The Clinical Gaze

The Clinical Gaze

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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 acknowledgment of your confession. Then, without further hesitation, your therapist gives you the receipt of your admission with that sweet verbal re-assurance 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 realize 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, he or she may utilize 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 his or her 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 his or her 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 his or her 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

Bold 10 Under 10 award recipient Jacques Peters ’08, MSW ’12 . Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), therapist and disability rights advocate, Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various systems of care, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health or the city’s Department of Corrections. Jacques is the author of University on Watch: Crisis in the Academy, which he published under the pen name J. Peters in 2019, and First Diagnosis, published in 2020. Jacques refers to his stance on recovery in his journal articles as “Too big to fail.” No obstacle too big, no feat out of reach, Jacques let nothing stop him in his path to recovery and healing.
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