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Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice -- Introduction

Lesson 1

Purpose of Psychotherapy


Webster defines “psychotherapy” as: the treatment of a mental or emotional disorder, or of related bodily ills -- by psychological means,

And “psychological” as: directed toward the will or toward the mind, specifically in its conative function,

And “conative” as: the power or an act of striving that may appear as a conscious volition or desire or behavioral tendencies – considered as a natural tendency, yearning or striving for truth.

In short, the mind, when following the ego as its guide, appears confused, disoriented, out of balance, insane and “sick.” The Course calls it “wrong-mindedness.” In order for the mind to return to sanity, to wellness, to balance and decisiveness, it must first decide that it is not satisfied with its current state, and must have even the tiniest of willingness to open to the idea that there must be “something” better than “this.” Once this has occurred, then healing of the mind can take place. The body no longer strives for self-deception. It follows the mind’s aim and strives for truth.

The mind is then open to seeing the world differently, and ultimately to seeing that the world is actually not real; it is merely a projection of the thoughts of the mind. Then it is understood that these thoughts can be changed, thus changing the world as it has been seen and experienced (with despair and confusion), to seeing the world now as happy, healthy, and a reflection of the love of God.

Note: Though the “world” will NEVER be real, no matter whether it is seen through the eyes of the ego/body or from Christ’s Vision, it can, however, be seen in light, as a reflection of the Love of God rather than as a projection of the ego (or the troubled thoughts of man). Heaven is the home of God, the home of Love, the home of Reality. Only Love is Real.

The method for seeing the world truly, then, will be in the area of correcting false thinking, exchanging it for clarity and truth. This is not a small task, if viewed from within the illusion of falsity. But it is a small task indeed, when seen from the perspective of above the morass of lies and deception. So our purpose is to rise above what is not true, to see what is true with clarity.

Since we appear to be so deeply mired in the illusions, in the deceptions of the mind, how then must we rise above this to the truth? Where do we begin? And how do we begin? The first step is to recognize that we need HELP to effect this transformation from illusion to truth – and a lot of it. It is a blessing, then, that HELP is available, and in abundance. And it is a joy to realize that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are aware of our dilemma and have a plan for us to be lifted out of the morass of lies and deception into the freedom of truth and love!

So let us begin. First let us look at the Introduction to this booklet, read it aloud, and then take an even closer look at what the words mean to us:


"Psychotherapy is the only form of therapy there is. Since only the mind can be sick, only the mind can be healed. Only the mind is in need of healing. This does not appear to be the case, for the manifestations of this world seem real indeed. Psychotherapy is necessary so that an individual can begin to question their reality. Sometimes he is able to start to open his mind without formal help, but even then it is always some change in his perception of interpersonal relationships that enables him to do so. Sometimes he needs a more structured, extended relationship with an "official" therapist. Either way, the task is the same; the patient must be helped to change his mind about the "reality" of illusions."

Jesus is quite clear that only the mind is in need of healing. This is actually good news. If we needed to heal our bodies, our relationships, families, brothers, our situations, all of our illusions one by one, then we would have a daunting task indeed. If we are, then, able to focus only on healing our minds/thoughts, then this narrows the scope of the work ahead of us.

Jesus says that all these “outer” relationships and situations do appear to be in need of correction and change, and they do seem very real to us. But he says that the corrections needed will not be addressed outside us onto the relationships and situations (which are too numerous to mention). They will be corrected in the mind, with the correction of our thoughts.

It is our thoughts that are wreaking havoc with our relationships and situations, not our relationships and situations that are wreaking havoc with our thoughts – even if it appears to go both ways. In short, it ALL BEGINS WITH OUR THOUGHTS, therefore it is with our thoughts that we shall work. Now at least we know what we will be working with. This will be an “inside job.”

“In order to see, you must recognize that light is within, not without. You do not see outside yourself, nor is the equipment for seeing outside you. An essential part of this equipment is the light that makes seeing possible. It is with you always, making vision possible in every circumstance.” (W-44.2:1-4) In this class, “we are going to attempt to reach that light.” (Refer to Lesson 44 in its entirely for instructions in how to practice seeing the light.)

“If you are trusting in your own strength, you have every reason to be apprehensive, anxious and fearful. What can you predict or control? What is there in you that can be counted on? What would give you the ability to be aware of all the facets of any problem, and to resolve them in such a way that only good can come of it? What is there in you that gives you the recognition of the right solution, and the guarantee that it will be accomplished?” (W-47.1:1-5) “Of yourself, you can do none of these things.” (W-47.2:1)

Where, then, are your real thoughts? In this class, psychotherapy will be the means by which we question the reality of what we have been seeing, thinking, believing and experiencing. It will be the means by which we SEEK/WILL AND FIND our real thoughts.

Sometimes psychotherapy can be done without formal help. It is begun with listening, reading, studying, informally discussing situations and ideas with a friend or teacher, or even through the observation of what one is experiencing or seeing others experience. Yet sometimes a more structured extended relationship with an “official” therapist is more helpful.

With this class we will be working in an area that is somewhere in between informal and formal, by studying this booklet that Jesus provided for us, and by joining together to practice what we are learning. For those who require more formal help, counseling sessions are offered by appointment, and even more structured therapy sessions are offered by numerous therapists in the area who have been specifically educated in the field of psychotherapy, such as Helen Schucman was, so many years ago. Choosing a therapist who has either read or studied the Course, coupled with a more traditional training, would perhaps be preferable for Course students.

The goal attained through this study is the same, regardless of the form of therapy you choose: The patient must be helped to change his mind about the “reality” of illusions. So next week we will move forward to Lesson 2: The Purpose of Psychotherapy.

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