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HOMEMEDICINEGeneral

Love in Psychotherapy & Medicine

Published on November 14, 2013

Love Medicine

Without love, we will not bother 
to look very deeply into the world of another. 
Love is an absolute necessity in diagnostic, medical, 
and in all counseling and therapeutic processes.

Human growth occurs most favorably in meetings when individuals express themselves vulnerably and authentically. The authenticity of open, honest and sincere relationships are a necessary and real prerequisite to successful healing relationships. Love is what heals, love is what sustains, love is what cures, and love is what makes therapy successful. Unfortunately, the problem with the world and with the professions of medicine and psychology is the great lack or absence of love.

Love is something we feel when we are close and feeling one with another being. Dr. Scott Peck defined love as the willingness to go out on a limb, to truly involve oneself and struggle at an emotional level with another in a relationship for the purpose of shared growth. Love is certainly something we feel when we give to others especially when it is a part of ourselves we are giving.

Communication is Love
Listening is Love

These two most practical definitions of love combine to form a context in which love can be understood, measured, learned and practiced in all situations including the medical and therapeutic practices. Love is more than acts, deeds, words, or feelings. To love someone, is to give part of our heart to them.

It is through our willingness and openness to communicate and listen to someone that we most readily demonstrate the truth or quality of our love and caring. It is impossible to have much love, compassion and understanding for another unless we are in touch with their world.

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When we love another, it shows some kind of appreciation for their existence and world of experience and this assumes listening on a deep level of being. Listening is the most basic skill of life and the most basic psychological and spiritual process that moves us to evolve, change, grow and learn.

The kind of listening I am taking about is not on the superficial mental level but implies empathetic listening. Therapeutic listening and therapeutic intimacy, the kind that heals, is an intentional giving of love and that implies a real giving of oneself. Israeli philosopher Martin Buber expressed much of this to Carl Rogers many years ago saying that authentic “I-thou” relationships was necessary to make therapy effective. He did not believe that authentic and vulnerable type relationships were likely to exist when people meet in the roles of psychotherapist and client. Rogers responded agreeing that authenticity was important but maintained that enlightened psychotherapists could choose to transcend their own role and encounter their clients authentically. Love in medicine leads us away from the standard type of clinical detachment that is taught as a sacrosanct rule in most formal therapy training.

With empathetic therapeutic listening
true intimacy of being is created
and with this we directly reach over barriers
that separate one soul from another.

With empathetic therapeutic listening, we directly attack the sense of separation that most people feel. We deliberately enable and encourage others to melt the sense of separation they feel, between not only themselves and others but also the separation they feel between themselves and their minds and the deepest feeling self.

Scott Peck was correct that the most important aspect for successful therapeutic work and progress is love. With love we listen, with love we risk heart-felt communication. We use love to melt the ice. We warm the others heart with our own. We show a kindness that is real, warm, and sincere.

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The therapy I do with people emphasizes the pure vulnerability of being and the role of love expressed as pure listening. In my work communication is held as something sacred. Therapeutic intimacy is a private thing between souls and in this we are responsible only to a higher authority, to our own highest inner self or God for what we do and say.

This kind of attitude transcends any kind of professional ethic, and though at certain times it might entail certain risks, there is no way of getting around the fact that the heart level of life, and the realities of heart to heart communication always contains at least some element of risk.

Therapeutic communication and intimacy is the use of our being to help create union and love and thus healing in the therapeutic hour or in the medical office. It is independent of rules and all roles. It is the pure impulse to give love in a warm way, in a way that reaches into another’s inner being. It is meant to heal some of the wounds people feel in their core.

The willingness to simply share our own vulnerabilities, experiences and concerns is the magic that opens the doors to our patients’ vulnerabilities. When it comes to the practice of medicine, it entails our willingness to spend extra time listening to all the details of a patient’s situation without letting our mind pull the diagnostic process short with our premature medical judgments and diagnosis.

Instead of listening deeply from the heart, the modern doctor sends a patient quickly to medical laboratories for tests. In therapy as in our primary love relationships, our primary concern is to create atmospheres and support systems based on love and the true vulnerability of being.

Cold clinical relationships only create more pathology and confusion in patients and have nothing to do with healing the source of people’s problems. Just to touch someone’s arm or hold their hand would be taboo in many circles but such intimacies go long and far in helping open up inner doors.

Many years ago Dr. Scott Peck laid down the first foundation stones for a therapy of love when he said, "We are now able to see the essential ingredient that makes psychotherapy effective and successful. It is not ‘unconditional positive regard,’ nor is it magical words, techniques or postures; it is human involvement and struggle. It is the willingness of the therapist to extend him or herself for the purpose of nurturing the patient’s growth – willingness to go out on a limb, to truly involve oneself at an emotional level in the relationship, to actually struggle with the patient and with oneself. In short, the essential ingredient of successful deep and meaningful psychotherapy is love."

Dr. Peck said "most mental illness is caused by an absence of or defect in the love that a particular child required from its particular parents for successful maturation and spiritual growth." It becomes obvious then that what patients need more than anything is that love. They need this love for healing to take place.

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Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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comments

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  • Jermo

    True love is unconditional love, agape love, which transcends all love, since it is the epitome of love, God’s love. We can know love by knowing the Creator of love; that is, God and His Son Jesus, whom He has sent. This is love, that God first loved us. We are born of God if we also have love for one another. Scripture teaches that we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love our neighbors as self. Love is life and the person who has the Son has life – the person who does not have the Son of God does not have life. If mankind would embrace His love, we would not have the turmoil we see increasing in our world.

  • wonderful! mark, how i say it is, “Love IS attention.” and healing comes from paying VERY CLOSE attention. i am sending you an email – please watch for it.

  • Davi

    What is lacking in our world and what the world needs most is love. Unfortunately many people and more so in the western world have a distorted view of what love is. We confuses it with material giving and we confuses and taint it with mechanical sex. I have a strong feeling that the lack of true love, the lack of the ability to give of ourselves to others and to ourselves is the root of our social disease: the feeling of alienation, the loneliness, the depression, the over consumption of prescription and non prescription drugs, of pornography and of food. But non of those can ever replace love. No matter how much we have and how much we consume, the feeling of emptiness will persist. Only true love can fill in the vacuum. Love is a miraculous drug that heels the core of our essence. The world will definitely be a much better place if we all get addicted to love.