, and individuals differ in their needs for engagement and challenge. I value the opportunity as a therapist to provide a container of accepting witness where the possibility of change is seeded. I have seen in my clients an essential element of life wanting to express, of an impulse toward growth, and of a need for contact with another to witness this process. It appears to be a need that is present at the beginning of life and carries within it great capacity for healing.