Why do people GO to therapy?
Generally, people begin because they are suffering. They are experiencing emotional distress and would like some help with it. Often, though, once people start, they learn that therapy is a productive way to learn a lot about yourself. The more you know yourself, know your thinking, feeling and behaviour patterns, know your emotional stuck points and your hot buttons, the more freedom you have in your life. If I don’t know about my tendencies, about my defenses, about my patterns, then I am doomed to keep repeating and repeating them. It is only through self-knowledge that I have any chance at all for creating a new life for myself.
You could argue that you don’t need a therapist to develop self awareness, and I would agree. In fact, there would be no argument there! But for many of us, we have a pattern of isolation and independence (“I can do this myself…I don’t need any help!”) that can lead to a lack of intimacy in relationships, or can be related to problems trusting other people. Sometimes allowing ourselves to accept the support and the disinterested perspective of a therapist is a way to break out of a pattern in itself.
But suppose you have decided to start therapy. What can you do to make the most of the experience? Therapy isn’t like medicine; you don’t just go for the hour every week and wait for it to work. The more actively you involve yourself in your therapy, the more you’ll get from it.
Usually therapy helps you to see things in a different light. This can be because of the experience of relating to another person in a different way, or because of hearing yourself say something in the presence of a caring other, or because of other experiential processes that happen during the therapy hour. You can extend this shift by continuing to “process” during the week or weeks between sessions. The following suggestions might be helpful to you.
- Reflect on your session. What have you heard or seen or done that was different for you? Are there ways that you can bring this difference into your everyday life? Even if you are not ready to make such a change, can you think about what it might be like if you were ready to do this?
- Work on body awareness.
- Several times each day, take a moment to “check in” with your body. Notice your energy level, your body sensations, any “felt sense” that arises in your awareness. Notice any thoughts that are persisting.
- Use body movement to help you identify what’s going on in your body. Try grounding exercises, or alternating vigorous movement with stillness to just see what’s up right now.
- Journaling. Handwrite about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Do this without allowing your inner editor to have a voice. Just write. This is for you, not for anyone else.
- Process emotional material. When you have an emotional response to something, take time to notice it, notice what you do with that response, and watch the consequences. What was actually happening? What can you know about how you felt, what you did or said? Would you like to be able to think, feel, or behave differently in the future?
- Accept that you are a work in progress, and so is everyone else. See how close you can get to accepting things as they are, including other people just as they are, and yourself, just as you are. Acceptance isn’t condoning and it also isn’t necessarily forgiveness, but it is a step that can allow you to relax into reality rather than struggling in resistance.
So…that’s a short list of some ways that you can get your money’s worth out of therapy. What other tips do you have?
3 thoughts on “Getting your money’s worth”
Hum this is an interesting post! Here are some of the tips that comes to my mind (hope they are good!!) :
Build a good relationship with the therapist – It is important because the therapist is there to help you to improve things in your life.
Listen to what the therapist has to say, even if his opinion is different than yours. It could help you to see a different point of view about a situation or solve a situation quicker than you think.
Try to put into practice the things you learn in a session, even if it is hard to do!
Accept that the problem(s) you have won’t necessarly be solved in one session. It can take time to change some habits. I guess this point could be difficult for some people because we live a in world where everything has to go fast. I would say to take the time YOU need to make the changes. Everybody has a different speed of processing things (i think…but I may be wrong on that…)
Therapy is not only for people with mental illnesses, it is accessible to everyone who needs help. I say that because when I started my therapy, the reaction I got from some people was this one : ‘Therapy? You don’t need therapy? It is for people who have mental problems like your brother…Don’t bother a therapist with your minor problems..you are able to solve them by yourself ‘. I often thought that asking for help was a failure…but I discover not a long time ago that is it not!!
You, and only you, can do the work for you therapy. No one else can.
Maybe fixing a goal for your therapy can help?
Great contribution, Roxanne! Thanks so much for this.
I agree that people move and change at their own rates, and that trying to rush the process can actually have a negative effect. We often struggle, though, with taking enough time for ourselves.
I have a family member who says that therapy should be like getting your teeth cleaned…you go twice a year for a check up, whether you think you need it or not. I don’t know about that but I do know that therapy was a powerful force for self development for me.
Thanks for the comment.
I do agree about the fact that it’s hard to take enough time for ourselves! It is soooo easy to get involved in a thousand things and forget about ourselves. I don’t know if that ever happened to you, but sometimes, when I want to be alone or do nothing, I feel a bit selfish…I’m so use to give a lot of my time to others…
It’s interesting your comment about going to therapy twice a year (like teeth cleaning). Why not do it? It could be like a doctor check up, but for the mind. Right now, i feel that going to therapy is one of the best decisions i ever took. It’s helping me to open up a lot and it makes me feel better inside.