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|Getting It Right - Page 5|
Writing this now, I pause for a moment to count all the groups of therapists I meet with regularly, once or twice a month. It adds up to five groups, plus one that convenes on Cape Cod four or five times a year. Evidently that's how much conversation about the work of therapy I require.
It seems when you take on the enterprise of psychotherapy, you enter what's fundamentally an oral tradition. It's Homeric: a handing down of knowledge and stories, a transmission of the culture, some of it meant to stay within the small group in which it's told. The practice of supervision itself—the tradition of sitting at a teacher's knee—gives another dimension to this culture. Sure, there's much written about therapy, there are case studies and theories, there are journals, books, articles, the words I write just now.
But all these words are as often as not a barrier to what psychotherapists need most: exposure to our own palpable experience. We don't get that from books. We get it from a relationship with a teacher or a supervisor or a therapist, where there's room enough to suspend hard judgment, to suspend the fixed idea that we should have "known better." Then we get access to ourselves. The confusion we share in supervision or with a friend isn't something to be eliminated, a problem to be solved, but a basic, recurring condition, which creates a need for sorting out ourselves, for sanity—which, in itself, is a piece of sanity. If we can tolerate it, confusion spurs a therapist's most fruitful explorations.
Luckily, In Treatment conjures up a psychotherapist who's in the thick of a great confusion. He's struggling with his marriage, struggling with what gets stirred up in him by his patients, struggling with how much he wants and doesn't want feedback. Indeed, the ambiguity of his marriage haunts all transactions. In one scene, he demonstrates his reliance on Kate, when he summons her for help with the failing office toilet, only to dismiss her later with a wave of his hand. Oh, you're finished with me, she says with biting sarcasm; I can go now.