Eight Things You Need to Know about Therapy: A Therapist’s Perspective
Have you ever considered going to therapy? If so, here are eight things you should know before you go:
1. Therapy IS for everyone.Therapy . . . sigh, such a stigma attached to one simple word. So many people avoid ever-stepping foot into a therapist’s office simply due to this stigma. “Therapists are only for crazy people,” I have heard some say, or the individual’s belief system that they are strong enough to handle it on their own, which in some cases can ring true.
In most cases, pride is the barrier to receiving the help they desperately need. My response is always that therapy is for every person. Why? Because we are all imperfect creatures with issues at some stage or point in our life.
We do not always have the answers or the strength to carry them alone and that does not make us crazy it makes us human. We are all imperfect.
“Therapy is too good to be limited to the sick.” – Erving Polster
2. Therapists should not take sides but educate what is and is not mentally healthy.
I have heard many people who sit in my office on their first initial intake say, “It is weird talking to a stranger about my deepest secrets,” and I reply, “I understand it can be difficult and strange.”
“What are the perks?” you might wonder. A therapist is a trained professional with an unbiased perspective. Our goal is not to identify who is playing the bad guy. We are not sitting in our chairs judging who made the wrong move. We are there to help the individual client communicate more effectively in their relationships and thus to become emotionally and mentally healthy.
To identify their needs and brainstorm solutions to help them become the healthiest individual they can be. When working with a family unit we do not listen to hear who is wrong but listen to hear what dynamic is being created and what issues are arising because of this.Another perk to seeing a therapist is that as individuals when we are in the middle of a crisis or issue, our emotions are wrapped up in the issue making it difficult for us to maintain a logical and clear perspective.
As therapists, we are able to see clearly without the blurred emotion complicating the ability to find a solution. We look into your situation not choosing a side but simply explaining what we see is healthy and unhealthy for you.
The same people who make the statement about feeling uncomfortable talking to a stranger about their problems in their initial session are normally the ones who grow to love it the most. They begin to understand the safety and confidentiality of the therapeutic environment. They enjoy the consistency of trust and support a session and a therapeutic environment can provide.
3. Therapy is not a quick fix.
“I do not feel like therapy is working.” To this, I say, “It takes time.” Every issue is different. Some are deeper with more layers. Sometimes it takes a while for everything to come to the surface. Some issues may be fixed in a month some may take years.
As a therapist, I am continually asking myself what approach is best for each client. Every client is different with a specific personality and a specific way they like to be communicated to. I have to continually evaluate whether my approach fits the client’s personality or if there would be something else that would be more effective. As a therapist, I have to consistently be aware of this.
As clients, they have to be aware of their attitude and desire to change and put in the work it takes to get to the place they want to be. If clients are not honest in session it is harder to get to an accurate solution that aids in decreasing the client’s issues at hand.
There are times people decide they don’t want the end result bad enough that the work they have to do to get there is too much, too hard and will take too long. I understand sometimes it will take a lot and not every time will it be the right time for the client to be able to work through it all.
Clients have to choose to do the work. I feel often clients have an unrealistic expectation of what therapy is and what it will look like and therefore they leave being disappointed. They think a therapist is someone who sits in a seat giving advice on how to make their life all come together.As therapists, we do not actually tell you what to do, or we should not be telling you what to do. Instead, we have to figure out how your value system aids in your decision-making. We help you get to the best solution that fits your values and beliefs.
So yes, therapy is hard work. It takes time but it is far beyond rewarding. To know as a client you have changed your life. You have faced hard decisions and you have come out on top. You have worked on yourself and made yourself healthier and happier – now that is one of the best feelings.
So sadly, the secret is out. Therapists are not magicians. As cool as I think it would be to have all the answers and to poof fix your life, therapy is a safe place where a therapist listens, encourages, challenges and supports you to get to the place you want to be. A therapist sees your potential and cheers you on, pushing you through to reach the end goal and prize. “The only way out is through” –Robert Frost
4. Homework is involved.
In the session, I continually give clients little assignments to help them grow into the person they want to become. If the client doesn’t do the work outside of session therapy will not be effective. Therapy is a partnership, we are a team, we both have to be willing to do the work. If half of the team quits, we won’t win the game. “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”
5. You are in control of the sessions.
As therapists we want our clients to be able to be open and communicate their needs with us. If they feel they are needing more than the session is giving we want to know this. Some clients like hands on worksheets others know they will never look at a worksheet more than the time they glance at it in session when it is handed to them. Some clients love reading for resources others will never take the time to read them.
At times as a therapist, we might say the wrong thing or we may even hurt your feelings. It is okay for you to tell us we have offended you. We know we are imperfect and we are continually trying to grow to be the best therapist we can.
We want to offer the right resources for you specifically and we want to know when you feel something we are doing is not working. Not every resource will work the same for every individual. If one does not work we simply look for one that will.
I often tell my clients they are in control of the sessions. I recommend what I think is best for them but it is up to them to act on my suggestion. If they are not comfortable with something then we find something they are comfortable with (although there are exclusions where certain times clients will not be comfortable with something that is a growing exercise and obviously without a little discomfort and challenge the goal will not be reached.)
6. Therapists are like shoes, they come in all different sizes. You have to find one that fits.
“You have to shop for your therapist,” I am continually expressing this to people. Therapists are like a pair of shoes – not every single one will fit. It is important that you feel safe and understood as well as comfortable with the therapist you are working with.
People have different personalities and not every single personality suits every therapist. Sometimes you may feel uncomfortable because therapy is hard and that is normal but if you are struggling to relate and grow with your therapist you have to yourself “am I putting up walls or is this therapeutic relationship not a good fit?”
As a therapist, we can handle our clients telling us they are needing something different. We respect that and want what is best for you, so do not be shy, communicate your needs. You will not hurt our feelings.
7. Sometimes things get worse before they get better.
In therapy, we discuss your issues currently and review past experiences that may have shaped you into the person you are today. We examine how they have made you think (whether that is rationally or irrationally about situations).
We will look at family dynamic and background. Sometimes it is hard visiting the past and feelings will arise that you did not want to feel. It is important that you feel them. This is how you are going to be able to heal and become a healthier you.A lot of people have dealt with their past issues and they do not want to revisit them and I respect my clients’ wishes if they feel they have handled their past demons. For those who have pushed them aside and said I will deal with those later with the intention of never looking at them again, I will encourage you and lead you to feel these feelings again so you can handle your emotions face to face and have forgiveness and understanding over your past.
Your past does not define you, it shapes you and can make yourself stronger if you face the past directly in the face and don’t allow yesterday to affect today. Stick with the journey, even when it is hard, it gets easier and the end result makes the journey worthwhile.
8. Therapists are trained professionals; not much scares them.
Many clients after opening up about their life, thoughts, and circumstances often say, “You must think I am crazy.” Honestly, not much fazes us. Every individual feels so alone in the issues they are facing, feeling like no one would understand where they were coming from.
The truth is a lot of the problems I hear are similar, yes the issues are different but the feelings are the same. I see and hear a lot of the same problems – the scenarios are different but the root issues are the same. The hurt feels the same and the feelings are similar.
The desire to be loved and understood is all a part of every single individual’s makeup. As people, we really are not all that different from one another. On the outside, we may appear very different but if you look deep down we really want the same things.
Now, I hope by reading these eight things you have a new, more positive and realistic perspective of what therapy is and what it is not. I hope you feel more comfortable to reach out to someone who can professionally help you.
Do not try to face the world alone, you are living in a universe with thousands of people and thousands of resources around you. Use them! Life is easier with support. Know there is someone out there who is waiting to help. Who cares and is wishing you would just ask.
If you feel you are struggling with something and you are having difficulty carrying it, the first step is admitting that you need someone to walk alongside you as you walk through this difficult phase of your life. There is nothing wrong with help.
Think of how easy things could be if some of the weight could be lifted. Next, shop for your therapist. Reach out to one that you feel will fit you just right and know that you can make the decision in that first session whether the therapist is for you.