capturing the beautiful calamity of healing in therapy

There is no magic in therapy

There is no magic in therapy

As a therapist, I love what I do, and look forward to work everyday. I have incredible interactions  with clients from all walks of life, and I love helping these blessed souls unravel the layers of shame, fear, and traumas often  blanketing them when they arrive on my couch.

With that said, there’s nothing inherently magical about who I am or what I do. I’m a regular human being. I like to help others become the best versions of themselves, and I like to relate to people on an emotional and raw level. But, I’m still a regular human being with my own feelings, biases, and life experiences. I’ve attended years of school, have the fancy degrees, read the tedious textbooks, but my first point is the strongest one here: I’m a regular human being.

Sometimes, therapy is painfully realistic, and that, I believe, is because life is painfully realistic. I often tell my clients that I simply don’t have a magic answer, solution, or cure for that in response to their agonizing questions or revealing treacherous stories. I cannot pretend to have some kind of perfect, complete answer or almighty solution. Therapy isn’t about that. There are no cures for human conditions. There are no totally finite solutions or encompassing quick fixes. While I have confidence that my training and continuous work in this field has refined my understanding of “good enough answers” and “evidence-based solutions” it would be far too simplistic, patronizing, and ignorant to claim that there is a magical response.

I don’t have a magic answer for why people suffer abuse or die prematurely. I don’t have a magic answer for why some people drown in depression, others develop personality disorders, and others fall down the rabbit hole of substance dependence. I have theories, rationales, and reasons,- that is what “therapy school” teaches you, after all, but there is no certainty and no absolutes. There is no “only right way.” I’d be wary of any health professional who claimed there was.

Therapy isn’t about magic, because therapy isn’t about upholding an illusionary demeanor or performing secretive, slide-of-hand tricks. We don’t have a hidden wealth of knowledge or foolproof remedies for any of life’s struggles. We aren’t superhuman, and we certainly aren’t any more special than the clients sitting across from us. Strip away the labeling and professional titles, and there is only the human relationship; there is only, I see you, I hear you, I understand you, I want to help you. There is, have you considered trying this? Have you thought about that? Have you asked yourself X, Y, Z? There are thought-provoking questions and stirring conversations. There are interventions that change your perspective or behavior. Sometimes, there are tidbits of advice and direction.

And sometimes, there is just the reality of the situation. Painful, raw, random and hectic, a labyrinth of its own speed and tempo. The condition of life being exactly what it is- without a cure, remedy, or solution, without a dynamic reasoning or cause, without the answer or justification so many of us crave.

And, paradoxically, the fact that there are so many possibilities, journeys, and answers, the very fact that humans are so complex, capable, and dynamic on so many dimensions, speaks to its own sacred magic.