What Therapy Has Taught Me

Ok Ok, I'll admit it, it has been a long time since I have been in the client's seat.  I'm a Therapist, so of course I believe in the power and the process of therapy, but I've recently also become a client in a whole new way, which has allowed me to rediscovered my love for the therapy process.  

And FYI, if you didn't already know, being a client is hard work!

Many people are afraid of therapy, and I can understand why.  However, most people who are not open to therapy act as if they don't need therapy because they are self-aware enough to handle things on their own.  That may be true, but there is so much to be learned about yourself in therapy and so much more to be gained with a fresh perspective.  As a therapist, who has recently taken to the client's couch, rather than my usual comfy therapist's chair, I know this all to well.

Just like you, sometimes I don't want to go to therapy, because it's just really hard.  I have had moments of feeling defensive towards the therapist when they offer a new perspective on my life, which is particularly difficult to hear.  I've also felt at times that I wanted to run out of the therapy room, because difficult feelings were being triggered.  

As I always say to my client, and now to myself as a client, "you must respect the process."  The difficult feelings, the defensiveness, the denial, all of it is a part of the process.  These are the qualities that help you to grow in therapy.  

And, It's so worth it!

Here are some things that I have learned in therapy as a client, which I believe are to be gained in the therapy process, that makes it all worth it.........

1. No matter how much awareness, intelligence, or lived experience you have, the insight and perspective of a third party person (the therapist) is invaluable to your growth and development.

When you enter into therapy you are relying on the therapist to give you insight and knowledge into your presenting problems to increase awareness and perspective.  

Well, ask and you shall receive!  This will definitely happen in therapy.  It should be noted that it's not all roses either. This is a very difficult process.  But you know what they say, "Nothing worth having comes easy."  

The therapist's input is utterly priceless.  Also, it is undoubtedly very different from your friend's or family member's input, likely more well-thought-out and balanced, but most importantly unbiased.

Even as a therapist myself, when I have been sitting on the client's couch, the insight and perspective offered by the therapist has been extremely helpful, leaving me at many times saying "I never thought about it like that before."

The truth is that when you are involved in your problems, as you always are, your mind becomes cluttered and you cannot see things clearly.  That's true for everyone, even for those who are extremely wise and self-aware. 

2. It's OK to let go of control and perfectionism.

As a client, one of the most helpful things that can happen in the therapy process, is when  your therapist offers alternatives to your preferred or regular way of being.  

Therapists do this in a very simple way, by holding the space for you as the client.  They hold the space by allowing you to be who you are, accepting you as you are, and also offering thoughts on how you can also hold space for yourself and learn to love yourself, flaws and all.

In the therapy process, when you let go of control and perfectionism and just allow yourself to be who you really are, and even make mistakes from time to time, you begin to feels safe in the therapy process.  More than that, you begin to feel safe in life because the therapist offers a corrective experience in which you begin to understand that you are always whole and complete, no matter what.

3. Acceptance.

Isn't this the thing we all want?  To just be accepted?  

One of the best parts of the therapy relationship is when you come to realize that your therapist accepts you for who you are.  No judgment.  Just pure acceptance, warmth, and regard.  When the therapist accepts you for who you are, while at the same time offering suggestions and alternatives ways of looking at the problem, you are able to work through some serious issues, some of which may have been plaguing you for years.  

It is here in acceptance, where you allow things to be as they are, without attempt to change them, that a paradox of change happens.  This is the kind of change that is cathartic and utterly transformative.  

4. Mental health is equally important as physical health.

Enough with the stigma already!  

When you are sick due to an illness or disease, you likely go to the doctor and start the recommended treatment for your physical health (i.e. medication, exercises, diet, etc).  So why is this process any different from your mental health when you are suffering from depression, anxiety, change of life issues, or a broken heart??

When you neglect your emotions, affect, mood, and psychological ailments, they only serve to manifest in other ways, often physical ones.  Maybe these will show up as nightmares, panic for no apparent reason, a feeling of dread, unhappiness, reoccurring stomach aches or other body aches, being 'stuck' in your professional or personal life, tearfulness, etc.

Therapy attends to somatic, bodily issues, that are being affected by psychological problems, as well as helps you to take care of your figurate heart.

You must take into consideration your mental health and emotions in order to be the best version of yourself!

5. Forgiveness.

This is a hard lesson to learn. Anytime.  Anywhere.

Choosing to forgive is a choice that you need to make for yourself.  No one, not even the therapist, can push you to do this.

However, as a client, my therapists have been able to point out to me areas where forgiveness may be helped.  Sometimes this means forgiving others, but usually this means forgiving myself.  Either way, the experience and process of learning to forgive is paramount to your wellbeing.  

I remember being a very young person, who believed that forgiveness was a waste of time and never imagined it as a possibility in my life, because I wanted to be sure to always make those who wronged my pay for their transgressions.  With time, maturity, and with therapy, I have learned otherwise.  

Forgiveness doesn't mean that you condone the wrongs that people have done to you.  It also doesn't mean that you forget such wrong doing.

Forgiveness is simply a willingness to no longer hold onto contempt and anger, or any other negative emotions associated with wrong doing.  

Really, forgiveness is about freedom.

6. Emotions are tricky little suckers.

Some of us are able to control our emotions beautifully.  More power to ya!  

Others of us feel emotions strongly, these emotions change often, and we have a hard time understanding how these suckers work.

I put my self in the latter description.

You are not alone. 

Although my training as a therapist has allowed me to have a great understanding of emotions and skills to use to manage these, this process does not come easy to me, especially when I am acting as the client, rather than the therapist.  Sitting on the client's couch I have felt such complicated emotions, which have been very difficult to understand, even with much awareness and understanding.  I am humbled by the fact that no matter what position you are in, emotions demand to be felt.  You must experience these at their fullest in order to move through them.

 

Consider therapy as a treatment to help you gain insight, awareness, and manage difficult feelings. There is so much to be gained in the process.