Recently I received an email from a young woman interested in beginning therapy at the Institute. She explained that she had been given my name by someone who had worked with me several years ago and who believed I might be able to help her. She told me she had been seeing a therapist for the last few years, mainly for depression, but according to her she was at a standstill with her current therapist. She liked her well enough, but at the same time she was feeling the need for what she described as a more authentic therapeutic relationship. She went on to say that she had recently discovered through a friend of a friend that at one point in her life her therapist had also suffered from depression. This was a bombshell of information as far as she was concerned. It was at this point that she began to question whether she could actually move forward with this particular clinician. She reasoned that there had been numerous times when it could have made a tremendous difference had her therapist shared anything at all about her own struggle with depression. In looking back over the years spent in therapy she realized she actually knew nothing at all about this person who knew everything about her. The young woman did make the effort to discuss all this in her next session but the therapist was once again silent. This therapeutic approach was all too familiar to me but at the same time a world apart from my own approach. There is, by the way, a philosophy behind the therapist’s unresponsiveness that goes all the way back to Freud and Psychoanalysis. Briefly the theory was that for the client to fully explore their unconscious the therapist must be a “blank screen” that in no way interfered with the Analysis. As you can imagine this was contrary to everything I ever learned in training at the Institute and frankly conflicted with who I was as a person. My early training began at the original Primal Institute, which was located in West Hollywood. Down the street was a little restaurant called Cafe Figaro. What does this have to do with training and blank screens? Often while reviewing the tapes we made of our sessions Art or Vivian would say to the new trainee ” It should be as though you are having coffee at Figaro’s”. In some ways it became our mantra; coffee at Figaro’s. There was nothing they hated more than the phoniness of the superior therapist hiding behind their rules about disclosure. They felt our sessions should be conversational and our job was to connect with our patients. The fact that we had all been through the therapy made it easy to relate to what each new person was experiencing – we had been there ourselves. Clearly we always want to keep in mind what is most appropriate for the individual patient. What is useful for one person is not always helpful for another. The skill and experience of the therapist hopefully allows for an understanding of how best to proceed but in Primal we want that to come from the inside and not from the intellect. That being said I personally have found that the boundaries between patient and therapist are, for the most part, increasingly irrelevant, at least for me. Barry said something once that relates to this I think. Of course it is a music analogy, he said to be a good musician you have to know all the fundamentals before you can have the freedom to improvise. The same holds true for therapists in my opinion. You do need an understanding of the basics and possibly it is useful to rely on certain rules when you are a new therapist or your instincts fail you but if you can’t move beyond that to sense what your patient is needing the integrity of the relationship between patient and therapist will always be compromised. The therapist should feel and sense when a boundary is needed or a question should not be answered because it is in the best interest of the individual patient. They should also sense when to be anything less than real and forthright would inhibit and possibly damage the therapeutic process. I have often wondered if there are times when rules and philosophies serve the therapist and not the patient. It allows the therapist a distance or an idea to hide behind, it highlights the therapists need to feel separate and apart and makes clear his deficits, and as a result it can not take in to account the needs of the individual. A psychology teacher I once knew said this about providing effective treatment” When all else fails be silent”. I think when all else fails I’ll just be me.