When am I Ready?

When patients ask me when they will be ready to terminate their therapy, I will reply, “When you yourself are able to be a good therapist.” This reply is often most usefully made in group therapy, where patients of course do practice psychotherapy on each other and where their failures to successfully assume the role of psychotherapists can be pointed out to them.

Many patients do not like this reply, and some will actually say, “That’s too much work. To do that means that I would have to think all the time in my relationships with people. I don’t want to think that much. I don’t want to work that hard. I just want to enjoy myself.”

Patients often respond similarly when I point out to them that all human interactions are opportunities either to learn or to teach (to give or relieve theory), and when they neither learn nor teach in an interaction they are passing up an opportunity.

Most people are quite correct when they say they do not want to achieve such a lofty goal or work so hard in life. The majority of patients, even in the hands of the most skilled and loving therapists will terminate their therapy at some point far short of complete fulfilling their potential. They may have traveled a short or even a goodly distance along the journey of spiritual growth, but the whole journey is not for them. It is or seems to be too difficult. They are content to be ordinary men and women and do not strive to be God.

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled