The chapter 'Therapy as a Dress Rehearsal for Life' from the book, "The Gift of Therapy" written by Irvin D. Yalom gives a good explanation what therapy should do and help a person and also an idea what therapy is. I would like to share this chapter with you. I'm often enlightened, inspired, refreshed, renewed, reaffirmed by his words on being a therapist. A book worth keeping for a therapist.
'Many therapists cringe when they hear critics characterize their work as merely the "purchase of friendship." Though there is a grain of truth in this statement, it does not merit a change. Friendship between therapist and patient is a necessary condition in the process of therapy - necessary, but not, however, sufficient. Psychotherapy is not a substitute for life but a dress rehearsal for life. In other words, though psychotherapy requires a close relationship, the relationship is not an end - it means to an end.
The closeness of the therapy relationship serves many purposes. It affords a safe place for patients to reveal themselves as fully as possible. More than that, it offers them the experience of being accepted and understood after deep disclosure. It teaches social skills: The patient learns what an intimate is possible, even achieveable. Lastly, and perhaps most important of all, is Carl Roger's observation that the therapy relationship serves as an internal reference point to which patients can return in their imagination. Having once achieved this level of intimacy, they can harbour the hope and even the expectation of similar relationships.
One often hears of patients (in either group therapy or indvidual therapy) who are excellent patients or group members, yet remain essentially unchanged in their external lives. They may relate well to the individual therapist or may be key members of groups - self-disclosing, working hard, catalyzing interaction - and yet do not apply what they have learned to their outside situation. On other words, they use therapy as a substitute rather than a rehearsal for life.
This distinction may prove useful in termination decisions. Behaviour change in the therapy situation is obviously not enough: patients must transfer their change into their life environment. In the late stages of therapy, I am energtic in ensuring transfer of learning. If I deem it necessary, I begin to coach actively, to press the patient to experiment with new behaviors in work, social, and family settings.'