LeighAnn Adams wrote a guest blog for us about the difference between her preconceptions of therapy and how pleasantly surprised she was with her individual, lived experience of therapy.
I think a lot of our popular cultural imagery of therapy is formed by the comedic image of Woody Allen talking about his 12 years of analysis!
Do you have an image of a therapist as a type of Freudian head-shrinker, wearing a suit, glasses down her nose, taking notes, sitting behind you as you lay talking endlessly on a couch, judging you?
Well, this old image of therapy is far from the reality of the training of contemporary therapists and their living work!
- Feeling comfortable with a therapist
You should feel comfortable with the person with whom you are to hire as your therapist. Therapy is all about developing your strengths and feeling empowered as a person, in your own individual way.
So, the first step is to feel good about the person you are seeing. Your therapist holds a sacred space of deep listening and personal growth just for you, so you should not feel run over or invalidated by your therapist.
Hey – there are plenty of other opportunities in modern life to feel dissed or ignored (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) so your therapy space should feel like a safe place! Couch shop until you feel comfortable.
- I’m in a support group, but I feel like I need something else…why?
Community support groups are wonderful supportive places for people to go and create and participate in community. Thoughtful, wonderful community interventions are groups such as Alcoholic Anonymous and La Leche League. These are great methods for the first line of defense in community emotional support. How wonderful to take part in their structured programs. How beautiful to hold the hand of a friend, feel the comfort of a friend, the warmth of a kindred spirit.
But the therapeutic relationship is different than a support group relationship. The therapeutic relationship is individualized, confidential and private. The therapeutic relationship is just about you, your individual self- growth. You use your energy on development of the self, of your authentic self. You don’t need to partake in reciprocal support, as it is not a reciprocal friendship. The therapeutic relationship is about you, about your self-growth. You, as an individual, get to feel supported by your therapist.
- How will I benefit from therapy?
All of your therapist’s life-long training and practical experience is present in your relationship with your therapist. She has lots of training. The first training is graduate school and many hours of supervised internships. And every year, to maintain their professional licenses, therapists take at least 40 hours of continuing education.
But most therapists go well beyond this requirement. There are many post-graduate trainings, in relationship counseling, trauma therapies, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), domestic violence, art therapy, play therapy, dream work, hypnosis, guided imagery…the list goes on and on….and your therapist trains year after year in these topics. Many therapists develop specialties as their practice matures and deepens.
At its most basic, therapy is a positive process where you develop a base of self-knowledge and self-esteem. As you move forward in your self-growth, you internalize the healing benefits of the therapeutic relationship.
You focus on learning about your emotions, keeping and enhancing your strengths and developing new skills.
The strengths and skills that emerge are tailored to your individualized personality. You don’t conform to a laundry list of how to parent or how to be assertive. You help design the outcome as you go along.
Therapy is an intensely creative and personal process.
Are you up to the artistic challenge of the creation of your authentic self?