Posted: Tuesday 4th August 2020
After almost 16 years housed at the back of an old industrial site, MyST has a beautiful new base in which to work. For a century before our arrival, our new home was a primary school, and therefore the job of renovating this old, well used building has been a big one. Nearing the final furlong of the long re-vamp a few months ago, we could at last peruse a paint chart or two. The pages of any interiors magazine quickly confirm that grey is the colour du jour. Grey is the archetypal neutral, and neutrals just seem to work. Greys were chosen. Walls were painted. Our new base looks great.
Our appreciation of neutral colours got us thinking about the concept of therapeutic neutrality. The Milan systemic family therapists of the 1960s Boscolo, Cecchin, Prata & Selvini were pioneers, and something of a legendary ‘fab four’ in the world of systemic psychotherapy. Of their many psychotherapeutic hits, this team emphasised the vital importance of taking a neutral stance in their work with families. To us, therapeutic neutrality means that although therapists are very interested and caring about their clients’ lives, and also have ideas about what might be helpful in addressing their difficulties, they do not place the position taken by one family member above another’s. Systemic family therapists know that in families, each person’s position is taken for important reasons, and helps to maintain the others. It would be futile to simply take sides. Instead, therapists help families to explore the logic and meaning of their positions about a matter, and encourage them to find ways to take new positions together towards a more harmonious future. Being neutral towards the views of all family members allows change to become safe and possible.
And the parallel is there between therapeutic neutrality and the colour grey; a neutral that sides with neither black nor white, nor is it just their compromise. Grey is something else entirely, something of its own, something in which both black and white can see themselves, as well as something else entirely that they could create together.
On the walls of our new base, that neutral grey paint also provides a backdrop against which other beautiful colours seem to sing. In therapy too, from a basis in neutrality, many wonderful and unexpected occurrences arise. In fact, in meeting the whole world with an open neutral outlook, without taking sides, without picking and choosing, we allow the wonder of everything and all possibilities to greet us.
Jen & Jael