A Snapshot of Therapy (1)

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Here’s a post I’ve just discovered in my ‘drafts’ folder. Written a few years ago, I think its premise still stands.

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I took this picture while on holiday in Normandy, of the iconic Mont-St-Michel. I have clearly embellished the image with various filters which have added drama to an already dramatic scene (I had recently participated in an ‘iPhonography course.). I’m quite proud of the photo – I hope you like it!

But beyond showing off my photographic experiments, it occurs to me this photo offers various insights into the process of therapy. Bear with me …

The added filters here create a picture that mirrors how a person first turns up to therapy: ‘filtered’, dressed up in the various ways they present to the world, perhaps as colourful, or successful, moody, or overly sensitive, artistic, or broken. The list could go on, as we each have endless strategies that add filters to protect ourselves and prevent others seeing the true, unembellished us. As in the photo, a therapist understands that this initial view is ‘dark’, lacking in detail, just a silhouette. But it’s also intriguing: what lies behind those filters, within those shadows? We stand on the threshold of an adventure!

And so we step over the threshold, move in for a closer view, and therapy gets underway.

On arrival at the Mont, I slowly climbed its steep winding path, peering into souvenir and fast food shops, stopping at various points to catch a breath and admire the view across the sand flats. Eventually I reached the monastery at the top and proceeded on a tour of its abbey, cloisters and crypt, with chambers which greeted nobility and others where the lowly could mingle. There were further, inner rooms as well as alleyways and buildings that were not accessible to the public.

In just such a way, therapy is initially an exploration of someone’s more visible, filtered persona or survival personality which they show the world. Once a client feels safe enough,  the exploration moves towards the more private, inner ‘rooms’ where they keep themselves hidden from others and also from themselves. Gently, gradually, therapy invites the opening of doors into these hidden places so that together, therapist and client, we can understand what motivates them, what is precious to them and what has hurt them.

Back to the Mont: later, on that day in Normandy, I took a walk across the sand flats and gained a more distant, but wide-angled view of that amazing scene. Again, in therapy, we sometimes stand back from the intricate, ‘zoomed-in’ exploration and try to see the ‘big picture’ of the client’s life: their place, meaning and purpose in the world. To adopt the analogy of filters in another way: we can then utilise the various filters of family, work, beliefs and relationships to help them see their lives more clearly and to highlight both the beauty and pain of their experiences and come into an increasingly healing relationship with them. It can be slow and patient work – a ‘long walk to freedom’ – but immensely helpful and satisfying, for both client and therapist.

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I’ve enjoyed bringing together my photography and musings on therapy, so I may offer further ‘snapshots of therapy’ in future posts. Does any of this resonate with, or intrigue you?

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