Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How I try to help people (methodology)

There are a bunch of therapeutic techniques that psychologists, gurus, teachers, and philosophers (collectively "guides") have developed over time to try and help people. Some of these are compatible, some are redundant, some are at odds with one another. This post is about the personal framework I've developed, having read and explored other styles and tested them on myself.

GOALS

The most important thing a guide needs to know is what the goal of therapy is. Some people like to say that the goal of therapy should be left up to the client. I happen to think that's a load of BS. Clients come to you because they need help and they don't always know what form that help will take, precisely because they're in crisis. Moreover, as a guide, you should already have some sense of what it means to be healthy and what direction the right "path" points in. You probably know it intuitively, but if you don't, look inward and discover what has really made you happy.

It's my belief that happiness is a product of open-heartedness, something I've been calling "Rest". Whatever your situation is, you can look at it with an open heart and embrace it as it is, however unsatisfactory or uncomfortable. The open-heartedness isn't a means to an end: it's an end in and of itself. It neutralized the friction in life caused by confusion, feeling alone, and feeling restless. 

RESOLVING ISSUES

Once the client has managed to open his or her heart up to what's going on in their life at that very moment, they can start to examine the issues in their life on their own and resolve them in ways that bring about more peace and happiness. That process is basically automatic because once a person has a dominant state of mind, it's natural for them to figure out ways to develop and further that state of mind. That doesn't just apply to feeling happy. It also applies to feeling angry or sad or miserable or diffused. It's a physiological law.

The guide can and should help the client reflect on the problems they're having in their life, their apparent causes, and their solutions without actually giving the client a directive (order). I personally think it's generally unnecessary to go into a person's childhood to figure out the causes of their behavior, which is why I tend to hesitate when it comes to psychodynamic/psychoanalytic models. In my opinion, you don't need to know the ultimate ultimate cause of a problem, just enough to determine how to treat it. In the same way, a doctor doesn't need to know the ultimate cause of an infection -- where the infection started, how it started, how the infection grew and spread -- they just need to know enough to diagnose and treat it.

In terms of this framework, issues should always be viewed as opportunities to grow and elevate the person, rather than problems that need to be discarded.

THE GUIDE'S TRAINING

A guide has to be well-versed in what it means to have an open heart, what the process looks like, how issues are resolved, and what the benefits are. In other words, the guide needs to have gone through a similar process. At a bear minimum, the guide needs to practice keeping their heart open.

METHODOLOGY

So the goal, as we've stated, is to help pry open the client's heart and help them reflect on the areas of their life that are causing them friction (including the reasons they sought help), generate solutions, and help them stick to those solutions.

There are different methodologies for helping clients open their heart. A well-trained guide can draw on their own experience to help guide their client. The optimal method is for the guide to actually BE open-hearted during the session with the client. That open-heartedness empowers the guide to embrace the client's situation and show the client how to embrace their situation naturally, without making it appear forced or insincere. 

Another method is for the guide to intuitively lead the client to open-heartedness by privately imagining what it would look like if the client was open-hearted and "still." By imagining what that looks like, the guide can slowly bring the client closer and closer to that state. That transition may not be immediate but instead work gradually.

Third, a guide can use their intellect to analyze causes and present theories and solutions. The intellect should always be involved in the course of helping another person, but in this method, it predominates. Intellect is important to draw on when the guide is feeling less open-hearted and more heady.

OVERARCHING GOALS

In addition to resolving immediate issues and teaching the client how to pry the heart open, the guide can play an instrumental role in helping the client develop a routine that keeps the heart open, especially in "stuck points." Stuck points refer to situations or people that push the client into a defensive position and close their heart. In other words, it puts them in a state of resistance and inner tension.

At this stage, the guide needs to be creative and inventive and generate ideas along with the client that help the client focus and weather through stuck points. Some ideas might include creating a schedule, creating reminders, creating accountability, joining groups, life cheat sheets, and so on. The guide should, together with the client, sift through the client's life to determine what's generating friction. They should consider, among other things, the client's social circle, routine, addictive behaviors, personal ethics, honesty, diet, posture, pace while in motion, relationships and reactive patterns, hygiene, and direction.

* * * 

That's it for now. This is obviously a work in progress and something that'll develop. I'd welcome your thoughts and contributions. Who knows. Maybe this'll catch on one day. It does bear some relationship to a lot of therapeutic styles (Rogerian and Gestalt the most, perhaps) but it's also different in technique and assumptions. Finally, a disclaimer, I'm not a licensed therapist. Yet. Dun dun DUUUUUN!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

what do u think of a therapist that tells u he is falling in love with u? Then, when you confront him about it two sessions later (cuz u really think he couldn't have possibly have said that in my vulnerable state and I have merely hallucinated) he answers with confirmation that- yes he is...but it is common and doesn't think that it will conflict with a therapeutic relationship??

Edahn said...

I think you should probably get a new therapist. That's the kind of thing that shouldn't really be said, even if it's true. It's irresponsible on his part and indicates a lack of maturity. It's not that he's a bad person, but I'm not sure he's really ready to treat another person if he says things like that.

Anonymous said...

Ok. Thanks. That's kind of sad- he's been the only therapist in my life that has helped me.

Edahn said...

I didn't realize you had a history with this person. I would bring it up and bring up your feelings about it and see if you can resolve it so you can focus again on the work, rather than having to deal with the drama and complication connected to your relationship with your therapist. Your relationship with your therapist should be something that helps you grow rather than poses new challenges and obstacles. If you can resolve it and move on, good. Great, in fact. You might even learn something. If you can't and think you could do better work with someone else, explain why you're leaving and find someone new. No hard feelings.

Anonymous said...

yes, 6 months of the most productive therapy I have ever had....he just recently conveyed this to me after six months.
He said it wouldn't be a *factor* in him continuing to help me. But who knows, it's complicated. How can I continue to confide in him about other men and trust that he's giving me sound advice? And in a twisted way- it's kind of *nice* to know that with all my insanity- which he knows ALL of- he loves me?

Edahn said...

I think your concerns are really valid. On the other hand, he's given you something positive--some knowledge that you're still worthy of love and care despite all your flaws. But that knowledge comes with a price because now you're worried that it'll be hard for you to open up and worried that he's going to give less-than-objective advice. And you also might start thinking about your feelings towards him. Like you, I would think this is a very big factor in the quality of his contributions, not to mention the quality of your contributions.

Definitely talk to him and see if you can work it out. Talk it out until you really feel satisfied. Don't just take his word for it, and trust your own intuition, observations, and deductions. If you think your therapy's been compromised and can't be restored to something productive, then you do what you have to do.

Your relationship with your therapist shouldn't be a source of drama. If it starts taking on the qualities of a romantic relationship (either you to him, or him to you), I would seriously consider leaving for your own benefit. Stay focused on what you came there to do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

you're not a fucking therapist.

Edahn said...

Very insightful, thank you.

Anonymous said...

get a life.