Since the beginning of my career as a psychologist, I have been strongly organized by and oriented to principles of humanistic psychology (Rogers, 1957, 1959, 1961/1995), which indicate personal and interpersonal change proceeds to the extent that patients experience an unconditionally warm, empathic, and genuine relationship in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis – regardless of the therapist’s formal approach. Central to these attitudes are two core ideas:
- Recognizing that patients implicitly (though often out of conscious awareness) know what they need in interpersonal relationships to flourish, what one psychoanalyst calls the “known unknown”;
- “Prizing” each patient, respecting the ways one has attempted to adapt to life experience, and celebrating the resilience or anti-fragility inherent in the human spirit.
As one of my early mentors was fond of saying: “What is apt to be impactful with someone is someone else being themselves with you, which then encourages you to be yourself with them.”
This attitude helps both clinician and patient co-create a vital alliance that helps address The Prime Directive:
Why does it make sense that I am having these sets of problems with these people in these situations in my life, and what can I do to be more effective and satisfied in these relationships.