chapter  14
The Therapist Replies: Observations from the Therapist Who Didn’t Do Anything in the Therapy That Almost Wasn’t While Attempting to Salvage the Love of a Lifetime
ByDavid V. Keith, MD
Pages 6

The foregoing two essays describing a complex marriage and its interdigitation with mental health professionals, including myself, are moving to me. Even though Noralyn and Oscar express gratitude to me, I have a desire to say how they looked to me and what I thought I did within my sym bolic experiential family therapy pattern. In the way I work with families, medication seems less necessary. I want to give an idea of what I do that makes medication seem less necessary. The first and most fundamental thing is to pressure the whole family to come in. The second is that no person is allowed to be more important than any other in the family. When Noralyn and Oscar came to see us, they found it impossible to agree on anything. In a follow-up interview, a year and a half after the last therapy interview (I will say more about this later), they mentioned that midway through the series of interviews, when they were talking about what they were getting out of therapy, they found something they could agree on. “David wasn’t doing anything.” Now, in their essays, both Noralyn and Oscar mention that David didn’t do anything, so I want to say something about how this process of not doing anything can be therapeutic. Noralyn arrived in the marriage and in the therapy with hopeful Protestant exuberance made more powerful by the fact that she is an accomplished scholar and professor with a PhD in seventeenth-century literature. She is a very appealing person, her inner world seems dominated by a sense of right and wrong, and she does not like to do it wrong. In our work she was kind, understanding, and forgiving, but at times her logic and self-sacrifice

cornered Oscar. What she does not say about herself, because I think it is incongruous with the view of herself she values most, is that she has a high capacity for being a slightly outrageous, sexy, and lovable nut. Their marriage has not only lasted, but stayed alive because she also has a high capacity to go for a ride in someone else’s reality. Because she has such a firmly rooted sense of self, she can take this ride and not lose her self or her identity. In this case she fell in love with Oscar because he catalyzed her departure from the secure, logical, preplanned living style that she sensed was leading to the early demise of her soul through suffocation. But inevitably there were crisis points where she would lock up and try to explain herself linearly. This is her burden from being a white scholar with her taproot in the Midwest.