. . . training [to become a psychologist] and wish to understand
my own frustrations of feeling I had failed a patient I was working with;
he didnt want any treatment, yet he wanted a cure for his illness which
I could not give him. I found myself wanting to rescue
This is a good question because it raises an issue that
speaks not just to psychotherapists but also to all
Years ago, when
I was a student, a reading for one of my clinical psychology classes raised
the question of whether or not a
client could be treated with
Since I was in Lacanian psychoanalysis myself at the time, I asked my analyst
for his opinion about that issue. Predictably, he didnt answer. This
was real psychoanalysis, and psychoanalysts dont just answer any questions
that the analysand happens to ask in the moment. Nevertheless, in one of
our private seminars on
Lacan a few
weeks later, he gave his answer to the whole group: anyone who asks for
psychoanalysis can be treated.
Of course, you
have to pay attention to the carefully chosen wording of the answer. Anyone
who asks does not mean anyone who asks casually but anyone
who seeks treatment by committing to do the work of it and is willing to
pay for it.
Now, this is
a fair answer because it doesnt rule out anyone for stereotypical reasons.
Nevertheless, it does rule out many persons because only a few are willing
to do the hard and rigorous work of psychoanalysis. And, by extension, this
same principle rules out many persons from any form of
in general. Only those who are willing to take responsibility for their own
lives, and who are willing to work through the pain and
darkness of their
troubled psyches, can benefit from treatment. Or, as I say
elsewhere on this
website, when you want psychotherapy as much as you want to breathe, then
you shall have it.
who asks for a cure but refuses treatmentthat is, someone unwilling
to take responsibility for his own life and unwilling to work through the
pain and darkness of his troubled psychesimply cannot be helped by
traditional psychotherapy. Furthermore, by extension, psychotherapists who
are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives and who are unwilling
to work through the pain and darkness of their troubled psyches will feel the
overwhelming urge to rescue their clients. Why? Because, in trying to rescue
their clients, those psychotherapists will be
to rescue themselves from the pain and vulnerability they dont want
to see in themselves. And so they will bungle the psychotherapy.
isnt the end of the story. Jay Haley wrote a classic book called
Uncommon Therapy about the non-traditional hypnotic treatment provided
by Milton Erickson.
Ericksons work demonstrates that, in some cases, even resistant clients
can be helped in spite of their fear of treatment. Therefore, it could help all
psychotherapists-in-training to be familiar with this workand those
capable of understanding its clinical significance would do well to appreciate
advertisingno sponsorjust the simple truth . . .