What Are the Goals of Therapy? Why Do It?
Sometimes case studiess are not overly clear about the goals of therapy. Why should I bother getting therapy, anyway? What is it going to do for me?
Vague messages appear in mass media about the purposes of therapy. These might convey a sense that “therapy will help you to be a happier person” or “therapy will improve your mental health”. But what kind of a concrete difference will doing therapy really make in my life?
Therapy: Not Just About What’s Wrong with You
In earlier times, therapy was thought to be exclusively about healing an illness. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, was known to say things like the following;
A layman will no doubt find it hard to understand how pathological disorders of the body and mind can be eliminated by ‘mere’ words.
Freud certainly thought that the function of “talk therapy” was to treat and heal “pathological disorders”. He has been followed in this by many different types of therapists with very different approaches, who all have felt that the role of therapy is to heal mental sickness.
Beyond Healing Illness
But that’s certainly not true of all psychotherapies. So-called humanistic psychologies have long had a different view of their task. We see that in the following quote:
In my early professional years I was asking the question: How can I heal treat or change this person? Now I would phrase the question this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his or her own personal growth?~Carl R. Rogers
In more recent times, we have the assertions of the “positive psychology” movement which imply that case studies should be focused on
…valued subjective experiences: well-being, contentment, and satisfaction (in the past); hope and optimism (for the future); and flow and happiness (in the present)…. the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, future mindedness, spirituality, high talent, and wisdom.~Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi
Jung’s View of the Goals of Therapy
Much is commendable in humanistic and positive psychology. However, as impressive as these views are, there’s still something missing. In my opinion, C.G. Jung, who actually predates many of these figures, captures much of that something when he tells us that
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.
The underlying idea in this quote is that each of us has a fundamental identity hidden in the core of our being that we are trying to live out. In the process of finding my true identity through the course of all the experiences and major transitions of my life’s journey, I gain a sense of my individual place in the world, and of the unique meaning of my particular life.
True therapy, effective therapy (or analysis as Jungians call it) is about discovering the human being that I truly am. The central goals of therapy are all intimately related to the living out of my true identity in the world.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst