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  • Mark Brafield

Prince Philip, psychotherapist

I have been a latecomer to 'The Crown', having taken out a subscription to Netflix last year after so many of my friends and family had raved about the series, but I am bound to say that I am now a complete convert, being utterly gripped by the drama as Series 3 is hitting our screens now.

But today I would like to look at a particular scene that took place in Episode 4 of Season 2. For those of you who do not watch the series, after a difficult patch in the early years of their marriage, the Queen and Prince Philip decided to hold a banquet to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. The drama is given an added twist when it coincides with the ending of Princess Margaret's engagement to Billy Wallace, which was to have been announced at the same occasion, but that need not concern us.

At the banquet, Prince Philip made an emotionally astute speech about the dynamics of marriage, which probably owed more to the screen-writer than our actual Duke of Edinburgh, but the dramatic effect is powerful. Prince Philip observed that in marriage, you come to know your partner even better than they know themselves as you see things of which they themselves are unaware. And, obviously, vice versa.

In some ways that could also be said to be true of a balanced therapeutic relationship. Although schools and approaches differ, a good therapist should not present themselves as 'knowing' more than their client in the sense of having access to a body of arcane knowledge that is denied to the other. Obviously, they have their professional training, their strategies, and perhaps greater life experience, but the essential point is that it is one human being encountering another. The role of a good therapist is not to 'know' more than the client, or even if they do, it is not helpful to stand on that knowledge or let it become an obstacle between them and the client. The role of a therapist, it has neatly been suggested, is to stand behind you and offer observations, rather than standing in front of you and giving directions.

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