The therapeutic process

There are some fundamental truths in life:
there is no point fretting about the past because you can not change it;
worrying about the future is equally fruitless because it has not arrived; live
each moment as your last because being here now is the only constant; and you
cannot love anyone else if you do not love yourself.

Most of us can acknowledge these things to
be true. However, putting them into practise is a different matter. In the ‘80s
it seemed that everyone was in “therapy” and in some ways the word almost
became devalued. But psychotherapy, where a relationship is built up between a
client and a trained therapist using different, therapeutic techniques can be
of great help for those who find it difficult to achieve their potential and
lead fulfilling lives for various reasons or need help through difficult phases
of their life .

Richard Singer, a  psychotherapist and author, recently joined
the staff at the Da Vinci Centre. Singer’s background equips him well for his
role as psychotherapist. A recovering alcoholic, his epiphany came over 11
years ago when he awoke to a dark dawn of the soul after yet another binge and
realised his life was totally out of control.

“I was beat up, jobless, penniless, and I
had just called my mother for help and she said she wanted nothing to do with
me. This was her way of helping me to realise I needed help desperately,” he
said. “My heart sunk and I contemplated suicide once again. At this point I had
two options available to me: surrender to this disease —  as was being suggested by the treatment
professionals — and begin recovery, or end my life.”

He chose recovery and it was the beginning
of a personal journey of discovery that would lead him to study clinical
psychology and to work with people in the field of addictions, he then moved
onto psychotherapy.

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Since then his goal has been to help other
people live a better and fuller life through. Meeting and talking to him, it is
easy to see how clients would trust him. He has the gentleness that certain,
big men have, and he encourages you to be completely honest both with him and
ultimately, with yourself. I have never been shy of a bit of amateur
psychoanalysis, but what struck me about my talk with Rick was that though I
knew these things intellectually, he subtly managed to get under that and hit
emotions that I thought were well buried.

Singer says that there are many definitions
of psychotherapy, but that for him it is somewhat simple. “To me, it’s a human
relationship between two beings working toward personal growth goals. You build
a strong relationship built on trust and then take it from there.”

However, like any relationship between two
people it can get complex, and for Singer as the therapist there are criteria
that need to be established to make the relationship a success. To start, it
has to be based on honesty and requires commitment and dedication between both

Asking Singer why therapy is different from
just talking over your problems with  a
friend over a bottle of wine, he replies, “There is a big difference. I am not
going to judge and I am not going to be biased.” He also points out a major
difference between talking to him and talking with a friend: “I have knowledge
of the psychotherapy process”.

Singer’s approach to psychotherapy is
humanistic — he does not set himself up to be superior in any way or some sort
of “perfect” human being.

“My whole approach to life is down to
earth. There’s probably not any right answers and every human being is confused
about life.” He sees the therapeutic journey as one of growth between two human
beings and that life itself is a journey of continuous growth. Again, these
thoughts are wonderfully inspiring but how can psychotherapy help one achieve

Singer uses various techniques, which he
will decide on as he moves through a relationship with a client, depending on
their particular issues: for instance, cognitive behaviour therapy, which is
about changing your inner thoughts since they can affect your behaviour. We
think something irrational, then it affects our emotions and our behaviour. The
key is to change how you think, and then change emotions and behaviour.

He believes profoundly is that we all need
to live in the moment, as no-one is promised tomorrow. To live in the now is
not an easy practise, but Singer suggests using the five senses to help keep
you in the present. Touching things or smelling them or listening more
attentively will bring you back to the here and now. His philosophy is also
spiritual — we allow our ego into the driving seat too often and the “dominant
ego incessantly tries to persuade us that life needs to be complex.”

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