Monday, October 29, 2007


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BEYOND BELIEF/ October 29, 2007
Carl R. Rodgers who some say is the founder of the humanistic psychology movement and father of person-centered therapy wrote the following, “I can remember this in my early grammar school days. A child would ask the teacher a question and the teacher would give a perfectly good answer to a completely different question. A feeling of pain and distress would always strike me. My reaction always was, ‘But you didn’t hear him!’”
Living with bipolar disorder can be like riding the giant roller coaster at the North Carolina State Fair. If you are not taking medications or if they are not working you can either be living in the depths of a depression or feeling like you are on top of the world in mania or anywhere in between. There is a stage just before mania in which I desperately want to be heard. From my father and mother who are dead to my wife, I have frustrated them by demanding they answer my questions exactly. I am trying to verify that I am being heard.
Why is it so important to me to know I am being heard? Because it means to me that they saw or see me as a person.
Whatever name you give it. Client-centered, Person-centered, or some other name we are talking about viewpoint. That is why I call it First-Person. I am trying to convey the idea that the recovery process belongs to the person therefore any help must come from the person’s viewpoint.
I was one of the trainers at South Florida State Hospital when Service Planning was introduced there. Service Planning was based on the idea that the planning process started with the person’s long term view of what they wanted for themselves. The same concept was introduced into the community mental health centers. I helped train hundreds of mental health professionals on this approach.
North Carolina has a similar set of papers to be filled out. I am sure there have been trainings here also.
You can train someone on the paperwork, but you can’t give them the heart and eyes to see us or the ears to hear us.
It takes someone spiritual who has already found their heart. Maybe even a person who has already had to crawl on their belly so that have empathy for me when I have to crawl on mine. It takes a person who is getting their needs met so they have the strength to help me meet mine. Only one person at a time can be helped in a therapeutic relationship.
Part of Carl Rodgers’ education was done at Union Theological Seminary. Don’t dismiss that as an influence on the body of work he left us. The three cornerstones of his philosophy (1) empathic understanding (2) genuineness and (3) unconditional positive regard could have come straight out of the teachings of Jesus which don’t forget was a Jew well learned in the Hebrew Scriptures.
What do I what most when I am at my worst? To be heard and seen. Just answer the question I ask and I will know you are hearing me. If you are hearing me then you are listening. If you are listening then you must think I am worthy. If that is so then maybe you think I am a person. That would be a victory beyond belief.

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