Disorders and Treatment
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Healing may occur in several ways during sessions of psychotherapy.
Some of those ways are practical, such as learning effective thinking or communication skills. We also heal when our perceptions shift and self-defeating beliefs crumble or when we dare to appreciate ourself and let go of past hurts.
Arguably the most profound healing happens during moments of connection between a compassionate therapist and their client. These are moments when both people know they have communicated past the offensive and defensive tactics that keep people feeling separate to enjoy an astonishing sense of mutual transparency and understanding.
In those moments much can change, especially if a person has had little or no previous experience of them. Once someone knows that people can see into one another with compassion and acceptance, life is never the same.
People frequently call these moments of connection "sacred" or "transcendent," not in a religious sense, but because they stir perceptions of interconnectedness, limitlessness and even transcendence.
Evidence for the healing power of such moments is now being explored by scientists. Research out of Bowling Green State University shows that “sacred moments” between client and therapist facilitates improved well-being for both individuals. “Far from being unusual... sacred moments appear to be fairly normative in treatment,” said lead researcher Dr. Ken Pargament.
“Clients may find that they have been fundamentally transformed by the sacred moments they have experienced in treatment. Providers may find that sacred moments are what make their work most meaningful and worthwhile."
None of this will surprise many counselors who have often experienced moments of profound connection with their clients and know how transformative they can be. However, in a world that loves to have everything verified by numbers, it is satisfying to have the efficacy of human connection validated by this preliminary research.
The Bowling Green study is especially interesting in light of a recent article suggesting the root of an addiction (e.g. drugs, gambling) is a lack of meaningful human connection in the addicted person’s life.
This research could also boost interest in relationship - oriented therapies such as psychodynamic therapy, where the primary focus of healing is the connection between the therapist and the client.
“Overall, these findings underscore the value of attending to critical moments in treatment, brief moments which may facilitate powerful change and transformation for client, therapist, and the therapeutic relationship,” said Pargament. ”This encounter between therapist and client can be, and we believe should be, understood at a deeper, more profound spiritual level.”
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