I've often wished I had some brief way to convey to people what the course of therapy might look like, the many benefits it
offers, and why it is worth the effort and the time and the expense. Thanks to something I encountered on a recent day off, I think I've
found a way to do this in just 3 minutes and 52 seconds.
An e-newsletter that showed up in my Inbox one morning featured the
latest CD from a songwriter named Dar Williams
. I'd heard of Williams years ago when I was working as a
performing musician, and was curious to see what she'd been up to, so I followed the link in the newsletter and listened to a few clips from
her new CD. From there I poked around her web site, and then searched YouTube for her music videos.
The video that caught my
attention, though I wasn't sure why at first, was for a song called "What Do You Hear In These Sounds."
I clicked on the link to start the video
and learned in the first few seconds that this was a song about Williams' experience as a client in therapy: "I don't go to
therapy to find out if I'm a freakI go and I find the one and only answer every weekAnd it's just me and all
the memories to followDown any course that fits within a 50 minute hour"
I was already intrigued, but it was
the next few lines that really got my attention, because they suggested that Williams and her therapist had gone beyond expedient, problem-
solving approaches to therapy, and into deeper, richer waters: "And we fathom all the mysteries, explicit and inherent
When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent
And she's so kind, I think she wants to tell me something,But she
knows that it's much better if I get it for myself"
That's the heart of good therapy--to create the space where a client can
"get it for myself," where they can come to see that their psyche, in its own good time, knows exactly where to go and how to get there.
This flies in the face of the stereotype that therapy is about going to an "expert" to get their
answers; instead, it fosters in
the client a confidence in their own inner wisdom, a wisdom that holds the power to guide and sustain them long after any particular
"answer" has outlived its usefulness.
In the last verse, Williams shares her fear that if she opened up to others who are on
this journey, "I would only start confessing, and they'd know that I was scared and they would
know that I was guessing."
It seems we ALL feel that way sometimes; I hear it every day from my clients: "I'm weird"..."I'm
different"..."Everyone else seems to get something that I don't." But Williams says that through telling "the stories that nobody hears,"
she found that "the wall came down"...and THAT is when she saw that others were "just like me," that she was not alone.
then, isn't meant to stop with the healing of individuals. It's meant to connect us to one another, and to move us out into the world where
we can become a force for communal healing. With an open heart and the eloquence of a poet, Williams speaks of her own experience
of moving from self to others:"And when I
talk about therapy, I know what people thinkThat it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrinkBut Oh
how I loved everybody elseWhen I finally got to talk so much about myself..."
Jung once wrote that "When you
treat the individual, you treat the culture." We live in a culture that is in deep need of healing and transformation. Perhaps that process
will get a booster shot when more and more individuals turn their attention to evocative questions like "What do you hear in these sounds?"*
process...may begin with you.
*If you're wondering about the song's title, I think
it is a musician's twist on a famous psychological test, the Rorschach
inkblot test. In the Rorschach, patients are shown a series of inkblots and asked "What do you see?" Conclusions are then drawn from
analyzing the client's answers. Williams, I suspect, was simply showing that a good therapist, working with a musician (whose way of
engaging the world could have as much to do with sound as it does sight), might ask the client to listen deeply to
(rather than look at
it) and then ask a different question: "What do you hear in these sounds?"...