While the Master did not oppose the practice of psychotherapy and even claimed that it was necessary for some people, he made no secret of is opinion that a psychotherapist merely brings relief; he does not really solve your problem – he merely exchanges it for another, more comfortable, one.

He recalled sitting in a bus after the War, intrigued to see a passenger holding a heavy object wrapped in a newspaper.

“What’s that you’ve got on your lap?” the bus conductor demanded.

“An unexploded bomb. I’m taking to the Fire Department.”

“Heaven’s above, man! You don’t want to carry a thing like that on your lap! Put it under your seat!”

(Anthony de Mello: One Minute Nonsense)

A depressed person who goes to a psychiatrist or GP gets an anti-depressant. If he is afflicted by insomnia he gets a tablet to help him sleep better. In a few days he feels great, he sleeps well. In course of time as he continues to feel well enough, the doctor may be quite sure that the patient can do without the medication and in most cases it is gladly discontinued. In numerous instances the patient is back after another episode of depression looking for more medication. In some cases the patient is maintained on the medicine for a very long time. Medications like antidepressants are indeed helpful but they cannot solve problems for people. Life issues have to be dealt with and difficulties confronting us have to faced if we wish to avoid recurring episodes of such illnesses.

Many people will readily agree that medicines do not solve life problems for us and we are wise to go for psychotherapy to help us. It certainly is beneficial but there is no guarantee that therapy will in fact help. What is true for medicines holds good also for therapy: no therapy will do the living for us.

The biggest problem with most psychotherapies is that as they are busy solving problems, they are only minimizing or eradicating the symptoms people have. The depressed person has to be helped to feel better, the anxious person has to become calm, the passive person has to be taught to be more assertive. Most therapy does not go deep enough – they too stop at symptoms. They may change behaviours, cure phobias, impart some skills. They do not always help or challenge people to face life directly and honestly and with no make up on. That is quite acceptable because most people in any case are looking for quick fixes achieved through various tricks and techniques that are abundant in various psychotherapeutic modalities. Most people are content to feel good, not necessarily change.

Awareness is a necessary for therapists to see not only what they are doing but also the impact of their work. Without this essential element, therapy gets reduced to symptom removal and trivialized into a series of tricks and gimmicks. Therapy is a powerful help for people only when it helps them to open their eyes to life.