Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Few Notes on Love

As follow up to my Marsha Marsha Marsha post, I wanted to make specific reference to Irene Stiver talking about love. The following is an excerpt from the chapter by Judy Jordan entitled "What About Love" in Kottler and Carlson's book "Creative Breakthroughs in Therapy: Tales of Transformation."

Jordan's mentor, Irene Stiver, one of the founders of relational-cultural therapy, was dying of lung cancer and knew she had a very short time to live. Stiver was concerned about so abruptly ending her therapy with a number of clients under her care and so asked for Jordan's help to construct a farewell letter. 
Jordan was overwhelmed with the honor, and yet the incredible responsibility, of such a task. Stiver had given her very vague directions about what to do, so Judy carefully and respectfully wrote down what she thought her mentor might wish to say to people she had been helping. She made certain to mention elements of caring, respect, and regret in the message before showing Stiver the draft of what she had created. 
When Stiver reviewed the note, she just shook her head and handed the paper back. "Judy, you've missed the whole point. 
"I have?" Jordan answered with disappointment, feeling that she had let down her cherished friend. 
"Yes, indeed," Stiver said. "What about love?" 
"You know, Judy, love is what it's all about." 
Jordan was stunned. This was her former supervisor, her mentor, her colleague of 30 years, and yet in all their time together Jordan had been so careful about the use of the word love in her work. She had been taught that speaking about love was not appropriate in a professional context since it is open to so much misunderstand. Jordan could only sit there, frozen in wonderment. Here was one of her oldest and dearest friends, one of the most influential people in her life, on her deathbed, telling her something that was utterly ground-breaking: She was talking about love as the essence of therapy. 
Stiver asked Jordan to write down what she was about to say. "This is what I want to say to my clients."


  1. That is beautiful.

    1. By the time I got to work at the Stone Center she was already gone. You could tell how deeply people loved her by their words about Irene.

      Many therapists are afraid to think about or talk about love. It was at the Stone Center, in fact, that I had my first ever conversation in a clinical context about love.

    2. Marsha Linehan is one of my heroes too. Camila Batmangelidjh is another. She started the Kids Company charity in London because she was fed up of trying to offer therapy to kids whose basic needs were not being met. She mortaged her house instead and rented out a space under the railway in Camberwell (a rough area of South London). She thrwe open the doors to anyone who came, offering a safe space and free food, plus the option of therapy. Their motto is 'Love is all it takes'.

    3. I'm glad you commented here so I could know about her work!