Over the past several years, I have come-up with many metaphors to describe the process of psychotherapy. We have all heard psychotherapy likened to a journey or process of self-discovery, but these metaphors don't fit the bill in describing not only the process, but the outcome. I have often described the therapist as a mirror upon which we project our unresolved emotional content, so that we can see it reflected back to us more clearly. However, my metaphor failed to capture how the therapeutic relationship and process functions as a mirror for both the 'client' and the therapist, because each are transformed by the work. For a therapist to suggest that they haven't been touched and or changed in some way by their clients presence in their lives, would suggest to me that they are not truly empathetically attuned. If we are relationally attuned as therapists, we are giving of ourselves in some way, which inevitably brings to the fore our own lived experience, often the parts we have pushed away.
In unpacking my own experience as a psychotherapist and social worker, I realized that psychotherapy is like a fun house of mirrors. The therapist, who has been through the fun house before, knows his/her/their way around. Thus, they can see the path through to the end. However, each time they enter the fun house with someone new they see themselves anew; revealing new information for further reflection. For the client, the fun house is initially scary, because it is uncharted territory where they come into direct contact with various projections of themselves. Some of their projections are scary whilst others are funny. However, each projection feels real to them. The therapist guides the client through the fun house with minimal prompts and or suggested directions, but allows the client to fumble their way through the distortions of self until they stumble upon the one mirror near the end where they see themselves as they truly are, which is often followed by relief, gratitude, and laughter despite how terrified they were all along the way.