If you have ever played a game like Dungeons & Dragons or some other RPG, you have probably heard the term “railroading.”
Railroading is when a game master forces the players in an RPG down a predetermined story path that they’ve already decided the outcome or main beats of – and, as such, it cannot be changed regardless of what the players do.
This GM style is generally looked down upon.
However – a GM I love TREMENDOUSLY had a SPECTACULAR thing to say when it came to railroading.
Ok. Now I want to relate this back to therapy. A person comes to therapy, and, like the characters in a game, they want the quickest way down the mountain. Whatever their end goal is, they want to get there as fast as possible.
But, if we go with what Brennan says here, the goal of the GM (or therapist) is to ensure that the road taken down that mountain gives the players the most of the experience as they can provide while still keeping the momentum going that comes from heading down the hill.
Like playing in an RPG, in therapy we usually have a goal in mind. But, like the players who are wanting to experience the game to the fullest, therapy is not a straight shot down the mountain. It is not linear storytelling. In order to reach that goal, there is a lot we want or have to experience, first. But the twists and turns that comes from the story WE are telling can frequently distract us or pull us away from our goal entirely.
Like the GM in Brennan’s example, a therapist’s job is to give us flexibility, while still providing the rails that keep us heading down the mountain toward our goals no matter what direction we veer off in as we tell our story.
So yeah. Railroading. There *is* a predetermined path. But that path isn’t always going to be a straight shot down the mountain. It’ll take us in all kinds of directions, and we can choose the directions we want to go in. But the rails in place will still get us to our final goal in the end.