Wednesday, February 4, 2015

therapist neutrality

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
~ George Bernard Shaw

Many individuals expect therapists to resolve conflict by taking sides.  But therapy does not work that way.

A therapist is not qualified to tell you what to do; she holds no degree in right and wrong.  If she wants to pose as a moral authority, take sides in a conflict or tell people what to do, she is in the wrong business.  She should take up preaching or law enforcement instead.

A therapist is no substitute for the voice of God, Reason or Fairness.  Rather, she helps clients find their own voices and the solutions that feel good, right or fair to them.  

Most people are relieved to hear this.  They don’t want a therapist telling them what to do or taking sides.  Others, not so much.  They only want neutrality when their therapist is hearing someone else’s side, but agreement when hearing their own.  They have a mandate and want results: get my wife to stay in the marriage, make my kids respect me.  Change their minds or… you’re fired!  They want the therapist to eradicate the problem by changing someone else.  

But therapists are not hit men who take care of conflict this way.  They are more like doulas  assisting in the organic process of human growth, facilitators of change.

Sometimes growth means allowing others room to grow themselves, even if we do not like what they are becoming.  Sometimes it means adapting to situations we cannot change by changing our strategies or ourselves instead.

In fact, change is what therapy is all about.
author's note (added April 11, 2106): neutrality applies only within a framework of non-violence.  Most therapists use some some variation of non-violent communication to guarantee safety during sessions.  Therapist neutrality does not mean enabling aggression, including passive aggression.

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