In my last post I briefly discussed what therapy is, who it is for, and how it works. This post is devoted to the therapist’s love - a complex and magical component, that takes therapy from being “just” an effective tool to a transformative experience.
I have had wonderful therapists, to which I will always be grateful, for supporting me in my unfolding growth process. But it wasn’t until I felt an amazing, special love, in the relationship with my (third) therapist, that I experienced the transformative healing power of the therapeutic love.
The therapeutic love, which may also be referred to as “unattached love” or “unconditional positive regard” - is very different than most types of love we experience throughout our lives - it most certainly isn’t romantic love, neither is it a parent-child love, or even the love we feel for a dear close friend, but rather, it is the highest form of love human beings can offer one another.
My clients see and feel loved through the look in my eyes, my behavior, and lastly, through my words. Being loved translates to a sense of safety, comfort and ease they experience physically, emotionally and mentally. They have a clear knowing I truly want to see them for who they are, I have no judgment about their thoughts, feelings, circumstances or behaviors, and I have no expectations from them, to do or be or feel or think any certain way.
The therapeutic love resonates through the relationship: as it impacts both therapist and client, it reaches far beyond the therapy room, into the core of one’s self, and from there to other relationships. Moreover, it carries on for much longer than the working relationship does.
This relationship resembles a heavy, fertile soil in a small pot inside a greenhouse, in that it creates the ideal conditions for something precious to grow. From here my clients can explore, learn, grow, change, accept and thrive.
So what is it that allows me, as a therapist, to love my clients in such a deep way, and do I feel that automatically, towards all of them?
Let me start at the end: The answer is yes, I do feel that way automatically, towards all of my clients, and as the relationship builds and deepens, the feeling of love also deepens and develops more and more intricate layers.
What allows me to feel this love and approach my clients with it, are my empathy and compassion.
In other words: When my clients sit with me, I recognize the suffering they feel in myself and in humanity as a whole; I recognize how difficult it is to experience this suffering, let alone share it with another person - a stranger at first; I see the human spirit as beautiful and complex - it cannot and does not comply with simplistic ideas and moralistic notions - no matter how much we want it to; I believe we all do the best that we can at any given moment, considering who we are and the circumstances we are facing; I do not believe we are self-destructive, but rather that we have strong survival needs that might pull us in opposite directions, lest we become aware of them and fully understand them; I understand hurting others is a painful yet often unavoidable consequence of the search for authenticity; I have no agenda about how anybody’s life should be lived and believe my only role, is to support my clients in exploring who they truly are - this exploration cannot be limited by what most of us have been conditioned to think and feel throughout our lives.
Experiencing such compassion and empathy translates into feeling, and consequently offering, therapeutic love: unattached, unconditional positive regard.
To those of you who wonder whether this approach works for teens, especially those who have behavioral issues, the answer is yes!!! Teens, sometimes more so than adults, need a space to explore their feelings and needs freely, in the presence of a responsible loving, nonjudgmental adult.
To sum it up, I wanted to devote this post to the exploration of the unique experience of the therapeutic love since I feel it’s not addressed or spoken of too often - possibly because, much like any other type of love, it is so hard to define and complex to describe. Guided by my own experiences as a client, I aspire to experience this magical love with my clients. I urge one and all to look for this beautiful quality in therapy - it can be found.