Talk therapy, the backbone of mental health treatment, the purest form of therapy is sadly taking a backseat to new age theories and certifications which boast fancy techniques and quick results. While I am not here to condemn any one theoretical framework, I am here to promote good old fashioned “talking about your feelings”. My counseling program always reminded us to go back to basics: Listening, empathizing, reframing, questioning, summarizing, and gentle confrontation. These skills when used properly by someone trained in psychotherapy, facilitate a beautiful process as a therapist and client sit together.
Therapy at its heart is simply a client showing up weekly, talking to a therapist who then tracks patterns of behavior and patterns of thought, helps a client make sense of those patterns, where they originated, what purpose they serve, if those patterns are keeping them stuck and walking the path side by side with a client as they write their new narrative. Pure therapy is a client doing the work. Your therapist is a guide, but you are the artist, you are in charge, you have the answers. So many people go to therapy looking for a therapist to give them answers. We don’t know YOUR answers, but we are the cheerleaders, the helpers, the encouragers, the challengers, the gentle pushers that are there beside you as you discover the answers to life’s problems for yourself.
As you contemplate your own journey into therapy, you may have some questions about what to expect. Below I outline 8 steps that will help make talk therapy more productive for you.
- Make an appointment – this is the hardest step! However, research shows that your symptoms will improve by as much as 33% JUST BY MAKING THE APPOINTMENT!
- Ensure your therapist is a good fit. This step is crucial. Therapy will not be as effective if you do not feel a connection with your therapist. Goodness of fit is the single most important factor in predicting positive outcomes in therapy. Ask for a phone consultation or in person consultation before committing to working with a therapist.
- Show up weekly – DO THE WORK! This is your work, no one else can do it for you, not even your amazing therapist. Show up every week and be ready to explore your mind. Ask yourself hard questions and delve into finding the answers that are within you!
- Be gut wrenching honest – Do yourself a favor and leave the pleasantries at the door. This is the one place where you are encouraged to be 100% unapologetically you. No need to sugar coat or embellish the truth. Tell YOUR TRUTH!
- Listen for themes – as you follow the first 4 steps, you and your therapist will begin to hear patterns in your story, listen for them and explore them (your therapist will listen for them too!). This will begin to untangle the confusion you may feel and will help you guide yourself to where your journey is taking you!
- Be open to feedback – a good therapist will call you out in a gentle yet firm way. If you are being honest, they will see many facets of you. Let them know when they are wrong, but be open to when they are right, even if it doesn’t feel good…that is where the growth happens.
- Trust the process – therapy is an investment of time and emotional energy. It often takes months or years to see lasting progress and change. Trust that you are doing good work even if you occasionally leave your session feeling worse than when you showed up. Change can be painful, yet SO WORTH IT!
- Rinse and repeat – Once you have completed steps 1-7 and feel good about taking a break from therapy, remind yourself that you are on a journey. Life is not a destination, you are continually growing and changing. If you find the need to return to therapy, you will be armed with the tools from before to guide you on your next journey.
I hope that these steps demystify the therapy process for you and encourage you to seek therapy when you feel you are in need. Therapy is a magical journey of self discovery and healing. You should feel heard, understood and cared for. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out, I would love to hear from you.