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How to regain leadership of your own life?

Interview with Prof. Dr. Eugenijus Laurinaitis


Interview with Prof. Dr. Eugenijus Laurinaitis, General Secretary of European psychotherapy association, about Inner Guidance of our Patients in the Process of Psychotherapy.

Hello, dr. Eugenijus. I am very glad that you agreed to talk about the very important topic – inner guidance of our patients in the process of psychotherapy. So, how they could gain the leadership of their own lives?

Maybe first we should describe or define what we understand by leadership in the personal life. First of all, it is an ability to exhibit and keep the eye on moral and interpersonal principles in their everyday life, this means that they can actively promote and support these principles, and not only in their everyday behavior, but also in the life around them.

They should act proactively when they see people behaving unethically or criminally. They should be leaders not only of their own life, they should be leaders of life as such. And this role is difficult, but there is no other way – without that skill and ability nobody can be leader even for his own life if he succumbs to life’s dangers, complications, and stops pursuing his own values in the outer world.

How do you think it should be done in the process of psychotherapy?

Assoc. prof. PhD Eugenijus Laurinaitis. Image by Petras Vyšniauskas

First, the description of psychotherapy is about the change that patient does with his life during the contact with a professional. And this change has an aim to improve his biological, psychological and social functioning. When we are talking about psychotherapy, we must admit that this is biopsychosocial specialty and it turns to influence all 3 levels of our existence. And when we are talking about the social life, this psychological feature of leadership in my own life is in a way transposed in our social functioning, so this is integrated - nothing exists separately, neither body or soul in my own existence, so we are integrated in one entity and this ability to feel a leader or owner of my own life and to show in my social interactions how I can do that – it is of most importance.

And how we are doing that is by obeying our own principles. We have sometimes these principles inherited from our family values. Sometimes we have this formulated by our experiences during our lifespan. Sometimes we have found it in some important sources of our development and maturation – the bible, books of special authors, and so on – a lot of sources to find something which has not been necessarily in my family life or with my own experience in my life. So, first of all – obeying with my rules.

Other thing is communicating these values of me and actual behavioral standards to the other, and therefore we can and should understand that this communication may have two kinds of goals. First could be persuasive aims to promote change around myself and in my own life. And effectiveness characteristics, when my words and text is understandable, clear, and prompted from the situation I am in. And then we - by communicating our own values and behavior - are taking very important thing – responsibility. We are taking responsibility for our own words and actions. This is sometimes called honesty, but either way we must understand that this sits on our shoulders, this is our personality. And this is the process of development of the patient in the psychotherapeutical process, which helps to create for patient and his environment a basic characteristic for our life – the trust. We may trust our own evolution; we may trust our relationships with important people around us and they can trust us even if we are changing the direction or the change is predictable.

How to you notice in your personal practice that the patient is already gaining the leadership in his or her own life. Are there any signs? How do you know it?

Generally, there are three stages of the change process. First stage is an imitation - people are listening to our conversation while doing psychotherapy and grasping some important, valuable things from it to apply and use these things to their everyday life. And then when they came back to the therapy room they tell: “You know, I remembered that you said that you should do this and that, and I tried, and you know that it was working”. So, this is an imitation. But this set of values is still strange for the patient, he only tries to apply something which is mine.

The next stage is an incorporation. When a person says that he even didn’t think what I would say in that situation, but he thought himself that probably I would recommend him to do that and then he did that. And there is much more of authorship of the decision and action.

Finally, the third stage is an identification, when person in therapy makes some decisions in his life outside the therapy hours about the things, we have been talking but without any reference to the therapeutic process. He is sure that this is his own decision, and that is the best outcome the therapy can have. It means that the patient has matured for his own decision making in difficult life situations. So, that is the process, and when I’m listening to patient’s stories outside the therapy and watch the patient’s behavior inside the therapy - how much he is independent of me - is actually the measure how much he’s ready to finish the work.

Last question – what personal qualities of the psychotherapist could contribute to this process?

First of all, he must be a leader of himself. It is really clear that you cannot teach anybody a personal quality you don’t have. Second thing – an additional quality for therapist is tolerance, because when we are talking that the therapy is the process of the patient’s change, we must understand that both the goal how far patient wants to go, the speed how slow or quickly he moves this way, the blocks in the processes of travel towards the goal are ruled on the part of the patient. And we cannot neither bring him on our hands, nor push him by our fists to move quicker or in the proper direction – this is all on the patient’s shoulders and therefore we must be patient ourselves. We must be tolerant to the patient’s mistakes, to his somehow difficult paths that he has chosen to go, but all the time we must be aside the patient. So, this is an additional, I would say not only professional but indeed the personal quality of tolerance.

Thank you! These were all my questions from my side, maybe you would like to add something?

I would like to tell that in my opinion and in the opinion of the European Association of Psychotherapy General Secretary of which I am, the psychotherapy is a separate profession. It needs a separate theoretical preparation; it needs a personal preparation in the form of personal self-investigating activity, and it needs a special separate professional supervising inside the therapeutic work - not only in communication or contact work. So, this is my wish to address all therapists, who want to become the therapists, or all the colleagues in psychiatry who want to become therapists, this is a very interesting part in the life and indeed I encourage you to take this journey.

Thank you so much!


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