A few weeks ago, I read a superb article by the late Mark Lawrence, M.D.  Dr. Lawrence’s article spoke to me for several reasons, the most important reason being the fact that he touches upon the matter of who it is in a therapeutic relationship that actually does the healing: Does the therapist heal the client, or does the client heal himself or herself? (Dr. Lawrence’s article: http://www.centerforhealingandimagery.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/emdr-ego-state-psychotherapy.html) 

As I have mentioned in my blog posts, I have been engaged for about thirty years in the process of trying to heal from childhood abuses and from spousal abuse. My two most effective therapists have been the therapist I saw from 1980-1983, my very first therapist, and my present therapist, the person I have been working with for the past two years. The therapists I saw between 1984-2010 were generally helpful in some way, even if only to be contacts when I needed reality checks.  A few, such as the art therapist I saw, were instrumental in helping me build my self-confidence, and others were there for me as I made my way through my graduate programs.  Only three of the sixteen therapists I have seen were what I might term sub-competent.  I learned from all therapists I saw, though, however competent or incompetent they seemed to be.   

My very first therapist was a family therapist who specialized in working with children who had been traumatized.  Toward the end of her career, she left the large public agency where she had worked and began a private practice in a small clinic. At that point, she began seeing adults in addition to children. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been her client because she was open to me, met me on my own terms, and had utmost faith in my ability to find my own path to healing.  Her trust in my ability to heal and in my ability to find my way through the process was absolutely essential in supporting my will to live and my drive to heal.  Without her accompanying me, I might have given up the struggle.   

I credit my first therapist, in fact, for saving my life because I had seriously considered suicide.  Any person who has endured a childhood of sexual and psychological abuse and twenty years of being victimized in a marriage can no doubt relate to what I say.  By the time she retired, I had gained the self-confidence and will to live that I needed in order to raise my daughter as a single parent and prepare myself for a career.   

By the same token, my present therapist is also there for me as I heal.  Like my first therapist, my present therapist has faith in my ability to do the work necessary for my own healing, and she witnesses my process and is there for me if I need her direction.  Like my first therapist, she does not impose her own “method” or techniques upon me unless I ask her to do that.  And I know that if I ask her for specific help, she will give it to me.  When I ask for guidance, she guides me gently and with humility, not pretending to have all the answers or to have a monopoly on wisdom.  As she has told me, each person who heals adds good, healing energy to the Universe, and that makes our world a better place for everyone.  I believe this. 

So back to my question: Does the therapist heal the client, or does the client heal herself?  My answer:  The client heals herself as the therapist guides, witnesses, supports the process, and looks on with compassion.   

The above is my answer.  You may have a different answer to the question I pose.  If you do, please write to me and let me know your answer.  Here is my direct e-mail address:  jeanfairgrieve15@gmail.com.  Therapy with a competent, ethical, compassionate therapist trained to facilitate his or her clients’ healing from trauma damage can help you undo the damage that was done to you and can help you build the new life that you so richly deserve.  

As people told me after I caught my husband abusing our daughter, reported him to the police, and filed for divorce thirty years ago: The best revenge is to heal yourself and live a good life.” I would add this, also:  Don’t let the bastards keep you down!  Rise up and live the life you have always wanted to live!  A part of the “rising up” most certainly can be engaging in effective psychotherapy. 

In addition to the words above, here are some words by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894).  In this last stanza from his poem “The Chambered Nautilus,” Holmes, in describing the life process of the little sea creature, tells us how we might grow and rebuild our lives: 

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul, 

        As the swift seasons roll!        

        Leave thy low-vaulted past! 

    Let each new temple, nobler than the last, 

        Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, 

        Till thou at length art free, 

Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!        


Thank you, Mr. Holmes!