The Power in the Process
By Terre Seuss
Often times, we are frustrated with our therapy. Whether it be
individual therapy, or group support, we find ourselves expecting things
that never seem to come. Often, in groups, it is hard to make sure that
everyone is heard, and every issue raised is dealt with. Whether we are
a therapist, or a survivor, each of us, at some point in time get's a
taste of that from the "seeker's" side. I don't want to minimize the
frustration, but let me start with a few comments about groups and
therapy in general. Most of this I'm sure you know, but I found, as I
was going through some of the worst parts of my own process, some of
these concepts alluded me.
Any kind of therapy, group, individual, art, occupational, physical,
etc. is designed to give the recipient a sense of mastery over
themselves, either emotionally and physically; sometimes both.
Therapists, group leaders and peer participants take on various roles
throughout the process, and while this may be a hard concept to fathom,
the roles are fairly interchangeable. Meaning that even the most
dysfunctional or hurting "survivors" take on the "therapist" or "leader"
(helper) role in the process. This happens in individual therapy as
well, but is often harder to see. Therapists will also attest to the
fact, that they themselves often become the receivers, learning about
themselves and others each time they share healing with a survivor. We
each become "helpers" and "seekers". In my mind, I see this as a very
magical arrangement, filled with endless possibilities. But it can also
make for some anxiety about the process itself.
Having our needs met in either group or individual therapy is, I
believe, is directly proportional to our own understanding of how
therapy works. Any kind of therapy, is solely dependent upon the
"seeker's" willingness to explore themselves, and their abilities, and
to stretch themselves to a higher expectation. The "helper's"
willingness to be with them, is a precious gift and an invaluable tool.
All therapy, regardless of how great the therapist or group, is almost
entirely self-dependent. Therapists and peer participants act only as
guides and nurturers. While many in therapy believe they could not
possibly attain healing without the therapist, or group, the bottom line
is that we each do it alone. Before you take off on "but the whole point
is not to be alone in this anymore", let me explain.
When I hear comments in a group, or a personal exchange with another
survivor such as "Let the therapist figure it out, that's what I pay her
for", I cringe. That in fact, is not what we pay them for. If it is, we
are definitely wasting our money . It is impossible for the therapist
to do this. All of the answers, no matter how difficult, come from
within. You already know the answers before you voice your concerns or
share your pain with the therapist. While you may not know how to find
them, or what to do about them when you do, they are in you.
What therapist's and groups (helpers) do, is lead us in directions we
might otherwise not explore. But we go there alone, regardless of who's
with us, either physically or emotionally. The guidance, these words of
advice, these questions that are raised require us to spend time with
ourselves. It's my belief that 98% of all therapy does not occur in the
presence of our "helpers". We take these questions, these insights,
these shared moments of pain, and use them as tools to find our own
Many people believe, that unless they get a chance to ask every
question, or explore every feeling with their helpers, they are not able
to get their needs met. While it is preferable to most seekers to be
able to do this, it is not always where the greatest progress is made.
You, the seeker, during the course of a group or individual session, may
find an important issue that hits home for you. That in itself is an
incredible gift from the helpers to the seeker. Because whether or not
you felt "heard", or "satisfied" with the time you had to explore these,
you have taken them with you, to be explored on your own. And in that
way alone, you gained tremendously from being there. The hardest work,
and the most valuable work will be done by you, independent of the
In an ideal group, the seeker finds comfort and support, gleaned from
the fact that those whom they share this time with know the path they
are traveling. That they can say "me too", "been there, done that", or
"I'm so sorry you have to feel this". There is great power in hearing
"This is what I do when I feel this way" or "you deserve good things"
and "you're lovable". Helpers tell us things that we are not able to
tell ourselves initially, but ultimately will know in our hearts to be
true. But even those affirmations have no power until we are able to
fully accept them. Again, it is up to the seeker to claim their own
I have also been witness and fallen prey to the helplessness that often
accompanies these healing moments. This happens when our caretaker
parts, our incredible giving and compassionate hearts, try to take the
pain away from the seeker; those moments when we try to "fix" what is
broken, and to move the seeker quickly past what we know is the worst
part of the healing. I've seen it happen in groups when a person will
share a particularly distressing personal situation, such as questioning
the reality of a memory or feeling, sharing a decision that needs to be
made, or dealing with suicidal feelings. We want to fix it, grab them up
and hold them, keep them safe ourselves. When they ask us, over and
over, "but what do I do?", we scramble, summoning all of our resources
to "rescue" this person. It is powerful and painful.
Eventually, we realize, that it is out of our hands, and that the seeker
will be left to find his own way, if healing is to come at all. As
helpers, this is the ultimate frustration. And we must learn to remind
ourselves, that we are only an instrument of help, not the solution. In
that realization, we are able to better understand our own abilities to
heal, and our own strengths.
We also learn incredible lessons in boundaries; an area of our lives
that was brutally and mercilessly trampled. And in that moment, we have
silently slipped into the seeker role, adding to our own healing;
perhaps even unaware of that magical moment, but accepting it into our
hearts just the same. In those moments, the helper and the seeker find
themselves one in the same, and experience the true power of therapy,
knowing that there will always be questions, always be lessons to learn,
always be growth, and if we allow ourselves to receive it-- always be
Copyright by Terre Seuss
Reprinted with Permission
Dedicated to all those travelers
who share in the one journey
that can never be made alone
Copyright © 1995 - 2009 Regina Pickett Garson
All writings, graphics and scripts are copyright by the individual authors. Nothing on this site may be reproduced without permission of the individual authors.
No claims are made as to the reliability of any of the information provided or linked, sources often disagree. None of these pages are meant to be a replacement for professional help, but a resource that enables one to be a more intelligent consumer. You can learn a lot by becoming aware of different opinions. Don't be afraid to ask questions when it comes to your health, physical or emotional.
Regina Garson, Editor and Publisher