Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice - Is Psychotherapy a Profession?
3. THE PRACTICE OF PSYCHOTHERAPY
II. Is Psychotherapy a Profession?
Paragraph 1. "Strictly speaking the answer is no." (1:1) According to Webster's 11th Edition Collegiate Dictionary, a profession is "a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic training." Yet psychotherapy, the purpose of which is to remove the blocks to truth, is something everyone is doing in every relationship all the time. How could any limits be put on an interaction (even "labeling") in which everyone is both patient and therapist in every relationship in which he enters?
"Yet practically speaking, it can still be said that there are those who devote themselves primarily to healing of one sort or another as their chief function." (1:4) It is to them that large numbers turn to for help. They are "officially" helpers. Even as there are those who choose specifically to help feed the rest of the world (i.e., farmers, dairymen, etc.), there are those who specifically choose to help others remove the blockages to truth (i.e., psychotherapists, ministers, etc.). In this sense, both farmers and therapists are "officially" engaged in serving others, as are many "professionals" by various ways and means.
These "professional" therapists are devoted to certain kinds of needs in their "official" activities, although they may be far more able teachers outside of them. Have you ever spoken to a therapist, or a teacher, outside of the therapeutic session, or outside of class? Here is where they drop the official guidelines and relate to you, not officially, but on a one-on-one equal basis where all distinctions in roles are dropped, all lines of demarcation are set aside, and only truth is relevant.
"These people need no special rules, of course, but they may be called upon to use special applications of the general principles of healing." (1:9) "Certain kinds of needs" (1:8) call for certain forms of applications of certain principles of healing.
And these are adhered to regardless of the form of healing needed. Yet the way in which they are used may vary considerably from person to person and from need to need. This will be determined by inner guidance, rather than from behavioral guidelines. There is a lot of leeway in helping people. What will be effective for one, may not even make a dent in the thoughts or behavior of another. Keeping in touch with inner guidance is therefore a top priority for trained (and even untrained) psychotherapists.
Now to address the topic of "special applications":
Paragraph 2. "First, the professional therapist is in an excellent position to demonstrate that there is no order of difficulty in healing." (2:1) In order to do this, the therapist needs special training, because the "official" training he has received probably taught him little or nothing about the real principles of healing. In fact, his conventional training probably taught him how to make healing impossible. For example, it may have taught him that sickness is real. It most likely did not teach him that sickness is not the truth, or that every perceived sickness is healed with equal ease, or that the idea of sickness begins and ends in the mind that thought it.
"Most of the world's teaching follows a curriculum in judgment, with the aim of making the therapist a judge." (2:4) He is to "judge" the illness of the patient, based upon established guidelines, and "judge" the therapy needed to correct the illness, at least insofar as it is possible. It is not difficult to see that this method of therapy is untrustworthy at best, as it is based on the informed (or rather uninformed) opinions of the therapist. This is unreliable at best, and counterproductive at worst.
Paragraph 3. "Even this the Holy Spirit can use, and will use, given the slightest invitation." (3:1) Even the most arrogant, selfish, unconcerned, and/or dishonest therapist who is even uninterested in healing as his major goal, can be effectively used by the Holy Spirit, both to heal the arrogant therapist AND the patient who (wittingly or unwittingly) chose this therapist to guide him through his trials and tribulations in life.
However misguided the therapist may be, even when he is steeped in egoism, even if his dreams of money and prestige have taken precedence over his true purpose -- when he chose to be a therapist, there was "something" that led him in this direction. Even while the therapist is being trained to be a judge, even while he sets up his practice and begins projecting his selfishness and uncaring onto patients who need help, that "something" is enough.
The Holy Spirit can use that "something." Sooner or later that "something" will rise and grow. A patient may touch his heart, and the therapist will silently ask for help. He himself will have found a therapist. And when he asks for help, he invites the Holy Spirit to enter the relationship and heal it, and that is the "slightest invitation" needed. As the therapist asks for healing, he will have accepted the Atonement for himself, which is the only real function any of us have here.
An author wrote (paraphrased):
"A patient will touch his heart, and the therapist will silently ask him for help." (3:6) Here Jesus, the acknowledged author of A Course in Miracles, captures a deeply touching moment in just a few words. Here we have the world's most uncaring therapist, the most unhealed healer. Yet in the midst of doing his callous therapy, the seed planted in him by his choice to be a healer suddenly sprouts. A patient touches his heart. He sees in the patient something pure. He realizes how debased he, the therapist, has become -- and he silently asks his patient to rescue him. In that moment, he has made good on his choice to be a healer. For he has asked that he himself be healed.
Paragraph 4. "God is said to have looked on all he created and pronounced it good. No, He declared it perfect, and so it was. And since His creations do not change and last forever, so it is now." (4:1) In this sentence, Jesus quotes the Bible but does not state this as his source. And then he "corrects" the statement from "pronounced it good" to "declared it perfect." What authority he shows when he does this!
Then he states that neither a perfect therapist nor a perfect patient can possibly exist, because to exist, either or both would have had to deny their perfection! Their very need for each other must of necessity imply that there is a lack, and that cannot be possible in God's creation. Therefore, both patient and therapist are in denial.* "A one-to-one relationship is not One Relationship." (4:6) The one-to-one relationship still involves separation, while the One Relationship is perfectly united. Despite this obvious fact, still, joining with a brother IS the means for return to truth from this world of illusion, and IS the way God Himself chose for the return of His Son.
In the strange dream of separation and illusion, a correction, a way to return home must enter, for that is the call to awaken. And what else could therapy be but that call? Though therapy is two coming together for healing, the relationship is still reaching toward oneness. So what is supposed to happen in the "coming together as one"?
Ideally, the two call each other to awaken through every communication, every gesture or expression, and every interaction. The only message that any two should ever give to each other is: "Awake and be glad, for all your sins have been forgiven you." (4-10)
Paragraph 5. "Something good must come from every meeting of patient and therapist." (5:1) No matter how callous the therapist may be, no matter how resistant the patient may be, there will always be something good in each and every meeting between them. They would not be in each other's presence, sent by the Holy Spirit, if this were not so. This "good" is the only thing that is real in the relationship, and it will be saved for the day that both of them will be able to recognize it. At that moment the good will be returned to them both, blessed and purified by the Holy Spirit, as a gift from God as a sign of His Love.
What a beautiful idea! Some relationships seem to be filled only with ego, only with impure thoughts, words and actions. Yet in the midst of all the impurity, there are always sparks of beauty, maybe left unseen by the patient and the therapist, but not unseen or unsaved by the Holy Spirit! All the beauty will be saved in our treasure house for us, to be given us when we are ready to receive it. It will come tumbling down upon us like manna from Heaven to the Israelites in the desert.
The goal of the earthly relationship, then, is to become the earthly mirror of the heavenly oneness of the Father and the Son. Though the oneness here is only a symbol of true Oneness, it is the last step we must reach before awakening to the One Relationship in Heaven.
The therapists of this world do not have oneness as their goal. The idea of separation is too ingrained. The idea of oneness is not taught in traditional psychotherapy, as it would appear to undermine the authority of the therapist. Yet the relationship must become like that of the Father and the Son, because there is no other kind of relationship that is real. The outcome of the therapy must mirror a true relationship or it has failed to reach completion.
The therapists of this world do not endeavor to reach this outcome, nor do they even fathom reaching an outcome as high as this. Nor would the patient be likely to accept help from one who did intend to reach this high. Yet unless the therapist recognizes this, he will not truly understand his role in the therapeutic relationship, nor help the patient see his role, or that joining is the goal.
Remember, neither the therapist nor the patients enter the therapeutic relationship knowing the goal that the Holy Spirit has set; they only know the role they each have for the other to fill, a role that is inconsistent with the role the Holy Spirit has given each of them. This they will learn.
Paragraph 6. "It is in the instant that the therapist forgets to judge the patient that healing occurs." (6:1) When the therapist is judging the "illness" perceived, or the recommended "treatment" of the patient, he is doing so with traditional training, and will of necessity be wrong. It is only with "special training" that true judgment can be reached. Until such time, the "judgment" of the therapist is merely "judgmental" and healing is not effected under such renderings.
Yet every so often, the therapist "forgets" to judge, he actually sees the patient as a brother, even though he may not realize it, and in those instances healing occurs for both of them.
In some relationships this point is never reached; however, both the therapist and the patient may reach a point of changing their dreams. Yet it is not the same dream for both of them and so it is not the dream of forgiveness in which both will eventually awaken. They may learn how to better cope with their lives, how to adjust better to the world, but they are still dreaming the dream of separation. These "new" dreams will eventually lose their appeal and be seen as simply new dreams of fear, and not the holy dream from which they will awake.
Yet no patient can accept more than he is ready to receive, and no therapist can give more than he believes he has to give. And so there is a place even for these relationships in the world, bringing as much good as each can accept and use.
Paragraph 7. "Yet it is when judgment ceases that healing occurs, because only then it can be understood that there is no order of difficulty in healing. (7:1) As the therapist judges, he is seeing the particular difficulty of this particular patient, and not seeing that all perceived illness is really the same. All are caused by erroneous thinking in the mind, and all are healed by correcting the mind that thought illness real. It is not harder to wake a brother from one dream than it is from another.
Yet no therapist in this world can maintain this mindset consistently in his mind, offering it to all who come, or they would not be in this world. This paragraph does state that there are some in this world who have come very close to this perfect mindset, but they have purposely refused to accept it completely so they can stay here until the end of time to be useful to all who are sent to them. These "Saints of God" are the Saviors of the world. They have maintained their bodily image because they have chosen to help others to have kindly dreams. What a blessing this is!
Paragraph 8. "Once the professional therapist has realized that minds are joined, he can also recognize that order of difficulty in healing is meaningless." (8:1) Miracles seem very natural to minds that are joined; in fact, it is as easy as breathing. It seems very unnatural to minds that still perceive the separation, because the ego does not understand how separate minds can influence each other in more than a superficial way. It does not understand that there is a universal experience that minds can share, even here in the world. It sees everything as separate, different, difficult, and incapable of understanding or reconciling. It sees only conflict everywhere it looks.
Please note that in the booklet, the virtues of the professional therapists in this world are not extolled. Quite the opposite, in fact. It speaks of the therapist who may be more healing when he leaves the office (1:8); the therapist who was taught to be a "judge" instead of a healer (2:4); the arrogant, selfish, unconcerned, and actually dishonest therapist (3:2); the therapist who does not expect a relationship that transcends separation (5:6); and the therapist who may never forget to judge the patient (6:2). It says the "Saviors of the world" could hardly be called "professional therapists." (7:6); and that "most professional therapists are still at the very start of the beginning stage of the first journey." (8:5) These are hardly accolades for professional therapists.
Yet well before the professional therapist reaches an understanding that there is no order of difficulty in miracles, he can go toward it. Thus many holy instants can be his along the way. A goal marks the end of a journey, not the beginning. And once a goal has been reached, another goal will be visible and reached, and then another and another, until the goal of Oneness is seen and reached. This sounds long and tedious, but the journey is not long except in dreams.
The next paragraph mentions the one enormous advantage professional therapists have:
Paragraph 9. "The professional therapist has one advantage that can save enormous time if it is properly used." (9:1) He has chosen a road to travel in which there is great temptation to set himself high above his brothers and to see himself as superior to them. Because his profession has such a high status in our culture, there is great temptation to lord it over his patients in a peremptory (haughty) manner, to give them little or no input into their therapy because he considers what they think or say to be of little consequence, or for the therapist to use his patient for his own aggrandizement.
For example, those therapists with a "waiting list" are considered to be "more successful" than those therapists who have empty time slots. Yet, often if the status of a therapist is particularly high, this might actually be an indication that less healing is taking place, rather than more. There are therapists who prefer to have fewer patients and to give them more quality care, than to have more patients, and thus more money and more status in the world. There are many unsung heroes in this world, even in the world of psychotherapy.
So how is being faced with "great temptation" an advantage? Because if the therapist bypasses this particular pitfall, and does not fall prey to the ego, and can see himself as equal to his patient, just in a better position to help him than most, now he can recognize himself as no more worthy or unworthy than his patient. If his patient is not inferior, then he is deserving of healing. This can lead to non-judgment, to seeing that there is no one better or worse off than any other, that all are worthy of being healed of illusions with miracle principles, and brought to the light that they both share. Now he is in the position to realize that there is no order of difficulty in healing.
There is no halfway point in this. Either the therapist sees himself and the patient as equal -- or not. There is no compromise available. Yet if the therapist is tempted to see himself as above the patient, and/or to collect bodies to worship at his shrine, the Holy Spirit is always there to say:
"My brother, choose again." (9:10)
Paragraph 10. "Do not forget that any form of specialness must be defended, and will be." (10:1) If the therapist's objective is to boost his own specialness at the expense of healing for him and his patient, how will he respond when things go wrong, when the patient makes no progress, or questions the therapist's methods, or even blames the therapist for his lack of progress? If listening to ego, he will become defensive, and perhaps even attack the patient for his unwillingness to heal. If listening to Spirit, he will simply listen more intently to the Holy Spirit in order to find an inroad into the patient's willingness to heal, some method to which the patient will respond, and he will leave all defensiveness and blame out of the equation.
Now we might ask how the defensive therapist, the unhealed healer, can possibly be of any help to either the patient or himself, and what reason would anyone have to go to a professional therapist for help, if they are so in need of help themselves? Because it is the Will of God that the therapist take his place in God's plan for salvation. Because it is the Will of God that his patient be helped to join with him there. And because the therapist's inability to see and hear does not in any way limit the Holy Spirit from working through him to effect a healing for both. Except in time. It may appear to take longer, and it will.
In time there can be a great lag between the offering of healing and the acceptance of it, be it the healing of patient and/or therapist. This is called "the veil across the face of Christ." (10:10) Yet this is only an illusion, because time does not exist and the Will of God has always been exactly as it is. The therapist's egotism and the patient's resistance can seem to erect a blockage to healing, but remember, nothing can block the Will of God. Healing will occur, just as rapidly as both are willing.
*Denial -- The proper use of denial is to deny any belief that error can hurt you. His peace is totally incapable of being shaken by errors of any kind. True denial is a "powerful protective device." (T-2.II.2:1)