The Impossible Profession: Counselling & Psychotherapy

When counselling, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and associated disciplines are called ‘impossible professions’, this is often understood as a tongue-in-cheek conversational quip, a collective exclamation of mock exasperation: “What can you do? It’s impossible!” – and then we continue as before…

But I have come to think that the quip points to an important, even essential, truth about our work: the therapeutic profession – and the ‘helping relationship’ generally – hinges on a fundamental paradox, which the quip points to, but does not help us to understand, let alone fully address.

Having investigated the kernel of truth inherent in that notion over the last few decades, I now conclude that it has the potential to profoundly enhance our work: when we grasp the nettle which is the impossibility at the heart of our profession, the depth, breadth and effectiveness of our therapy increases dramatically.