Chutzpah Counseling

By | November 7, 2012

Standard psychotherapy practice is based on weekly or biweekly sessions, which generally last an hour. I know numbers of people who’ve been going to their counselors for a year or more, Friday after Friday or Wednesday after Wednesday, with no end in sight.  It’s become such an established part of their lives that it’s like going to church on Sunday.

Once upon a time, counseling was different.  I would have gone to a seer or medicine person, or I would have taken some time to fast in the woods. And I would have been healed.  I wouldn’t just take a shower as I do now and rush to get to my appointment on time—which is usually squeezed between other appointments in a busy day. I would have prepared myself, perhaps by first petitioning the healer, and then fasting, along with crafting ritual objects to focus my contemplation.  The healing itself would have been a profound event, usually involving those closest to me and marked by a feast or other ritual observance.

Nowadays I sit on a couch with the usual box of tissues beside it, hoping this time to spill my heart and leave at the end of the hour as charged as if I were watching a self-help guru on Oprah.

I often wondered why sessions seemed to so conveniently wrap up at right around 50 minutes, and why it was always necessary to come back.  And then I heard a program on public radio about a counselor who claimed that after one session he could tell whether your relationship was going to be successful or not, and why.  What a concept: one-session relationship counseling!  Sure enough, that guy had a knack—not only for asking the right questions, but for hearing what went unspoken.

This morning I woke up with a dream message: all problems—even the most confounding—have simple solutions.  If it appears otherwise, it is because I have made it so.  Yesterday I had the privilege of witnessing five people being guided back to their earliest childhoods to unravel the major behavioral problem that was tripping up their adult lives.  They each left their session with a deep sense of knowing, along with the tools to transform their lives. Why could those people get right down to it, when  it took others months’ and even years’ worth of sessions strung together like so many prayer beads?

Here’s what I observed:

  • The clients came ready and prepared. They demonstrated their trust and gave their all to the session.
  • The counselor sidestepped the chitchat, going right for what he knew was there.
  • The clients left thinking they had done it themselves.  Which, in fact, they did.

They came feeling victimized and left feeling empowered.  Awareness is the first step in healing, and they left with a deep knowing of themselves and their family dynamic, along with the confidence and wherewithal to change them.  It was like my dreamself said: the problem was complex, the solution was simple.

One issue remains: how does a counselor make a living without repeat clients?  Maybe I shouldn’t post this piece—it might cause a major disruption to the economy.



Tara on November 29, 2012 at 5:02 am.

Much of the benefit of modern counseling is in the relationship that develops. People today are isolated and many of us didn’t have the opportunity to form secure attachments growing up. In a tribe, it would never be an issue. But in our culture, sometimes the best option people can find is a once a week nurturing relationship.


Christian Wolff on November 13, 2012 at 12:02 pm.

Hello Tamarack,

Great article. I’ve wondered about this myself in the past especially when I was researching ADHD and visiting with different therapists. The psychologists planned on a multi year course of treatment and the psychiatrists planned on a couple of sessions then a prescription. Neither way seemed like it would be something that I would commit to.

Another way I look at it is like this. People go to the gym to work out their body, read books or go to school to exercise the intellect, so why not have a weekly scheduled counseling session to work on the spiritual/mental.

In the year long, the mental, physical and spiritual fitness were tied together. Living in that situation everything was interwoven. It’s quite difficult to live out here in the modern world and do the same, so I am always hopeful when I hear that someone is going to counseling.


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