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When clients finally decide to take the somewhat daunting first step to see a therapist, they may have expectations or assumptions about what therapy is or what it is not. This list will hopefully dispel some of the many myths or misconceptions and educate clients about what therapists do and what therapy is about.
Therapy is an investment, and it can be hard work.
Sessions might be painful or uncomfortable, and the experience might be frustrating at times. Therapy is not about avoiding pain, it is about learning how to deal with it. The good news is that you no longer have to shoulder it alone. Your therapist is there to help.
It is important to realize too that healing and/or progress aren’t linear. Therapy and recovery is a process, and the road from problem to solution isn’t always smooth and straightforward. Clients often get aggravated when it seems like change is slow, or after a lot of work they still slip-up and engage in old unhelpful behaviors.
Healing often requires reorienting oneself in the face of a setback, but all the hard work will pay off. Each step forward, even if it’s overshadowed by steps backward, creates new pathways in the brain for lasting change.
The therapist’s job is to help you help yourself.
Our role is to guide you, but therapists cannot do the work for you. We can help motivate you towards change, assist you in gaining insight into what’s holding you back, aid you in adjusting your perspective, teach you skills to cope, etc., but the bulk of the work must be done by you, the client.
Similarly, your therapist cannot make decisions for you. We can help you figure out what you want or what makes the most sense for you to do, but it isn’t your therapist’s job to tell you what to do. We simply do not have all the answers, and we’re only privy to whatever information you share with us. Unfortunately, we are not all-knowing or all-powerful, but your therapist brings an objective view and professional perspective.
We can perceive patterns and symptomology, which can help make sense of what you’re going through. If you aren’t sure what is important to mention in session or have a hard time remembering what happens from week to week, it might be a good idea for you to jot things down as they happen or to keep a journal throughout the week. This further enables you to help your therapist help you.
Because therapy is a collaboration of the client’s and the therapist’s efforts, there must be open and honest communication within the therapy relationship for it to work.
Sometimes this even means talking about how the interaction with your therapist feels! It is helpful to tell your therapist if you feel uncomfortable, misunderstood, or any other thoughts and feelings about the therapy and the therapist. Therapy is different than seeing a medical doctor who just wants to know about your symptoms. How you feel in the therapy room will likely affect your progress. Talking about this with your therapist will not only help you in therapy, but what you gain from this conversation has the potential to dramatically influence your other relationships as well.
Your role in therapy isn’t just sharing how you feel.
You must also take home what you learn in session and apply it. If you limit your work in treatment solely to what occurs in the counseling room, there is a good chance that you will have a hard time making the kind of changes in your life that you are looking for. Implementing what you learn is key to growth. Sometimes clients find it helpful to bring a notebook to therapy so they can take notes. It can be a great way to integrate what you’ve recognized and stay accountable.
Even though you’re paying your therapist, you aren’t just a paycheck to him or her.
We care about you and want to see you get better, healthier, and happier. We might think about you between sessions and/or wonder how you are doing after you’ve stopped therapy. Please don’t just vanish if you feel therapy isn’t for you or isn’t working. Let your therapist know that you decided to discontinue therapy. It is also very beneficial for you to have a final “termination” session.
Your therapist will take cues from you if he or she encounters you out in the community.
We value your privacy and recognize that you may not want others to see that you know us. If you say hello we will certainly respond, but we will follow your lead. In the same vein, the supermarket is probably not the best place for you to update us on what’s going on in your life.
Please realize that I’m on your team.
This is a special note to my court-ordered, substance abuser, adolescent, and any other client who struggles greatly with trust. I’m not your probation officer, parent, or anyone else that has the power to “get you in trouble.” If you want to leave things out or not tell me the whole truth, that’s your prerogative. We work on whatever you bring into the room. Whenever you are ready, I will be here waiting to do therapeutic work and help you move towards change. After all, it is always true that I follow you.
Remember, each therapist has a different approach and a distinct style, and above all else, it has to click. If you don’t feel like therapy is making a difference after you’ve given it a fair shot, it’s likely you need a different therapist.
Therapy is an investment, and it’s hard work. If you’re going to devote your time, money, and energy, you may as well do it right.
For more talk on the therapy process and finding the right therapist visit these links:
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