Therapy is a beautiful way for a person to grow in the soil of a "finely attuned relationship". Often misunderstood as something only for people in crisis or with serious psychological problems, therapy works best for people who are committed to their own long-term growth and willing to work hard to achieve it with the help of a wise, well-trained growth coach. We find Dan Siegel's technical description of how good therapy works to be a great and thorough description:
From "An Interpersonal Neurobiology of Psychotherapy", in Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body, and Brain. Marion Solomon and Daniel Siegel, Eds. New York: Norton & Company, 2003, pp. 6-7:
"To describe the process of human development within therapy, we can explore the "C's" of psychotherapy that can serve to organize and communicate the essential experiential elements of an interpersonal neurobiology of psychotherapy. The dozen C's are: connection, compassion, contingency, cohesion, continuity, coherence, clarity, co-construction, complexity, consciousness, creativity, and community.....
As a patient/client enters the process of therapy with the psychotherapist, a connection begins to become established within the interpersonal relationship that emerges. As the therapist shows compassion for the patient's here-and-now subjective experience as well as the unfolding of past-present-future "mental time travel" of autonoetic (self-knowing) consciousness, contingent communication becomes an integral part of the unfolding relationship. Contingency involves the ability of one person to perceive, make sense of, and respond t he signals of the otehr person in a timely fashion. Such a form of communication creates a sense of communion, of joining, in the attuned, resonating pair of minds. A sense of trust begins to infuse this growing connection and the patient may experience a sense of cohesion in the present. Over time, the continuity that is created from these contingent connections, and the repair of their inevitable ruptures, enables the patient to experience a sense of coherence across the various states of mind unfolding in therapy with an emerging sense of clarity of the self and other.
The co-construction of shared experiences, often taking the form of nonverbal communication as well as the co-creation of stories woven into therapeutic dialogues, deepes the sense of clarity and communion. The complexity achieved by such joining is experienced both individually in the form of multiple layers of neural integration, as well as interpersonally as vital forms of dyadic resonance. Resonance involves the mutual influence of each person on the other and entails the sense of being present in each other's minds even during separations. Present throughout the therapy, but heightened as these dyadic states and interhemispheric integration emerge, consciousness of the self-as-experienced begins to deepen. Both the here-and-now awareness of the self and a past-present-future autonoetic form of consciousness expand in their focus.
The flow of the patient's mind toward maximal complexity enables the self to achieve the most stable, flexible, and adaptive states. Healing is achieved as overwhelming events and suboptimal developmental experiences, encoded in various forms of memory, become freed from their restrictive or chaotic patterns. Information in the mind becomes more spontaneously flowing, enabling an enriching sense of discovery and connection. The energy released from such an emerging flow is vitalizing. Often such therapeutic progress is associated with the emergence of creativity as new combinations of representational processes become possible, imagination is enhanced, and the mind's innate drive toward maximum complexity is released."
This is what happens in therapy! When done well, the results are truly transformative and amazing. This transformation also happens in our work with parents and children--we help parents be able to foster optimal development in their children in the same manner. It makes sense, since this interpersonal method of therapy is based on developmental psychology research findings that reveal the manner in which optimal parenting fosters whole-person development of the infant and child.
Brand new published summary of research studies which provide evidence for the dramatic change effects of psychotherapy on personality traits.