How does therapy work? Putting aside all notions of theory, skill, and personality,one aspect is simply the biological magic activated by the face-to-face presence of two humans paying attention to one another. I have long marveled at how much more powerful it is to recount a dream or work with an image in the presence of another, as compared to on my own.
As a therapist, I have a very full toolkit of ways to work with issues — and I happily use many of those tools on myself. There’s an unmistakable difference between the work I do alone and the work I do in the presence of another person. Having another human’s nonjudgmental attention (s/he doesn’t have to be a trained professional) helps me go further than I can go on my own.
Perhaps it’s because as infants, we’re wired to develop and grow through the loving attention of another person. Unique among mammals, humans require years of care from a parent before they’re able to successfully launch into the world. D. W. Winnicott summed it up concisely when he said, “There is no such thing as a baby; there is a baby and someone.” We develop in relation to another — a nonnegotiable biological fact that’s behind much of the joy and pain of being human.
I’m thinking the imprint of this innate biological predisposition is part of what’s working in the therapy room. How could it not be?