|"What does it tell us about attitudes to sexuality today that Relate can get happily into bed with Ann Summers, the well-known high street sex toy shop, to promote the results of their joint Sex Census? Manu Bazzano reviews the findings of the census and goes on to explore our changing attitudes to sexuality in an increasingly commercialised world where, he argues, the media’s representations of sex as a desirable commodity ‘collide with our natural human desire for mutual exploration, communication and passionate engagement’" |
|"Getting out of the office could enable therapists to meet the needs of more clients" |
|"As therapists we witness the effects of societal change, could we do more?" |
|"Men must be able to explore all their feelings – including aggression and violence – in therapy without being judged if they are to move towards positive change, argues Manu Bazzano"|
A good supervisor, care of self and respect for the client’s autonomy are the bedrock of good therapeutic practice
Why I became a counsellor
What made you decide to become a therapist?
My story partly fits with the ‘wounded healer’ cliché. I went to therapy as a client, appreciated the support, intimacy and the free-wheeling exploration. In therapy I also sought the experiential side (which I felt had been missing in my previous training as a philosopher), as well as attention to psychological detail (which had been missing in my other training as a Zen Buddhist monk).
What were your hopes when you became a therapist?
To become more emotionally literate, more accepting of my own and others’ shortcomings and frailties, hence to be able to be of service to others in times of crisis, confusion, and distress.
Have they changed and if so, in what ways?
Not a great deal, but I’d say my stance has become more pragmatic and less idealistic – which is a good thing as ‘pragma’ implies a joint endeavour, rather than a solitary mission.
What do you think makes a good therapist?
First and foremost, a good supervisor, and I’ve been lucky in that area. Then care of self, by which I mean a combination of things: an embodied practice such as meditation that best helps cultivate what Rogers called ‘a way of being’; an appreciation of the everyday; having other interests, in my case cinema. Respect for the autonomy of the client.
What is the best advice you have received, and why?
‘Focus more on the process, rather than the content.’ This helped shift the emphasis in my work on ‘tuning in’, listening, being present rather than being focused on future results.
What values do you hold dear?
To hold abstract principles lightly and not allow them to get in the way of a sincere and compassionate encounter. Or, in other words: responding adequately to the other – a theme I explored at some length in my latest book, Spectre of the Stranger
What do you enjoy about being a therapist?
The independent nature of the work and the coming together of all my interests in several areas of study. I treasure the exploration and dialogue that takes place in what at times seems like a privileged oasis of intimacy and healing.
What do you find most challenging?
The hot coal of conflict, the glueyness of transference and counter-transference, the potential for projection, identification and idealisation/demonisation of the therapist. All inevitable, at one time or other, yet always tough.
Which books have you read that inspired you?
Nietzsche’s Gay Science; Helene Cixous’ Reveries of the Wild Woman; Merleau-Ponty’s The Visible and the Invisible; James Hillman’s Re-visioning Pyschology; Robert Bly’s Iron John; Rollo May’s Love and Will; Master Dōgen’s Shobogenzo; Stephen Batchelor’s Buddhism without Beliefs; Allan Schore’s The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy; Joyce’s Ulysses; Virginia Woolf’s The Waves; Ernesto Spinelli’s Practising Existential Psychotherapy; Maurice Blanchot’s The Infinite Conversation; Georges Bataille’s Eroticism; Jean Genet’s Prisoner of Love; Derrida’s The Gift of Death; Julia Kristeva’s Tales of Love; Philip Roth’s Patrimony and Exit Ghost; Pasolini’s Theorem and Heretical Empiricism... the list could go on.
Has becoming a therapist changed you?
At the start of my training, my partner said to me over dinner: ‘Wow, you have listened attentively to what I just said without interrupting!’ I listen more, am more drawn to what others have to say and more gladly suspend my desire to hold forth. I’d say I’m more intrigued and amazed by the whimsical condition of being human.
Has your view of the role of therapy in a changing society altered since qualifying?
My hope in the transformative potential of therapy has become more realistic. Policy makers are reluctant to encourage a culture of awakening and have vested interest in anaesthetising the ‘maladjusted’ and promoting the status quo. But this in turn makes our role of therapists even more urgent, provided we see ourselves as agents of change rather than collaborators.
Manu is a person-centred/existential therapist, trainer and supervisor. He was ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk and teaches philosophy in adult education. His latest book is Spectre of the Stranger: towards a phenomenology of hospitality.