About those past “unresolved issues“: A poet and philosopher of the late 19th and early 20th century, George Santayana, is quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” If that’s true, then my clients should be heading for better days after a few sessions!
I am not a therapist who starts from “here and now” and moves forward, though laying aside the past is certainly where we want to end up.
My approach is generally to encourage each person to tell their story, starting with their childhood. Often I use what’s called a ‘genogram’ — diagramming the family tree on my whiteboard and noting the different personality styles, how people related, and what losses they suffered. Patterns begin to emerge and make sense as we talk about how this might be impacting them in their current life.
This is especially important groundwork for Adult Children of Alcoholics, people recovering from abuse, and those with multiple deaths or losses through divorce. Though it’s understandable why a person would just like to forget a painful or unpleasant past, taking time to revisit it briefly and thoughtfully in therapy can be surprisingly beneficial. Out of this, healing can emerge like the phoenix rising from ashes to new life!