“Treatment or Therapy?”
There is a most important difference between treatment and therapy.
Treat, from the Latin tractare, means “to act or behave in a specified manner toward,” for example, to treat one’s guests with courtesy. By extension, it means to give medical aid, for example, treating appendicitis by performing an appendectomy: finding out what is wrong and then acting on it in a specified manner.
In contradistinction, therapy comes from a Greek word meaning “inclined to serve, to attend on, to be obedient to.” Rather than being the manager, as is the treater, the therapist is the servant, the attendant. He does not impose his power, but rather acts as a servant for the Life Energy, the patient’s healing power within, which we all possess.
For every illness begins as a loss of Life Energy, of the patient’s will to be well. If this is not corrected, it will eventually reach clinical proportions. And once it has, if treatment is imposed, there can only ever be a reduction of symptoms, never a true cure, because treatment as such does not actuate the Life Energy. In fact, it all too frequently further diminishes it, potentially predisposing the patient to greater potential suffering.
While treatment provides symptom relief, it is therapy that therefore provides the ultimate cure. The crucial test is not whether the patient just gets superficially better, but, far more importantly, has his Life Energy been significantly enhanced? Has he been helped to embrace Life? Has he been helped to love?
One person who understood this was the great, little remembered psychiatrist, Louis Cholden, M.D., who died tragically young in a car accident. Cholden wrote that the role of the doctor was to be “an accessory in the service of nature’s healing forces,” adding:
“The therapist must constantly keep in mind – medicus curat, natura sanat, the doctor looks after, nature heals – that he is not curing a disease. Rather he is creating an environment of safety, trust in people and faith in living, which allows the natural forces of health within his patient to flourish.”
I have known some medical doctors, even some surgeons, who really were therapists, like Louis Cholden, not just treaters. And of course I have also known many so-called therapists who are really only treaters (although I believe that most of the treaters entered their chosen profession to become a therapist, but a specific trauma occurred that caused them to lose their therapeutic zeal).
Their modality itself is of little importance: so much depends on the individual practitioner. Does he have therapeutic aspiration? Does he see himself as, to quote Cholden,“an accessory in the service of nature’s healing forces”? Does he attempt to create for his patients “an environment of safety, trust in people and faith in living”? If so, he is a therapist not a treater.
Extract from the book
Facets of a Diamond: Reflections of a Healer
 “Observations on Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia” in Progress in Psychotherapy 1956, ed. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann and J. L. Moreno. Grune & Stratton, New York. 1956. p. 245-246.