Monday, February 28, 2011

Mutual Support

I really like this good fun picture. Nearby a shopping centre, this Christmas ice rink has obviously been popular because it has remained for some time! Certainly there are no indications that it will close. The two young women were having a good time supporting each other and when I inspected the photograph closely, it reminded me of the trust games often used in youth work. One person must support the other and the other must trust that he or she will be supported. I have seen it go wrong but not deliberately! Naturally it also reminded me of some elements of successful psychotherapy. This doesn't and cannot happen without trust. But although one person, the client, can "lean" on the psychotherapist, the psychotherapist may not lean on the client. Yet there is something similar that the psychotherapist might do for a while. The technique is called "holding", which is rather like a continuing version of a supportive hug. Whilst the client is particularly vulnerable, they may need to be "held close" so that they feel supported. There are occasions when that is all that can be achieved, at least for a while. A psychotherapist may have to challenge the views of the client, but that doesn't happen when they are being "held". Child psychologist Donald Winnicott said that the the therapist could provide a holding environment, by being patient. In this way, the therapist allows the client's true self to gradually emerge without defences getting in the way. He said that it was, in any case, the patient, who has the answers. Back to my picture! On that afternoon, for a short while at least, it was the two youngsters who had the answers.