How can a therapist be totally free inside, while seeing patients from different cultural backgrounds, various religion’s beliefs etc.?
When you enter my office you might feel surprised because you find yourself into a real home atmosphere… Among some cosy stuff you might see there’s a little Buddha, a Menorah, a small wood painting representing the Virgin Mary, a little statue with the half moon of Islam etc.
Why is that? Because I think it’s necessary to send all of my patients a very precise message: You are welcome here as a human being, no difference or prejudice might interfere with our communication, with the beginning of this very important adventure: your therapy.
When you ‘ll discover who you are deeply inside, with the many crucial implications which might occur, you will be able to make your own decisions and state your goals. What I’m saying now sounds quite obvious to me, but it seems that this position of fully respecting other people’s beliefs is not very common in psychotherapy. I have recently seen a potential patient looking for the proper analyst saying: “he has to believe in my God, in order to be able to understand me completely.”
Now, in my opinion, a professional attitude with our patients is the only guarantee for a neutral and totally objective therapy. We have method, experience, human approach and we put all these ingredients into the relationship with a new patient. I could say that being specialized in “cultural adjustment” – which is part of my professional background – might help, but I honestly think the best attitude on my behalf is to fully respect the person in front of me . In this respect there’s the possibility of listening in an open and empathic way.
We take what the patient is expressing in the session, then we give back what can help him/her to become more aware, to reach a better understanding and so on… We are not magicians able to change the real world, and for sure we don’t have to give indications and suggestions to our client. A therapist can’t have easy and practical solutions for his patient, because what he gives is making a person able to feel his life and destiny being in his own hands. That said, no need to share with a patient the same ideas in politics, philosophy or opinions in general.
We are not nice supportive friends, and we can’t judge the person in our office. The professional kind of respect we need to give our patients involves full respect also for our own private life etc.We are not actors on the same stage with the patient, but we are the director of the play, the guide in the desert, the leader in the weakness and we can have many different roles, all this without creating bonds and tight links which our patients might then find very difficult to interpret.
Through our listening we enter the mind and spirit of another person, but this is just in order to help forming a structure where all the components are part of our patient’s subconscious. I think the simple ideas I have been expressing here need to be shared with colleagues and clients, to implement a better debate on a very important part of our profession: the freedom to accept a person who needs our professional support in the most honest, open and efficient way.
Our approach creates the possibility for the patient to become much stronger and far more independent than before. Then, the analyst is no more necessary, and the patient might live his own life in a much better way.
– Giulia R. Ibry