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Excerpted from Healers on Healing by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (editors). Copyright © 1989 by Carlson and Shield. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Healing through love also can be described as helping people get back on the path of their own lives."

Bernie Siegel, "Love, the Healer" in 
Healers on Healing
, Part 2

If they return without having done a thing, I still say, "I love you." I give them a hug and say again, "I'll see you in two weeks." Through that love, they begin to say, "I want to thank you for loving me. I'm beginning to love myself. I'm starting to take care of myself." They begin to ask what else they can do for themselves.

At this point I tell them about group therapy meetings and say they are welcome to attend if they don't mind talking about their lives and sharing their feelings. After this I may suggest art therapy, books to read, or certain self-image exercises-for example, sitting naked in front of a mirror for twenty minutes twice a day and saying, "You have beautiful eyes, you have a lovely smile, and I love you." Or I may mention meditation, prayer, music, and laughter.

At some point the patient suddenly realizes, "I know I'm never going to be perfect, but it's wonderful working toward it!" This is what I call growing and blooming and becoming the blossom. Patients discover that they are a seed with vast untapped potential, just waiting to sprout. Then their perspective becomes, "Wow, look what I can grow into!"

Healing through love also can be described as helping people get back on the path of their own lives. Each of us seems to be born with a "blueprint" that not only turns us into a certain type of physical being, but also maps out the path of our psychological, intellectual, and spiritual development as well. When we deviate from that inner blueprint, it often takes a psychological or physical illness to get us back on course, as if saying to us, "Hey, you're not being the best person you can be. Get back on your path."

Psychiatrist Milton Erickson tells a story about finding a horse when he was a child. Erickson jumped on the horse and rode it five miles up the road, where it wandered onto a farm. The surprised farmer asked, "How did you know how to get back here with my horse?" Erickson replied, "I didn't know, the horse knew. All I did was keep him on the road." This is how one conducts psychotherapy as well. When it is done well, the client is merely put back in touch with his or her internal blueprint and begins to follow the right path again.

Sometimes, of course, we have trouble finding the way back, and then we need help. We need someone kind enough to give us a little kick to get us moving. In therapy this takes the form of confrontation, or what I call care-frontation, a loving confrontation between client and therapist that in many ways is like the confrontation between horse and rider: The rider loves the horse but gives it a little kick in the side now and then to keep it moving.

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