Whenever I see new clients for the first time, I’m struck by how they enter the therapy room. Will they come in pumped and ready to work on their deepest issues? Eh, sometimes. More likely, they enter a little unsure. I can almost hear them thinking, “can you actually help me?”
It is the same question that prompts their questions of, are you married? do you have kids? have you ever struggled with an addiction? They are asking if I am able to help them feel better. And they should! Is therapy right for you? Am I the right therapist? All important questions. In order to better understand, let’s start somewhere else: what is therapy?
There and so many theories, modalities, techniques, and approaches used by therapists around the world. Your therapist could be trained in Cognitive-Behavioral, Rogerian, Existentialism, Psychodynamic, or Freudian, just to name a few. They might be trained in the techniques of TF-CBT, EMDR, PACT or some other acronym. What they might not tell you, though, is that studies have shown over and over that there is little to no difference in the effectiveness between therapeutic approaches.
So what does matter? Your relationship with your therapist. It is the healing relationship where you can be seen, supported, understood, and cared for without judgment or conditions that is healing. It is how your personality fits with the therapist, their style of counseling, and your motivation for change.
Yes, I said it. Your motivation for change. We often seek happiness outside of ourselves. We hope our outside worlds will change in accordance with our wishes, and when they don’t, we experience pain. Sometimes we seek the help of therapists to change these outside issues. To gain some control. Inevitably, we will face the same reality: if we do not change the way we think/feel/act, our lives will always be this way. There are only three things we can control: our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions. It is in these that we have the power to change.
Yet, motivation is not enough. We must learn how to translate the motivation into planning and then into action. It can be scary to change, to open up to someone, to try new things. In these moments, remember that if we are comfortable, we are not changing. We have to take steps toward change, which tests our comfort. Try out a new response, experiment with facing ourselves honestly, and be vulnerable with people we can trust.
Note: It is okay not to fully trust your therapist right away. You don’t know us, and we should earn your trust. It takes time to get to know someone and to open up. Follow your instinct and experiment with layers. Push yourself to where it might feel a little uncomfortable, and pull back when it approaches unbearable. This learning to come into and out of sharing, emotions, and experiences is therapeutic in and of itself.
How does this translate into counseling? I tell clients to begin by paying attention throughout the week. What was good, hard, confusing, painful or pure bliss? Why? Where were you feeling stuck, pulled in different directions, or at a loss? Bring these stories into counseling, as they often can shed light on what brings you to counseling. Use these stories to help you fully participate in therapy. To contribute to your process and feel like you have power. You get to choose where therapy goes and what you want to work on. Where counseling takes you depends on where you take counseling, so take what insight you gain in the room and apply it in your life. Experiment with it- laughingly welcome missteps. With any well trained therapist, you will gain exactly as much as you put in. So when you’re doing well, give yourself a little credit. And when you’re struggling, own it and ask for help.
Am I able to help you? I’m here to guide you, encourage you, and challenge you. Where we go is up to you.
Contact me today to get started.
I wish you the courage to lean in,