Reframing How We See

Christine LaCerva
Christine LaCerva

I hope everyone has had a wonderful summer – hopefully with some vacation time to rest and have some fun.

As the community therapist, I speak with many different people every day. I’m constantly being asked:  Is it boring, what you do? Don't you get depressed listening to all those stories about emotional pain? No, it isn't, and no, I don't. What I do experience is a great deal of joy in helping people from all walks of life -- from 8 to 80 -- create new ways of seeing.  The work of therapy demands that the therapist be growing and developing all the time as well. I, personally, work on seeing in new ways all the time.

Certainly, we have learned to look and see in ways that are over-determined by this culture. We see what we’re expected to see. We learn to limit what’s possible. In my experience as a social therapist, it takes working collectively with others in group to challenge ourselves to see (and be) in new ways.

I decided to start a new community education series at the Brooklyn Social Therapy Group. I invited guest speakers in psychology, politics, culture and education, all of whom, I believe, are committed to new ways of seeing. In our work here at the Social Therapy Group, learning to see in new ways has the potential to transform how we think and feel. As a therapist, that really matters to me.

In June, our first guest was a young community activist, Ahmad Saeed Khan from Pakistan, who had come to New York to train in social therapeutics at the East Side Institute. Ahmad began his presentation with a simple slide show and personal accounting of his life in Lahore. We saw modern buildings – airports, the Hall of Congress, new hotels -- and heard about communities of people who are simply living their day-to-day lives, raising their families, selling wares at local markets, and preparing their meals. For Americans, accustomed mainly to media reports, his presentation was a lovely, intimate look at ordinary people living their lives in challenging times. When the newscast began to report on the horrendous flooding that has affected millions of Pakistani people, I felt very connected to them and this tragedy. I am having the experience of seeing in a new way.

As the community therapist, I help my clients create new ways of seeing what's possible. What this means, however, is that I need to create the conditions to continuously learn how to see, how to think, and how to deepen my own ability to be creative with other people and help others do the same. This human capacity is at our fingertips – we can work with others to change how we see. But it’s also something that we must constantly work at and get support to do. Much of my group therapy work is about creating this capacity for everyone.

I am interested in what you think about seeing in new ways. What’s your experience? Please reply and join this conversation, I’d like to hear from you.