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The Luckiest People

In his excellent Op-Ed column, The Power of a Dinner Table, David Brooks writes about how one couple is fostering a sense of community and cultivating hope among teenagers and young adults who would otherwise feel ostracized, adrift and bereft of opportunity for the future. It is an extremely moving article about how each person can make a difference by focusing on people and relating to them, rather than on issues or problems.

I was particularly struck by this particular passage from Mr Brooks’ article:

“Bill Milliken, a veteran youth activist, is often asked which programs turn around kids’ lives. “I still haven’t seen one program change one kid’s life,” he says. “What changes people is relationships. Somebody willing to walk through the shadow of the valley of adolescence with them.”
Souls are not saved in bundles. Love is the necessary force.”

Of course, it is not just needy teenagers or young adults who need loving relationships. One of the overlooked aspects of the therapeutic alliance is that the client and counsellor are connected in relationship. Almost every model of therapy is premised on the counsellor and client relating in a way that allows the client to feel seen, heard, appreciated and able to express themselves as they truly are, rather than what their family and friends or the world at large demand that they be. People often feel trapped by social norms or personal expectations to think and behave in ways that are not congruent with how they feel and who they are — sometimes, these pressures are unconscious, having been so well-ingrained that the individual automatically, without awareness, succumbs to them and exists in a constant state of low-grade unhappiness, annoyance or despair.

People enter therapy for a wide variety of reasons, but every person who does so has the opportunity to be one of the lucky few in life: Counselling and psychotherapy are ways of discovering one’s potential to live more fully as oneself in life — it often begins by co-creating a relationship with a counsellor who is able to provide a comfortable and safe environment within which one can explore, experiment and exist as oneself, without needing to hide or disguise in any way. An honest trust-based relationship is the basis for all therapeutic work.