Quite a few theoreticians of humanistic and existential orientations consider love as the healing element in psychotherapy. Others oppose and warn against using the ambiguous word for the description of a relationship that should be as clearly defined as possible and therefore prefer an academic terminology, e.g. UPR (unconditional positive regard). But the question goes far beyond terminology and touches the nature of psychotherapy through relationship.
Love is “all around”. Nothing moves and occupies us as much as love in its multifaceted meanings. Struggling to understand what love exactly does mean in our interpersonal relationships, in our professional work, in private life, art, philosophy and ethics, in faith etc. fills books, lifetimes, history. It seems to be a limitless endeavour to understand its existential meaning, its force, its pleasure, its threat.
Does love play a role in psychotherapy? And if so, what kind of love? And how does it “work”? Is it adequate to love a client? Is it love that cures in therapy? Is love the core of what therapy, facilitating, “healing” is all about? Or is this simply a naïve, superficial or even harmful way to understand love as the therapeutic in therapy?
This chapter is an attempt to give a profound analysis of the matter as well as a description of my personal stance on what role love – and also which kind of love – plays in psychotherapy, person-centred psychotherapy in particular.