I do wonder . . . what do we want for our clients? Many therapists might say peace; many might say stability; others could say health. Some therapists push their clients toward that ever-elusive Maslowian self-actualization. I do wonder whether that might be a too-lofty goal. Of course, I'm not saying that self-actualization is not a relevant goal worth seeking. What I am trying to critique is the probability of a client, or even anyone, to reach this goal. Even Maslow commented on the low probability of this end. For the everyman, then, what is the end goal? It can't be a self-actualization. Why not happiness? Is that not enough?
Most people, I would say, want a sense of happiness. What this means for them depends very mcuh ont heir personality, so I will not break happiness down into component parts. Is it wise for a therpaist to ask a client if they are happy? For many clients, the answer is most likely yes; I do, though, want to push some hesitation on the budding therapist to think about their client before asking, as happiness itself might be an unattainable ideal to them.
A good example of this might be a client in current crisis or one with significant traumatic background. That client, most likely, is not interested in developing themselves in that manner, but rather is looking for an alleviation of their current negative symptoms. Asking an idealistic question (for that is what a query about happiness is), can be almost a slap in the face. A client might think that the clinician is not listening to them.
Viktor Frankl, in an article or book (I can't remember which), mentioned that happiness is not the most proper ideal that man can aspire to. The interesting thing to me is not that he talks about meaningfulness being a more proper ideal, but rather that he mentioned happiness altogether. I'm wondering whether he would think that meaning lays on the path to happiness or vice versa. Differently said: Does having purpose bring one happiness or does happiness generally cause one to gain purpose? Did Frankl think, perhaps, that happiness is off the table because meaningfulness is a logical step to be gained first - and perhaps can only organically arise through the search for and attainment of purpose? Are there truly happy people who do not have purpose in their lives?