I have been in therapy a few times over the course my last three score and some odd years of existence on this glorious planet. And believe me, there have been some mighty odd years. My first time in therapy was back in the 1970’s when everything was better and the culture had hit a high water mark. It seems in every age there is a therapy de jour and during that time it was transactional analysis.
Transactional Analysis is a theory developed by Dr. Eric Berne and is fully explained in his book, “Games People Play” and popularized by Dr. Thomas Harris in his book, “I’m OK-You’re OK.” The theory is based on a few fundamental principles. The first being that the basic unit of human communication is a single transaction or stroke. Other parts of the theory include defining certain ego states as: Parent, Adult, and Child. Transactional Analysis is a study of the interaction between individuals.
Of the various therapies I have tried, I have found Transactional Analysis to be the most powerful and profound and I still use it today to help me in my relationships. I try to always be aware of the ego state I am in and what kind of “mind game” I might be playing.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The therapy currently in vogue is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This therapy is usually short termed and goal focused. The patient and the therapist work together to identify and change certain patterns of behavior or thinking by changing the patient’s attitude. CBT is based on the theory that it is not what happens to us that gives us grief but how we think about what happens to us, i.e., negative thought. Or, as Hamlet said, “There is nothing is good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Gestalt Therapy was founded in the 1940’s by Fritz Perls and his wife Laura. The goal of Gestalt therapy is to gain insight or awareness through phenomenological exploration. It focuses on being here now, being responsible for one’s own actions, and provides a pathway to authenticity. It does so by engaging in dialogue.
Gestalt theory rests on the following four principles: “phenomenological method, dialogical relationship, field strategies, and experimental freedom.” Growth occurs organically as a natural process rather than interpretation by the therapist. The therapist leads the patient to discover herself.
Gestalt therapy was at its most prominent in the 1970s and 1980s. It has been influential in other areas such as organizational development, coaching, and teaching. Some of its ideas have been incorporated into other types of therapy. Gestalt therapy has recently reemerged as a popular form of therapy.
Choosing the Right Therapist
Choosing the right therapist is not so easy. It is pretty much hit or miss. You should interview the therapist the way you would a job candidate. You want to make sure you are comfortable with him or her and that you have the right fit for you needs and personality.
I have come up with my own questions based on a previous experience. I was in therapy a few years ago due to a relationship issue. During the course of one of my sessions, I happened to mention to the therapist that sometimes my life sometimes felt like a Kafkaesque nightmare.
“Excuse me?” he said.
“You, know. Like a Kafkaesque nightmare.”
“No, I am sorry I don’t know. What does that mean? Kafkaesque?”
You, know, the writer, Franz Kafka.
“No, I’m sorry. I am not familiar with that writer.”
Well, of course, I went on to explain who Franz Kafka was and the origination of the phrase Kafkaesque. But, it sort of took me aback that he wasn’t familiar with the well-known writer. And it got me to thinking that anybody who didn’t know who Franz Kafka was, wasn’t really in any position to help me. So, that became my litmus tests for therapists. I left him shortly after that and was not in therapy again for many years after. When I had occasion to seek therapy again, I would ask the question any prospective therapist, “Would you happen to know the writer Franz Kafka?” If the answer was the affirmative, we could continue. If they said no, I was looking for someone else.
You can develop you own questions to ask. Be diligent, it is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.