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My primary role in my ministry as a psychotherapist is to be the listener and privileged witness to the stories people share.

Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit. Bidden or not, God is present.

CG Jung had these words inscribed over the entrance to his house in Kusnacht. It is the same knowing that I have, as I welcome a client into my office. Bidden or not, God is present. It is bolstered by the knowledge that my Dominican community is with me and that we do this work together. Our shared vision, shared life, shared resources, and shared prayer is the weaving that holds us together in our ministry, wherever we may be.

Storytelling is the umbrella I like to use in sharing thoughts about psychotherapy and how it can change lives, change narratives, change perceptions for the good. I enjoy telling a good story, but my primary role in my ministry is to be the listener and privileged witness to the stories that are told, in large part, stories of trauma, little and big trauma.

Rachael Naomi Remen, a storyteller and writer of renown says: “When you listen generously to people, they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time,” and when truth emerges, it illuminates unknown places in the heart and soul. Hope takes hold and healing is possible.

Narrative Therapy has a saying; “We can either be host or be held hostage by our story.” Most often we do not realize we are being “held hostage” by the betrayals, the anger, the grief, the abuse and the false narratives that have been learned.

There are ways to facilitate healing in the midst of even the most difficult times. The telling of our story in a therapeutic setting is a process that can help position us to be in the best place for healing and wholeness. It is “work.” Honesty and courage are required to name the darkness and our own complicity, mostly unknowingly. It is sitting with the unknown. “Learning arises from working at the edges between knowing and not knowing,” wrote Wilfred Bion, DSO. He said that psychotherapy is about “minding the inside things.”

The poet and writer John O’Donohue conveys this truth, I think, so beautifully and poetically.

Light cannot see inside things,
That is what the dark is for,
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns into life.

Does that not speak of healing? Truth is often found in pain and suffering. Suffering and struggle are often the very things that draw us out of fear and into new life. The ability to recognize and hold more of joy and light follows.

The therapeutic process is about truth and transformation, healing and wholeness. It is soul work. In time, it is even possible for the struggle to become a blessing. Again, God is the unseen guest as the therapist is welcomed into the intimacy of another’s life. It is a privilege to witness and accompany another in their healing.

“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.” Parker Palmer

Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit. Bidden or not, God is present.

Eva Silva, OP is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Mission & Ministry Magazine Spring 2019