In my years speaking with clients about their experiences in therapy and with other therapists I’ve come to believe that the most important difference between therapists is whether they are an active or a passive therapist. These two categories aren’t established by orientation or training, but by the type of person the therapist is. By the experiences the therapist has had. By how the therapist sees the world and what it is to be human. By the wisdom the therapist has gained and has to give. By whether the therapist has found the strength and inspiration to deepen themselves, and the dedication to a better world in which we all help each other grow.
I had a client start therapy with me by telling me that she had been meeting with a therapist who mostly asked her how she felt about things and that she wanted more than that out of therapy. She was seeing what I would call a passive therapist. Much, much more is possible in therapy. Good therapy can change your life, can open ways of being that you couldn’t have imagined. I’ve seen this and been honored to be part of it many times, but such therapy requires so much creativity, engagement of intelligence, as well as mental and emotional energy that many therapists never practice such therapy. Listening well is an important part of therapy, but most people don’t come to therapy only to find a good listener, but to learn how to navigate their own emotions, how to relate more fully and deeply, how to be happier, how to live a better life. We can only learn so much about these from our own reflections. There are skills to be taught, perspectives to be given, challenges to be imparted, practices to be passed down. We are, in our essence, relational beings, and our growth is a relational experience. Speaker and listener is a limited relationship. Look for a therapist who actively engages with you, who inspires you, who has wisdom to give you, who uses their wisdom to help you find your own wisdom.