Can you become

The lyrics to the title song of the late, lamented ‘Felicity’ ask a question that is at the heart of counselling: Can a person change themselves?

It’s interesting that the words initially mention superficial elements such as ‘new wallpaper’ and ‘new shoe leather’. So often today, people attempt to change themselves from the outside in. There is an entire industry of makeover shows on television, not to mention self-help books, dedicated to helping people change how they look. The idea behind many of these endeavors seems to be that if you’re better looking, you’ll feel better about yourself, and others will respond more positively toward you, thereby solving many of your problems and miseries. While this might be true to some extent, undoing a person’s inaccurate sense of self is not quite so simple and straightforward. There is a danger to promising the kind of quick fix many of these kinds of books and shows promote.

The more substantive lyric in the song implies that there is a ‘new way home’ that you ‘don’t remember’; in this, there is a sense that the answer lies in one’s sense of self — a self that has always been there, but perhaps has been forgotten in the midst of the vicissitudes of life. In psychosynthesis counselling and therapy, we start with a view of the client as someone who is more than their presenting issue — behind the distress is someone who has, in a way, forgotten the way home to themselves, mired as they are in their present pain and suffering. The quest in therapy thus is not merely one of divestment and change, but rather a return to self — a self that the client might perceive as different and new, but who was always there, waiting to be welcomed and reacquainted.

It’s not giving away anything to reveal that at the end of her four years at university, Felicity does eventually manage to become a new version of who she was all along. In working with therapy clients, the journey toward who and what they may be is one of helping them find a new way back to the home they may not remember — their innate, unique self.

Originally published at