When you go through the education process for becoming a therapist or counsellor you wind up learning some dozens of different styles, theories, and models. You may have even heard of a few different styles over your lifetime in passing: Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Cognitive, Behavioural, Existential... and alike. Quite a few therapists hold true to one form or another based on an icon in Psychology they admire. For example: Carl Jung, a student of Sigmund Freud (if you want to watch a movie that does a great job depicting his rise to notoriety check out A Dangerous Method). As a student of Freud you can imagine that a lot of his training focused on sexual aspects of our psychology but he took that much deeper than Freud did in many circumstances to help us understand why our minds focus on certain icons in our subconscious - in other words, he was big into dream interpretation.
I bounce between theoretical models very often, sometimes with the same client, because each brings something one client may need at one point or another in their treatment. One model I have started using more often is a branch of logotherapy, part of the Existential school of psychotherapy brought in by Viktor Frankl, wherein we work to find meaning in one's life. The beauty of existential psychology is its birth out of an opposing philosophy in Nihilism brought on by the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche wrote about the Will to Power and how we strive for dominance and our how ability to adapt for survival and the competition therein unconsciously guides our behaviour. It is a philosophical failing that brought forth existentialism - or, more accurately, the philosophical failing brought a rebirth of existentialism - in Frankl who used the work of Soren Kierkegaard in the Will to Meaning to talk about how we fundamentally strive to be guided and do something worthwhile in our time (although Kierkegaard in Will to Meaning saw the 'meaning of life' motifs as unjustified and, further, utterly useless).
After Soren Kierkegaard in Existentialism came Jean-Paul Sartre. Something of nihilist in his own right he made the circular argument that existence precedes essence, or humans exist and therefore have meaning. The essence of what the knife will be exists before the actual knife. An atheist (like almost all early existentialists), Sartre believed that if there is no God there was no preconception of our nature and therefore we exist to find our own nature and meaning instead of the other way around. Around the same time Freud was developing the work of Jeremy Bentham in that we have the Will to Pleasure, meaning humans are guided, further, governed by the masters of pain and pleasure and it is our unconscious/semiconscious meaning to maximize pleasure while minimizing pain. Frankl, the more reasonable person in my personal and professional opinion, discerned the danger of the Will to Pleasure and the hedonism that follows in developing logotherapy.
The following tenets describe Frankl's logotherapy:
I take logotherapy in one additional direction. Going back to Sartre where existence precedes essence, that the object or person exists before its/their meaning, I take logotherapy to the meaning of words in therapy. The original Greek "logos or λόγος" is the word for meaning as well as word. [John 1:1 "In the beginning there was the Word; and, the Word was with God and the Word was God."] What I do in logotherapy is help people seek meaning in their lives and use words properly in their lives.
As we grow and develop in our maturity we learn new words and their meanings and adapt our language accordingly, for the most part. Old words are replaced by new words and phrases to help us better explain ourselves. Generally our more mature language is a reflection of synonyms that we learn over time.
Take a word like justify that I hear in therapy all the time. When a person tells me they justify a person's behaviours they rarely realize what that word means. In law a person is justified if the judge and/or jury decides that the actions placed before them are either not wrong or there isn't enough evidence to say the actions actually happened or were intended. The court then takes responsibility for that person's actions as an organization should it be found that the person was, in fact, guilty. The person is then legally absolved and acquitted (both words are synonyms for justify). We are, at best, capable of rationalizing and forgiving a person for their wrongdoing but we have to still hold people accountable for their actions unless the court can decide otherwise.
The people I hear saying justify the most are men and women in abusive relationships. Abuse takes many forms: verbal, physical, financial, social, sexual, and psychological, just to name a few; each of which are equally distressing. However, when the court decides to justify a person there is a structure in place for restoration even with absolution. When a person justifies a person there is no such system in place to protect and restore balance. In fact, when we justify a person we take on that person's responsibility and often open the door to allow them to do that same thing again and again.
What I do is help the person develop their vocabulary. We are quite capable of forgiving - relieving ourselves of the displeasure that came from others' failure against or toward us - but few of us are truly capable of justifying.
Just a way to get a few thoughts across outside of the office. In this blog you may even find entries that assist in your healing without needing a session