My name is Aaron Arnold. I am an intern Family Therapist and new addition to the ongoing ministries of New Hope. Although there is much I might attempt to expound in future posts, I thought it best to begin with a brief reflection on therapy itself.
I believe therapy is a relationship that promotes health, particularly mental/emotional health. That begs the question what is health? The best definition of health—and the easiest to remember—that I have heard and happily borrow from one of my professors at Evangelical Seminary, Myerstown, PA, Dr. Robb Palmer is: mental health is the making of good connections in all directions. Therapy then is a relationship that promotes the making of good connections in all directions.
What does that look like? While therapy might take place in a variety of contexts, it usually takes place in an office. What might you expect walking into an office and meeting this or another therapist? Hopefully, you will encounter a person who is interested in you, not simply your mental life and workings, but someone who takes an interest in your person, someone interested in comprehending the mystery of who you are, have been, and might become, someone willing to walk with you into the deserted, lonely, frightening, or painful places of your life and also the sparkling, lush, enlivening, exuberant places of your life alongside of you. Hopefully, you encounter a therapist full of wonder at the small part of you that you might wish to be comprehended at the time and as much of you as they in some small way are able to comprehend.
Such therapists begin as all therapists with assessments, which explore these landscapes of clients’ lives. Assessments can be formal and use questionnaires, reports, or measures of informal, active listening with intent. It is always fair to ask a therapist what it is he or she is trying to assess or what he or she is listening for. Many clients find that being heard, being seen, being understood, mapping those landscapes of their lives to be very meaningful. It might be that doing so opens up new areas of activity, possibilities of growth, or increased awareness of which are the rugged and which are the level paths open to them.
While the process of assessment, of exploring and mapping is ongoing, doing so is a particular focus at the outset of therapy. Once an initial ‘working’ map has been developed, the focus of therapy usually shifts to actually navigating the landscape. Often in this working phase of therapy, new paths are made through the development of communication skills, problem-solving skills, and identification of latent resources.
Often the horizons of one’s life, the borders of one’s working map, intersect with others’. Therapists sometimes discover two people might be like neighbors arguing over the placement of or necessity of a fence; others might be like neighbors negotiating access to certain resources. Couples and families might seek therapy for any number of reasons. Therapists might be employed as consultants, guides, interpreters, surveyors, etc. depending on their scope of practice and qualifications.
All therapists offer a third-party perspective and some specialized knowledge of ways others have managed similar circumstances. Therapists have limits in their competencies and biases. A good therapist can acknowledge his or her own horizons and limits of perspective, and it is always fair to ask a therapist about his or her training, limitations, or biases. There are no perfect therapists, and not every therapist will be the right therapist for you, but every therapist should be able to recommend alternative services, whether the therapist or client believe that another provider would be more suitable.
Aaron ArnoldCounseling Intern