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Therapy: the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to facilitate an ‘in conversation’ event with Rev Dr Stephanie Dowrick, as we explored the idea of seeking the sacred in life, and what that might look like.

On the way there, I spotted these words on a menu board in a restaurant garden:

“Enjoy the Beauty Inside”

I’m sure it meant the beauty inside the restaurant, but it seemed a really apt thing to see just before talking about the concept of sacredness…

During that conversation, Stephanie lamented that therapy often required so much “work” and that it often seems so negatively framed. That therapy seems to need us to unravel our lives right back to the beginning and re-live all the painful bits. To dredge up the ugly past and stain the present with it somehow.

And maybe this is true, sometimes.
For in therapy’s earlier days, it started out as just such a thing.

But, thankfully, it’s grown since then.
Many therapies now also look to our future and ask us to imagine what we’d like to bring about there, and how we might do that…

For instance, solution-focused therapy almost doesn’t care what ‘the problem’ is – only the kind of steps you can take from this point on, and how you can tap into the skills and strengths you already have to get you to ‘the solution’.

Similarly, positive psychology highlights your character strengths to support you to finding your way to a sense of fulfillment, or even of “flourishing”.

And many other therapy modalities, including narrative therapy, are often used to explore and enrich the meanings you make of your life, helping you “re-author” it in more enabling, enriching ways.

So the idea that therapy just wants to till the soil of misery doesn’t quite capture the full picture.

For therapy is also about cultivating your internal garden.

It’s about appreciating the qualities and behaviours that got you through the tough times.

Acknowledging the supportive habits and skills you’ve grown.

Respecting yourself for facing the challenges you’ve had.

Enabling you to more clearly see the vastness and richness and wonder you contain within you.
(Possibly even inspiring you to “Enjoy the Beauty Inside”).

And perhaps that’s a very multi-layered beauty – both inside you and inside others.
And maybe even inside the interconnectedness between…

Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki wrote about this interconnectedness stuff. He felt that:

“ ‘You’
means to be aware
of the universe
in the form of you,

and ‘I’
means to be aware of it
in the form of I.”

If that’s even a little bit true, then perhaps we’re all just stewards of this particular part of the universe that we like to call ‘me.’
This small bit inhabiting this particular body and this particular life.

When you put it that way, then why would we see the beauty everywhere else and sometimes not in this place (in ‘me’)?

Why should we judge this bit more harshly?
Pressure it to behave in certain ways?
Put more expectations on it?
Weigh it down with critical remarks?
Undermine it with self-doubts?
Punish it for ‘failing’?

Why would we not support it to flourish as only it can?

So perhaps through the self-reflection and clearing away of the emotional clutter that would otherwise obscure this vision of ourselves, therapy may offer us a way to glimpse this ‘beauty inside’ more often. Maybe even to enjoy it.

And that sounds pretty sacred to me…


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 and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.

Therapy: the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2010). Therapy: the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Dec 2010
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