The Marriage and Family Therapist

A licensed marriage and family therapist is a trained professional who has earned at least a master’s degree in psychology as well as having satisfied stringent requirements before sitting for and passing specific board exams.

Since Marriage and Family Therapists work with individuals as often as they do with family groups, I often consider and refer to myself as a psychotherapist. I see this as an alternative definition for the process and product that I offer. Translated literally from Greek, psychotherapy breaks down into two words, psyche meaning breath, spirit, or soul and therapīa meaning to nurse or to cure. Psychotherapy, then, would be the process of healing or nursing the spirit or soul. Although seemingly more esoteric, this definition accurately describes the goal of therapy. It is a healing process that ultimately occurs in and changes our very psychology. Ultimately this results in our feeling differently. As a psychotherapist, I act as a guide to this process.

The Diagnosis

Often the motivation to seek therapy comes after certain negative feelings have been present long enough to cause a disruption to normal day-to-day functioning. It is these feelings that are translated through frequency, type, and level of effect on day-to-day life into traditional diagnoses. It is usual for diagnosis (e.g. depression or anxiety) to lead to medication. The fault of this system is that it sees the diagnosis (e.g. depression or anxiety) as the problem that needs to be fixed and the effect that the diagnosis has on a person’s life as the symptoms. I prefer to look at the problem (e.g. depression or anxiety) as the symptom itself, because more often than not it is the natural response to living life a certain way. I see depression or anxiety as indicators. They are the psyche’s way of telling us that some part of our life is being lived in a manner that is somehow incongruous to our wellbeing. Often, this incongruity is hidden and goes unnoticed and must be found by someone who is trained to find it. Often there are many of these psychological idiosyncrasies at play and the longer they have existed, the harder they are to find and root out. Once these incongruities have been exposed and corrected, the negative feelings often disappear without the use of medication.

The Process of Therapy

“No problem can be solved on the level of consciousness that created the problem in the first place.” Carl Jung

Simply stated, people end up seeking psychotherapy when they want to feel differently than they currently do. Often there will be a specific crisis that acts as a catalyst or brings a feeling of acute urgency to affect this change. Even when there is such a catalyst, though, it usually points to an area or areas in a person’s life that would have to be changed
even slightly before that person can feel comfortable enough not to want to feel differently anymore. As Carl Jung suggests, it is a process that requires the role of an outside source. A therapist is useful in this capacity because he or she can intervene and point out the way that a person is involuntarily and unknowingly helping to support the very behavior that conspires against their changing on their own.