What differentiates a good therapist from a great one? A good therapist can hold space for how you show up with calm neutrality. A great therapist goes beyond neutrality into active prizing. She celebrates, collaborates, and creates mutual play with all parts of you, even the defended, childish, anti-social parts. A great therapist is anchored and regulated in herself so that she can delight in her client’s world, unattached to form or outcome. She understands that we are not always nice to be around, not because of our failing, but because we are working through the pain of the past. She understands these parts are holding pain and need to surface and receive nurturing contact in order to be healed. Our anxiety, our narcissism, our grief, our outright meanness are all invited to arise so that they may receive what we are all seeking; loving human touch. And doesn’t this therapist-at-best expression speak to the perennial human undertaking, how to make contact with life and the people in it with loving kindness, free from judgement and the need for control?
This comic is dedicated to a mentor, Joseph Acosta. The comic’s line of dialogue about ‘turning in my degree and getting my money back’ is borrowed almost verbatim from an interaction I witnessed between he and another group member. Joseph’s been a great model for me in demonstrating clinical playfulness in service of honoring and working through client defenses. He welcomes us to ‘say anything’ and provides the missing experience of meeting pained defenses with nurturance rather than judgement or control. He understands how playfulness with the least accepted parts of ourselves offers opportunity for relational healing, which is so rarely found outside of the therapy room.