Monday, June 15, 2015

Psychotherapy: A Zone of Experiences

When I see children spending so much time inside in front of their mini screens, I can't help but notice the stark difference between my own childhood and theirs. While for today's children outside activities  mostly revolve around semi- or fully structured sports- for my generation it was completely free, most often without adult supervision. I remember spending hours "making cakes and cookies" out of mud and decorating them with carefully smashed brick pieces or climbing the trees and watching the bugs that would walk on branches. I loved this free time outside, knowing that I would go back to the warmth of home at sunset. Bedtime was another special time for me to wander in the  equally-infinite realm of my inner world before falling asleep. Aside from school, chores, and such obligations, my childhood was an oscillation between these two external and internal worlds of play. I can't tell which one I liked the most.

When I read this article, "The Architecture of Psychotherapy", I was reminded of this oscillation. The therapy  and psychoanalytic process is essentially very similar; the patient comes in and lies on the couch and usually starts with something external (may be a fight with a significant other or the pouring rain or the jammed traffic) before the therapeutic space (the consulting room and the presence of  therapist/analyst) envelops her/him like a swaddle. Then the swing between the external and the internal begins.

Most of the therapeutic work takes place in-between, which renown psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott calls "transitional space". It is in a way where external and internal come together; a bridge between the subjective experience and objective reality. According to Winnicott, all creative expressions find their way out to the external world through  transitional space. A therapeutic/analytic work bears a certain creativity whereby meaning emerges. In other words, the therapist and the patient create together "meaning" out of patient's conscious and unconscious communication, which in return help the patient re-construct a new narrative for her/his life. That does not happen in a vacuum. It does happen as a result of an ardent oscillation between the internal and external world of both the patient and the analyst.

The article mentioned above, The Architecture of Psychotherapy, talks about the therapeutic frame, which connotes the optimal conditions for such a transformation in personal narrative to occur. The therapeutic frame is essentially the defining lines of therapeutic situation, which includes specific time and duration of sessions, the specific consulting room, the fee, the roles of each participant and the set of rules that governs the therapeutic relationship. But the word architecture brings to mind another concept: The Analytic Site coined by a French psychoanalyst J.L. Donnet. To my understanding, the analytic site, which includes the therapeutic frame with all its components, plus what happens between the patient and the therapist/analyst, is the engine of the transformation that is expected to occur in treatment. The interpretation of the therapist/analyst that helps the patient transform is a function of the analytic site. Therefore, in my mind, the architecture of psychotherapy might also be considered as the analytic site, where all the external and internal factors come together in a special way to promote growth and understanding. "A zone of experiences between an unknown beginning and unimaginable end", as the author of the article, Esther Sperber says.

1 comment:

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