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Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice -- Limits

Lesson 4


II. The Limits on Psychotherapy

Paragraph 1. Therapy begins with the realization that healing is of the mind, and in psychotherapy those who come together already believe this. Yet the ideal outcome is rarely achieved. It may even be that they will not get much further than an initial relationship before it dissolves, for no one learns beyond his own readiness.

When one person (patient or therapist) has outgrown the level of the therapeutic relationship, or conversely, when one person has been presented with a level that they are not yet ready to attain, either or both of the persons may effect a change in the relationship by leaving it. Sometimes, however, they stay in the relationship for some time after it has reached its maximum potential, sometimes even for long afterward. This merely effects a delay.

It is understood that levels of readiness change, and when therapist or patient has reached the next level, there will be a relationship held out to them that meets the changing need. Perhaps each of them will enter into an alternate commitment. Perhaps they will come together again and advance in the same relationship, making it holier. If both have reached a new level, they can renew the same relationship and again advance through it.

Be assured of this; whether in a new relationship or a renewal of the former, each will progress. Have you wondered if you are going forward in your development, are staying at the same place, or perhaps are even going backwards? Is it even possible to go backwards? In just a few lines, this paragraph provides an answer. You can go backwards, but retrogression is temporary. The overall direction is one of progress toward the truth. This information brings great comfort.

Paragraph 2. This paragraph goes deeper into the idea of true creativity, stating psychotherapy itself cannot be creative. In Course parlance, creative means to create eternal reality. We have already stated that psychotherapy deals only in concepts, not in reality. It can make the way for reality, however, by removing the blocks to truth. To say that psychotherapy cannot create, is to say that it cannot change anything that is already real. You are already the holy Son of God. And psychotherapy will not change or alter that in any way. Indeed, the definition of reality includes the word unchangeable. Psychotherapy can, however, point the way to reality, and to salvation.

The ego, however, claims that it can produce real change. It promises it can change itself and thus change who you fundamentally are. But this is just a ruse, a way of cleverly accomplishing its basic goal, which is to forego all genuine change. The ego says it can remold itself and become more, and better. For example, another diet will work. A new job, or a new home, or a new self-help course will make everything better. It says these provide real changes and will make you a happier person. Yet does a turkey taste any different if it is served on a different plate? Or if you slice it differently?

Perhaps it will temporarily appear to do that, but as we already know, the ego's "happiness" does not last, as is evidenced that we are still not experiencing perfect happiness per God's Will. Thus, the evidence shows that the promises of the ego are delusional in outcomes, and therefore the ego's promises are both transitory and empty. The ego is just plain wrong in this. This is hardly a big surprise, because as we already have learned, the ego is always wrong.

The changes the ego seeks to make are not really changes. They are but deeper shadows, or perhaps different cloud patterns. But they are still clouds, and still appear to block the light. What is made of nothingness (ego) cannot be called new or different. Illusions are illusions; truth is truth however you slice it.

Pursuing pseudo-changes is the ego's way, therefore, of resisting authentic change. Only a fundamental change in one's self-concept (from sinful attacker to holy Son of God) will make a significant difference in one's happiness and can thus be considered a significant change.

Paragraph 3. It is not only the patient that resists, however. Resistance can be characteristic of the therapist as well. Resistance* sets a limit on the effectiveness of psychotherapy because it restricts its aims. After all, if the therapist is trying to change what he sees as the fundamental identity of a defective human, then he is actually reinforcing his patient's self-concept, which says, I am a guilty, sinful, defective separate human being. Fix me. The therapist is therefore resisting the goal of therapy, which is changing the patient's guilty concept of self to a holy concept of Self.

Nor can the Holy Spirit fight against the intrusions of the ego, against the resistance of either patient or therapist in the therapeutic process. He will not step in and force either to choose differently. But He will wait, and His patience is infinite. His goal is wholly undivided always. His goal is to lead you home. He has promised God He will do this, and the Holy Spirit's promises are neither transitory nor empty, as with ego. His promises are faithful and true and as certain as God's.

Whatever resolutions patient and therapist reach in connection with their own divergent goals, they cannot become completely reconciled as one until they join with the Holy Spirit. Their goals apart from His always see the possibility of one gaining at the expense of the other. Joined with the Holy Spirit, they gain together. Only then is all conflict over, for only then can there be certainty.

Let go of your goals; accept His. His goal is to reunite you with the Father from Whom you never separated. Put this goal ahead of your own little goals, and watch all things fall in place. It will be worth the redirection, worth the effort, worth the choice for Him. Father, Your Love is Heaven.

Paragraph 4. Ideally, then, psychotherapy is a series of holy encounters in which brothers meet to bless each other and to receive the peace of God. And this is promised to every patient who appears on the face of this earth, for who except a patient could have possibly come here? The therapist is only a somewhat more specialized teacher of God. He learns through teaching, and the more advanced he is the more he teaches and the more he learns. We might assume that as we advance, we have more to teach, but less to learn. Instead, as the ability to teach grows, so does the ability to learn. Just as the more open you are to give, the more open you are to receive.

Be careful of ego interference, however. It may sometimes begin teaching through you, and unless a therapist is at hand to correct these false teachings, all who hear may be misled and thus go backward, or retrogress. This will only be temporary, if you recall, as the overall direction once this path has been chosen, is to go forward to the truth.

The Holy Spirit teaches through contrast, so hearing the false, followed by hearing the true, can sometimes be quite effective. Usually there will be someone, placed there by Jesus, to redirect false teachings toward truth, and all will benefit, including the one who was teaching from ego. Unless this one had offered what was believed to be true, the correction might not have been forthcoming at this time. So there is light, even here.

Whatever stage the therapist is in, whether advanced or just beginning or somewhere in between, there are patients who need him just that way. These patients cannot take more than this therapist can give for now. When we are in a position of helping others, most of us are aware that our limited development puts limits on the help we can give. That there are patients who need us just this way is profoundly reassuring. Also reassuring: 'Yet both will find sanity at last." AMEN


*Resistance is the ego's way of looking at things; its interpretation of progress and growth.

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