What is therapy?



 The irreducible elements of a psychotherapy are a therapist,  a patient and a regular and reliable time and place. But given these it is not so easy for two people to meet.  (RD Laing)

Therapy is a space where people can have time to reflect on the situations they find themselves in and which have become, to a greater or lesser extent, unbearable.  It is a space to look at feelings of confusion, anxiety, depression, pointlessness, loss of self worth, anger, bereavement - whatever it is that is causing suffering.  These states arise for a reason and have a meaning and it is one of the tasks of therapy to make some sense of them.

We are not what we seem.  We are more than what we seem.  (Wallace Shawn)

Therapy is a place where assumptions about who or what we are or who or what we should be can be questioned.  It is a place where we might come to know our true desires.

We had the experience but missed the meaning (TS Eliot)

 Therapy is not a matter of technique. It is not the application of a model or system. It is a conversation, although it is a conversation about one person.  Often it is only through talking to another person that we can come to know what it is that we really think, what we truly feel.  It is through conversation that we might find, what Eliot called, speech for that unspoken.



And so each venture is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate. (TS Eliot)

People’s problems are not ‘in’ them in any meaningful sense.  The difficulties in living that people can find so debilitating arise from our experience, whether as physical beings who suffer, or from our emotional experiences at the hands of others, particularly in our early years and which are often repeated as we get older .  The fact that people think the problem is them is one of the assumptions that needs to be questioned.



Because everything connects in the end, or only seems to, or seems to only because it does.  
(Don DeLillo)

Therapy may be closer to friendship than to any other form of relationship.  It involves the same qualities  - welcome, acceptance,  challenge, tact, suspension of self-interest, distance that does not pretend to objectivity, engagement, commitment to truthfulness, above all perhaps, a responsibility for the other.








A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere.
Before him I may think aloud (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

For those interested in such matters the primary influences on my thinking and work as a therapist are RD Laing, Peter Lomas and David Smail, as well as many philosophers in the phenomenological tradition such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emmanuel Levinas and Charles Taylor.

...Anyhow here we are and never
Before have we two faced each other who face
Each other now across this abstract scene

WS Graham 'The constructed space')