Healing takes time. And often healing emotional and spiritual wounds takes more time than healing those which involve other parts of who we are.
I pulled one of my all time favorite movies – “Good Will Hunting,” out of our DVD library over the weekend. You may remember the story: Will, an off the charts genius, has also been emotionally and spiritually damaged by life. Orphaned, abused by a foster father, calloused by the rough South Bronx neighborhood in which he lives, Will’s genius is, unfortunately, too often expressed through angry defiance and random violence.
A court mandated therapist played by Robin Williams senses the emotional and spiritual damage beneath Will’s tough exterior. Therapist Williams patiently waits while Will develops sufficient trust to allow him to help. And it takes time. The movie is not clear how long, but we are left with the impression of months, perhaps a year or more, of work.
Today’s managed care dominated insurance system has contributed a great deal toward controlling the over use and abuse of some mental health services. Troubled teens are no longer simply confined to psychiatric hospitals. Therapy is not necessarily expected to last for years if not decades. Substance abuse problems are no longer automatically treated by months of hospitalization. Refashioned as behavioral health, these services are now short term and limited in focus. Emphasis is on the biochemical (our body chemistry), cognitive (our thinking) and behavioral (our actions) aspects of personal and interpersonal problems. For those problems which are simply biochemical, cognitive, or behavioral such an approach can work relatively well. However, as “Good Will Hunting” reminds us, the feelings generated by our experiences and the meaning we give to and seek from life often transcend such a simplistic understanding of human nature.
Years of research point clearly to the reality that emotional and spiritual healing occurs through the relationship between a client and therapist. The three most poignant moments in the film (men even got teary eyed) occur at just those moments when Will’s wounds are revealed and healed as a result of the bond he has formed with his therapist. And Will’s eventual embarkation on his journey toward finding meaning and fulfillment for his life also is a result of the focus and direction he has found through this relationship. Such therapeutic relation building takes time. And though its focus may include the biochemical, cognitive, and behavioral, it goes far beyond these dynamics in both breath and depth.
Healing takes time. Most important things do.