There were about sixty of us sitting in the room, waiting for the start of a graduate-level psychology class specifically designed to teach interactive counseling techniques.
A few minutes later, the professor took his place at the front of the room and began to briefly outline the course content. After suggesting some additional reading sources, he asked each of us to think about why we were there, and what we hoped to learn as a bunch of soon-to-be therapists.
Then he made a statement that rattled a few, pissed off a few more, and left the rest of us wondering if he might be right
“The reason you’re in this class is because you’re broken. In fact, the reason most of you have chosen to pursue a career in psychological counseling is to give you the opportunity to establish control over others. The long and short of it is this: You’re looking for a way to validate your power, and you’ve chosen to establish your value as a human being by suggesting you know how to “fix” other people’s problems.”
He went on to explain that the classic therapy model was designed to place the therapist in control. The therapist must project and assume the role of the expert, the professional, the one with all the answers. And patients readily accept that premise. Otherwise, they wouldn’t pay for the experience. Someone looking for help isn’t going to shell out a couple hundred dollars an hour to talk to a stranger on the bus.
I thought about that professor’s statement for a long time.
Maybe his rationale for teaching a bunch of wanna-be therapists originated from his own lack of personal confidence or identity. But the reason I was in that class was based on far more than the need to exercise power over others.
I was searching for a better way — better than the violent physical exchanges, senseless confrontations, and the visceral bullying I witnessed on a regular basis during my childhood and…