Psychotherapy is by no means magic. Nor is it a miracle cure. However, I have recently started to wonder about the range of techniques and tools the psychotherapist has to use to help the client who presents with various needs and conditions. It is analogous to a magician pulling out her bags of tricks to inspire, awe and create an experience.
I have been trained in various theories and approaches, part of it had been the nature of the training of therapists in the United States, and part of it had been my own effort to learn various perspectives and methods. Among the many, I have oriented toward the Psychodynamic and Humanist approaches more readily. But my training in solution-focused therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have been quite solid due to my graduate school’s theoretical orientation and the internships I have participated in. Working with marginalized families and in community based agencies, I have also been drenched in Family Systems approaches.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, the bulk of my practice has been in assisting clients who were facing relationship difficulties. Every now and then, and often so frequently, psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression accompany the relationship problems. Recently, as I engage solely in distance counseling, or online psychotherapy, I have come to realize that the range of tools I use is stretched even wider. This could be due to the adjustment of various conditions in counseling sessions due to the nature of e-counseling, such as reduced non verbal communication when you most often only get to see the face and shoulders of each other, as well as the lack of physical presence in the room with the client, even if there is visual presence. The heart to heart, breath to breath presence is something that is a useful assessment as well as psychotherapeutic tool during in-person sessions. However, in the absence of that, other tools need to be used to respond to the needs that are coming up in the session.
Thus, though I am primarily a relationally focused Psychodynamic psychotherapist, I have returned to my foundations in C.B.T. techniques, especially with certain clients who have severe mood and anxiety disorders. This leads me reflect upon how as a professional psychotherapist, one cannot be dogmatic about theories and approaches. One has to always remember they are only tools, means to an end and not the end itself. What is the ultimate priority and the center of the equation here is the client and he or her needs and presentations. Everything else is just a bag of tricks to make happen inspirational magic and moving experiences so that the client can have the “umph” to steer from helpless stuckness toward hope and change.