“Therapy is an elixir for the soul prepared from the matter brought into the psycho-spiritual laboratory. It is specific to each person, formulated to personally address the dis-ease of the individual. The therapist, like the ancient alchemist, must guide the patient to develop his own medicine. It is in this process that the healing happens and the alchemical transformation is accomplished.“
– Dr. Brian Hooper
A Laboratory for your Soul
The ancient alchemists, who watched with reverent anticipation over their beakers as they billowed their fires, were not simply trying to turn lead into gold.
The earnest ones were at the same time working to identify the lead in their own lives and transform it into a golden vein of inner enlightenment and personal change.
Psychotherapy, as Dr. Hooper practices it, is challenging, sometimes brooding, surprisingly mystical, and amazingly rewarding work.
BEN’S* STORY OF TRANSFORMATION
In his early 30’s, Ben* came to see me with a new HIV diagnosis, chemical dependency, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. On his intake form he wrote, “I want to approach counseling from the standpoint of accepting myself and loving myself as a gay man.” He worked at therapy, completing the weekly homework assigned him to facilitate integration of work done in session, and bringing specific topics to discuss the next week.
Therapy became his laboratory.
Slowly, we reviewed the many relationships and interactions that formed him as the child of a fundamentalist pastor, how he went about thinking through challenging issues he faced daily, and exploring new ways to interact with others. Everything went into the beaker to become distilled, refined, and recombined. The fires sometimes scalded. But the iridescent feelings that come with real change kept rising to the surface.
As we approached his one-year anniversary of therapy and of being clean of drugs, he recalled how I had previously remarked that he needed to learn how to become enough for himself: “I had no idea what that meant or how I was supposed to do that. Now I am enough for me. I don’t know how therapy works, but it works.” He had become enough for himself. And so it was that “Ben”* had discovered gold.
*Named changed to protect his privacy. Story shared with client’s permission.