The Aims of Psychotherapy
The Aims of Psychotherapy
What kind of person are you?
The ‘morning of life’ person
Do you feel that life hasn’t provided what you need yet in order to get on and creatively live it? Are you feeling anxious about new experiences and unconfident about the choices ahead? Are there regrets that you don’t make more of your talents and abilities? Have you found it difficult to enter into and enjoy personal adult relationships?
The ‘afternoon of life’ person
Or do you feel you have engaged with the personal and professional spheres of life, but somehow find that life has less meaning than you thought? Do you find yourself shrinking back from the inevitability of maturing, finding yourself feeling stuck, where nothing satisfies?
What are useful aims for you in psychotherapy?
Carl Jung described different aims for psychotherapy for these two distinct categories of people.
For the ‘morning of life’ people, he suggested that the aim of psychotherapy is principally to enable you to become equipped to enter life confidently, to become more whole as a functioning adult.
As a ‘morning of life’ person, the intimacy of a therapeutic relationship would aim to provide you with an opportunity to have core emotional needs met in a satisfying way. Much like taking in a good meal, the ‘food’ of a safe, regularly contained, therapeutic relationship triggers personal growth and development. You would aim to discover yourself at your own pace and in your own way. This gentle process of internal change brings about a natural adaption to adult life, stimulating more creative and satisfying experiences in your personal and working life.
For the ‘afternoon of life’ people, Jung suggested that the aim of psychotherapy is rather different. Here the need is to principally to enable you to develop wholeness through finding a deeper meaning in your individual life.
As an ‘afternoon of life’ person, the creativity of the therapeutic relationship would aim to provide you with an opportunity to experiment playfully with your own individual nature and personality, coming to know the deeper aspects of your unconscious. Jung described his aim here to bring about ‘a state of fluidity, change and growth where nothing is eternally fixed and hopelessly petrified’.
Probably, like most of us and entirely independent of your calendar age, you might identify with both of these types. You may find yourself wanting both to engage more deeply in life as it is and to develop your sense of yourself as an individual. Psychotherapy is a rather unusual and interesting conversation. The listening, the talking and the being with one another allow a unique and meaningful melody to emerge, in the effort to be human together. Usually a personal difficulty of some kind might bring you into therapy, and your initial aim will be relief in that area. However, in the pursuit of wholeness, you are likely to achieve many other small and apparently insignificant changes along the way, bringing more freedom of self-expression and more meaning in your relationships, work and in your inner life as an individual.
Jung, C.G. (1929) ‘The Aims of Psychotherapy’ in The practice of psychotherapy. CW16, pp36-52. London:Routledge (1966)