Q: Dick, when you hear the phrase therapeutic relationship, what does it mean to you?
Dick: It can mean various
things at various times. The therapist can be a teacher, a guide,
a counselor, a supporter, a fellow explorer. It can be a fellow
student; it can be a brother or sister. It shifts from time to
time as he assumes different roles.
Q: And are there some traps in the therapeutic relationship?
Dick: Oh yes. I would
say that the greatest of these is ego investment. I mean by that
the compulsion that the therapist must be right or must be the
authority who knows all the answers. This results in power struggles
that can go nowhere except to frustration.
Q: Has your thinking about this evolved over time?
Dick: Not over a great period of time. I think I realized early on that ego investment is a trap that leads nowhere. I did this by simply observing in myself some of the blind alleys that I'd get into and frustration or tension.
Another aspect of this is the usefulness of using
my own body, my own associations. Using myself in other words,
as a tool in the work.
Q: So, in other words, as you watch yourself you might notice some thoughts or feelings.
Dick: Yes, whatever it might be. It might be a body sensation. It
might be a spontaneous image that might arise. It might be an
association with something in my own life. You know, that
reminds me of this or reminds me of that. It might be a
sentence, a comment, that would suddenly pop into my mind that I
would either make, or ask the person to repeat as
Q: Now Dick, when you use your body as a tool, that's a little different for most therapists. They have a kind of taboo against touching.
Dick: That requires a
certain amount of discrimination. It's true that there are times
when the last thing that the client wants is to be touched in
any way. We've got to be alert to that. But in terms of the taboo
on touching, I wonder where a taboo like that comes from. I wonder
if that's simply coming out of some fear or some inhibition on
the therapist's part.
Q: Well, if some clients have learned that you should never touch your clients, maybe you could say some things about some guidelines that you might have about when it's useful to touch a client.
Dick: It's useful very
often, particularly with people you don't know, to ask permission
to touch them. To say, "I'm going to touch your shoulder
now, is that all right with you?" Other times that's not
necessary. The whole point is, just your own sensitivity in terms
of what is or is not intrusive.
Q: Dick, we know that every therapist has a certain structure. Let's talk a little bit about what some of the pitfalls for therapists are in working with clients.
Dick: You mean in terms of the inclinations that might come out of their particular character structure?
Dick: Well, the loving structure, the oral type, would have to be on guard against rushing into the overly supportive, overly helping, overly mothering. There is a way of being supportive that's useful, of course, but there's also a way of being supportive to such a degree that you take the ground away from under the client's feet. You undercut his own support.
Some of the other structures: The creative, or the schizoid structure would need to be on guard that they not lose their own grounding, which of course is the problem with this structure. Clients who get into releasing a great deal of effect or get into some other kind of situation that's very high energy would be possible for a creative structure to lose their own grounding in a situation like that.
Dick: That's right. To
frustrate, frustrate, frustrate. Not the person. Not to frustrate
them in some sadistic manner. But to frustrate that neurotic pattern
Q: Let's go on to resistance. How do you think about resistance? What is it for you?
Dick: I think that resistance
is a misnomer. I think it's so easy to see resistance as an obstacle
that has to be overcome or a defense that has to be battered down.
I think of the resistance as actually the client's thrust for
autonomy. And this is a very, very positive thing. It's true that
at times it comes on as though the client is simply being obstinate
or the client is frightened and this thrust for autonomy should
be recognized as such and honored. Very often when that recognition
is accorded to it, the so-called resistance begins to melt away.
Q: So no matter how neurotic or self-limiting the thrust is, the idea that there's a thrust for autonomy should be nurtured and respected.
Dick: The idea that there's a thrust for autonomy should be respected. And should be nurtured. And it should be pointed out to the client that this is how you see the resistance.
Sometimes people will say, I'm resisting you. I don't
know why, I just can't help it. And at this point to say to them,
"But that's fine because that's your thrust for autonomy,
this is a way in which you learned to protect yourself, to preserve
yourself as a person years ago when you were growing up. And it's
perfectly fine. You can learn other ways, less self limiting ways,
of asserting your autonomy."
Q: So it's a kind of re-framing.
Dick: Yes, it is. It precisely
is from that point of view it is a reframing. From the idea that
this is a resistance which somehow stands in the way to the idea
that it is a thrust for autonomy, which is a very healthy thing.
Q: And this is an important factor, I assume, in the therapist client relationship.
Dick: Very. Because if
the therapist recognizes resistance in this way, there is going
to be fewer power struggles.
Q: Well, that brings up the question of ego investment. This would be a problem for therapists if they were ego invested, I assume.
Dick: It would be a tremendous
problem for them, because every time the client moves to self-assertion,
to autonomy, it would involve in some way a contradiction of what
the therapist was saying or doing, then you would have them head
on, head to head.
Q: What does trust mean to you in this regard?
Dick: Trust is usually thought of as the client's ability to feel secure in believing that the therapist will not humiliate him, will not betray confidentiality, will not use him to his own advantage in some way, take advantage of him in some way. And, of course, that is one aspect of it. But to me, trust becomes much more a matter of the client's ability to trust himself.
And when people say to me, I want to trust you, or when they say, I don't trust you yet, or I don't trust you, my response is, good. I don't want you to trust me. Because what's really important is that you trust yourself enough to take risks. It's always the possibility that you're going to be betrayed or hurt in some way. And although it's not my intention to do that, it's up to you to take the risk, and to learn to take that risk.
Often when I say that to clients, that begins to
dissipate the whole issue of trust for them. Because if they say
to me, I have a problem with trusting you, and I say, "Good,
I don't want you to trust me, trust yourself," that cuts
the issue from under them.
Q: What does love mean to you in the context of psychotherapy?
Dick: I think of love and, of course, its opposite hate, as being essentially attitudes rather than feelings, rather than emotions. The idea of love is that I would preserve you. And the idea of hate is I would destroy you. In other words, if I love you, then I would preserve your health, your fortune, your happiness, your reputation, your property, everything about you.
And I want to see you happy, for example. If I hate
you I would want to destroy you, whether it be your reputation,
your happiness, your property, your health, whatever it might
be. There are, of course, degrees of how far I would go with my
Q: And you could have lots of different feelings, I assume.
Dick: The feelings are not in themselves love. They are associated with the attitude, they cluster around this attitude. It's possible to love you and to be very angry with you, for example. It's also possible to love you and be very happy. Or very sorrowful or very fearful.
And similarly with hate, I can be very sad if I love
you and I see that you're miserable, but if I hate you enough
I'll be very, very happy when I see that you are miserable.
Q: And as a therapist, does love come into play?
Dick: Love certainly comes
into play with it. It's necessary to love your client if you want
to be effective in the sense that I've been talking about. Not
in a sentimental, emotional way in which you overlook all of his
shortcomings, overlook all of his ploys and his manipulations
and his holding backs. But in the desire to preserve him.
Q: That may mean, for example, that you will often frustrate him. Earlier you mentioned a number of different rules that the therapist could adopt with a client. Could you say something about some of them?
Dick: I do take on these
various roles are various times. One that I'll mention because
I don't enter into it too often is that of counselor/advisor.
Q: People often want you to advise them, to counsel them, to make their decisions, and of course, that's not where it's at. That's precisely the problem that they have. And in doing that for them you are destroying their own grounding, if you do that too readily.
Dick: There are times when I have done this. I'm thinking, for example, of a young woman who had never made a great deal of money and suddenly she was in a position where she was making what for her was a great deal of money. But instead of being better off financially, she found herself getting more and more in debt. And she asked me desperately what we could do to work on this.
So I simply took on the role of being a personal
advisor at that point. I helped her to work out a way of saving,
of what to do with her credit cards. Of taking the first hundred
dollars every week and putting that aside. Making that the first
step in the disposal of her income. And she had sufficient rigidity
to abide by all of this and three months later she told me she
was very happy and that the anxiety had greatly lessened. But
I don't find that that's my role very frequently. More and more
these days I find myself as a fellow explorer, working with my
clients in that way.
Q: And this might go into the realm of transpersonalizing.
Dick: Well, it certainly
does, because that's, I think, a legitimate aspect of human experience.
I think of myself often as taking hands with the person, holding
hands with the person and entering a river and allowing the water
to close over our heads. I, in a situation like that, am there
as a guide. I offer a certain amount of security. I offer a certain
amount of direction, but it's important to realize that person
who goes on an exploring expedition as a guide is always himself
also an explorer.
Q: And it's important, I assume, that the therapist be comfortable going to those realms himself.
Dick: Yes. If I'm not
comfortable I won't venture there. I need to feel sufficiently
secure so that I'm confident in what's happening.
Q: And this comes from your own self-exploration, I assume.
Dick: It comes from my
own self-exploration. It comes from years of going on such exploring
expeditions with other people. Venturing a step further here and
a step further there. I'm not much into taking great leaps, great
plunges when someone else is involved in the venture with me.
Q: Is it possible that a therapist's own narcissism can enter into the picture and they think they are a spiritual guide?
Dick: Yes. That's sad, but true. We see too much, I think, of a kind of spiritual arrogance. The old spiritual sin of hubris, of imagining that we are the equal to the gods. And when that happens, the exploration becomes a celebration of the therapist's own narcissistic ego.
Counselor and client