“It’s the relationship that heals.” -Irvin Yalom
I met an old friend for coffee yesterday. In person. For coffee. Somehow this is a rather novel idea these days with social media fooling us into believing we’re more connected to others than reality would say. Don’t get me wrong, social media has its pros. I have friends around the world that I simply can’t just pop in to have coffee with on any given day of the week, and so it is nice to see some portion of their lives from time to time. But, that said, the downside of social media is that we can often believe we know our friends, or know what’s happening in their lives, by just a few brief posts or photographs.
Irvin Yalom is basically the godfather of group psychotherapy, and I’m a big fan of many things he’s had to say over the years. He states it’s the relationship that heals and when it comes to therapy, I can tell you all sorts of modalities I might practice. Some of them may be meaningful to you, some may not, and at the end of the day, the thing that’s going to make therapy with me most useful to you is that we form a relationship, there is a good fit, and you trust me enough to help you walk the path. Training is important, yes, but what I find most draws people is authenticity and presence.
This is why so many forms of recovery, that are based on group models, work. It’s less about the dogma and the literature and more about the relationships that are formed that help people transform their lives. It’s about connection, and the kind of connection that brings meaning to our lives. This is why therapy works when the fit is right between therapist and client.
As I sat across from my friend yesterday, I realized how little I knew about her life beyond a screen showing me photos of her life, and just how lovely it was to see her face, the expressions on it, the voice, and the emotion that lies behind that. For this reason, I often have days where I’d like to just chuck the smart phone in a bin because I feel like they remove us from these very tangible experiences. We simply need more in-person connection because the world needs more healing.