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Finding Hope: ‘The Instillation of Hope’ in Therapy and in Life

Serendipity’s a mysterious thing.

A couple of years ago, I was walking alone along a coastal track, climbing sandstone headlands and weaving through the bushes with a problem on my mind. I’d come out here to think it over, to find a solution. But it seemed intractable.

Just at the point where I could see no way through, I happened to look up, and saw the view in the photo above:

hope’… the sky was filled with it.

‘The instillation of hope’ is an important part of psychotherapy (the existential psychotherapist Irvin D Yalom cites it as the first of eleven ‘primary factors’ in the therapeutic experience).

The instillation of hope offers a path back to a sense of possibility in our lives when almost all seemed lost. It’s about relief, restoration. And the chance, once more, to look forward – to wonder, when we’re in a barren place, what might be over the horizon (and to be given the strength and sustenance to keep putting one foot in front of the other in order to find out).

Yet sometimes instilling hope is also about looking backward, too. Looking back to remember how you might have handled situations or problems like this one before. To recall which qualities came to your aid at that time, and to know that you can access those again. For the simple fact of having negotiated tough terrain before can instill the hope that you can do it once more.

So what does hope look like in your life?

If you could photograph it, what might you see?

How could you ‘instill’ it or invoke it or strengthen it in your life?

What might undermine it?
(And how could you protect it from those factors?)

What does it feel like for you to hope?
(and how does that impact how you see yourself in the world?)

Could hope form a solid foundation for you, or does it feel too amorphous for that?

In some ways, it could be said that all of therapy is built on a foundation of hope. Hope that things can change: habits, behaviours, emotions, outlooks, problems, families, relationships and even people themselves.

And therapy also rests on a hope that ‘the organism knows best’ (as the Gestalt founders, Fritz Perls and Laura Perls put it) – that we will tend to grow towards the light, and intuitively know a path back to our own healing.

Perhaps simply holding out hope for that stuff is, itself, a part of the healing…

(Feel free to share what gives you hope, below, so that, together, we can maybe instill a little more of it).

Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy, the author of a private practice blog, and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.

Finding Hope: ‘The Instillation of Hope’ in Therapy and in Life

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2010). Finding Hope: ‘The Instillation of Hope’ in Therapy and in Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Sep 2010
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