So while some offices were cozy like a womb, filled with stuff, others were Spartan, functional and even had a barren quality. In some of these offices, I felt as if there was no place to hide. I imagined that in this stark emptiness a patient might feel compelled to fill up the room by retrieving their own stuff from their inside: stories, memories, feelings, fantasies. When I asked the practitioners why they chose to keep their office so minimalistic, some said that they wanted to minimize any distractions.
As it shows in the texts accompanying the photos of "Fifty Shrinks", not only are there big differences in how your colleagues choose to furnish their workspaces, but in their clinical approaches as well. Considering the many schools of thought that are out there today: What makes a good shrink today?
Whether you are a psychoanalyst, a cognitive behavioralist, an interpersonalist or an adherent of another persuasion: Many forms of therapies have been proven to work as long as the therapeutic relationship is strong, which in itself can be healing. To me, therapists are artists, scientists, poets and sometimes even wizards when they unleash this powerful process, and it is not clear how they are actually doing it!
In general, I think the most important qualities a therapist needs to have is an interest in people, a sensitivity to emotions and a willingness to explore their patients and their own feelings. The ability to listen while remaining non-judgmental is key. This is where the famous adage of the brilliant Viennese analyst, Theodor Reik, "listening with the third ear," still holds true. Good therapists intuitively use their their own unconscious reactions to their patients, in order to glean something about them. For that to happen, ideally, the therapist should have been analyzed themselves, so as not to project their own unresolved conflicts onto the patient. Here I am reminded of one of my mentors who said: "A therapist who has not been analyzed is like a swimming coach, who does not know how to swim."