“Can you deliver a presentation on What Is Therapy? for Mental Health Awareness Week?” I was asked in an email recently.
I sent back a reply,
“Sure, that’s no problem.”
What could be simpler than a therapist writing about what therapy is?
When it came to it though, it was tougher than I’d imagined.
What do you tell people who don’t know about therapy what you’d like them to know about therapy?
I don’t want to bore them with a discussion on therapeutic modalities.
Neither do I want to warn them that some therapists will be happy to sit in complete silence with them for a whole session, and others might ask them to model memories from plasticine or get them talking to an empty chair.
When It comes to it, therapy is all about the relationship between therapist and client, rooted in theoretical training of course, but played out in real life according to whatever is happening in the moment.
I can’t make 45 minutes out of that can I?
Procrastinating with the help of Google, I find an article vaguely related to my issue.
“The Observer Effect,” says that people’s behaviour changes when they are observed thus making it impossible to watch someone doing something the way they would do it if you weren’t there watching them.
Perhaps that’s why I find it hard to explain how I “do” therapy and why I can’t explain how anyone else does it because I’m never there watching them. Unless it happens to be my own therapist, in which case I would be telling my audience that therapy consists of talking for an hour about poetry, books, and music, and then going home again, which seems like a risky approach.
Further illumination came in the form of another article, this time about author Dave Eggers whose new novel “The Every” deals with the relentless surveillance and measurement of human behaviour, and a piece by Austin Kleon both of which suggested that creativity is impaired by having someone looking over your shoulder, and having to adhere to rules.
I certainly identify with this. I don’t like anyone looking over my shoulder, especially if I’m reading the Observer Food Monthly supplement, and I’m not very fond of rules at all.
Perhaps I’m an anarchist, or possibly I’m just a bit idle.
Eggers has refused to allow Amazon to sell his new novel pushing back against their drive for retail domination and, presumably, sticking two fingers up at their pesky algorithm.
Having searched Google for a new pop-up sink plug this week I find it infuriating that every page I have visited since has numerous pictures of shiny sink plugs on it.
Being watched isn’t even covert, it’s brazen and that makes me feel stifled and hemmed in and like I don’t want to buy a new sink plug just to spite the algorithm.
To save me from my blank presentation a man arrives to service the boiler.
I tell him that my thermostat isn’t working and wonder if I should have it changed.
“Most people have these smart thermostats these days that you can control from your phone.”
“Oh right,” I say, excited at the prospect of turning the heating on while I’m out getting windswept on the downs.
Then he adds, “But I wouldn’t have one in my house. I don’t want Amazon and Google knowing when I’m in and when I’m out.”
“Good point. Who wants to feel they’re being watched all the time?” I say, settling on a standard dial that I have to use my actual hands to control and resolving to tell my audience about my experience in a psychiatric unit and how I ate ice cream every day because there was nobody there watching me and telling me I shouldn’t.