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2021-04-23

The Clinical ‘Gaze’

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Eyes peering at you and assessing your mental status before you even speak.
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Walk into the therapist’s office. Sit down on the chair or canonical Freudian sofa.

Now, look up at your therapist, and behold their eyes peering at you and assessing your mental status before you even speak.

It is at that very moment that the floodgates of emotions, insecurities, vulnerabilities open up. You glance back at your therapist as he or she nods in acknowledgement of your confession. Then, without further hesitation, your therapist gives you the receipt of your admission with that sweet verbal reassurance and self-soothing body language and verbal queues only experienced in the therapeutic setting. I am, therefore, suggesting a new term: the clinical gaze.

My intention isn’t to prove its existence, but instead, allow the reader to realise its authentic power in the therapist’s inventory of techniques to drive treatment forward. The clinical gaze is more than an awkward glance from your therapist during pauses in the conversation. At the same time, they may utilise the gaze to reach inside silences ultimately. The skill was already undeniably deployed with clinical precision and already ebbing future conversation flow in a session. The gaze is multidimensional, trans-rhetorical, and resistant to clients’ push back that disagree with its insight.I am suggesting the gaze extends beyond the dimensions of the therapy room.

In doing so, the gaze is trans-rhetorical. Not bound up by the limits of the therapist’s language and verbal skills to take up the reigns of treatment. The gaze shares a frontier with the client’s capacity to dig into their psychological landscape. Without ultimately collapsing from the exhaustion of the demands of the conversation, the gaze persists. In this sense, the gaze has an omnipresent pull. A draw that isn’t feared by the object of its shadow. Instead, fed by the client’s desire to bring their problems to volition as cogently as the speech rules, speak without pressure, and thought blockage.

Blockages in language and even the rules of consistent speech seem, too, to fall under the gaze’s clinical auspices in the therapy room. Have you ever looked directly into the therapist’s gaze and felt compelled, without any fear, to make that leap in insight and reach one final ‘ah, ha!’ moment in session before the time has elapsed. The gaze vanishes as quickly and mysteriously as it emerged in the session. Is its memory now as you request the therapist for an appointment card.

I have felt my heart drop when the gaze lifts; forced to walk back into the gates of my life and leave the asylum of the gaze and its clinical energies. These are energies that lift the spirit and hurl the tired, the weak, and hopeless into living.

The gaze can decipher the difference between a person making a life-sustaining decision and coach their clients through eye contact alone to choose life and have the confidence in living that only real peace of mind can shelter it in your darkest hour. Indeed, the gaze is soul-nourishing, fate-producing, and will continue to drive treatment in the direction of the client’s needs. The gaze is in tune with the ebb and flow of life’s circumstances and compelled to reveal answers from the unknown to you without the therapist even uttering a word.

The gaze rests between silence and analytical chatter, perched, and marking its next target for your goals, whatever they may be.

Are you ready to step into its shadow and become the next victim of limitless success?

Are you ready to gaze towards the future?

Express all your heartfelt and long-desired dreams before your session is up this week, and your time in therapy elapses. Surrender to the gaze today and reclaim your biggest dreams tomorrow!

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

"I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others."

"In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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