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. 

Mindfulness 101: Mindfulness Jars

Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

I feel there is a lot of confusion about mindfulness out there, but this quote by Jon Kabat- Zinn sums it up best.  Don't think about it too much, just remember that mindfulness is more of an experience rather than a concept.  If you are willing, mindfulness doesn't have to conflict with any of your beliefs, schemas, perceptions, or opinions in any way.  Mindfulness can be a gentle addition to any and all of these and, when given a chance, is likely to enhance your life in a positive way, particularly if you or your children struggle with high stress, overwhelm, inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, physical pain, ruminating thoughts, anxiety and worry, addiction, poor motivation, and/or mood instability.

I guess what I am trying to do here is to get your 'buy in,' so to speak. 

My number one difficulty in teaching mindfulness to clients is just helping them to be open to the experience.  I find that many people fear that mindfulness is a kind of cultish ritual, or hippy religion that they are going to have to adopt by abandoning their beliefs and completely changing their outlook on the world.  I mean, I guess you could use mindfulness in this way if you wanted to, but this is certainly not my intention when teaching mindfulness to clients, nor my intention when I use mindfulness in my personal practice.

I invite you to open your mind and consider the possibility of mindfulness being a sweet and gentle tool that you can use to improve your health and wellness.  Try this on for size and see how it works for you.....

So to get started, let's use a simple metaphor and DIY craft to help you grasp the intention of mindfulness in a cerebral and visual way. 

Anyone who knows me well, know how much I love crafting, so these Mindfulness Jars are a marriage of my two favorite things, crafting and meditation!   Also, this craft is super easy to do and a great way to introduce mindfulness to your kids.  In this way you can promote wellness for the whole family!

Materials:

  • One mason jar of any size (I used the half-pint size here)
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Small figurine, something that will fit inside of the mason jar with room to spare on all sides.  I used this fun little gnome!
  • Glitter of any color
  • Tap water

Instructions:

First begin by filling your mason jar with regular tap water.  Test out how much water you will need by placing the figurine (the gnome) inside the water, as the water will rise when you do.  Make sure to leave some space in the jar because you will also add quiet a lot of glitter.

Once you have the right amount of water, you will then use your hot glue gun to glue your figurine to the underside of the mason jar lid.   Place a good amount of glue at the bottom of the figurine.  Then gently place the figurine in the center of the underside of the lid.  Hold in place until the glue has cooled.  Set aside and let dry completely.

Now you will add the glitter to your mason jar filled with water.  Pour glitter into the jar, on top of the water.  You will use quite a lot of glitter.  I used about half a bottle, until there was about an inch and a half of glitter sitting on top of the water.

Once the figurine is completely dry and cooled, you are going to place the lid onto the mason jar, as you regularly would.  Be careful no water or glitter spill out.  If so, you will need to pour some out to make room for the figurine.  Make sure the lid is securely fastened and then tip your mason jar upside down and voilà!  Mindfulness Jar complete!


Now let's pretend the mason jar is your mind and the glitter is the thousands of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that swirl around in your head all day.  When these thoughts, feelings, and emotions (glitter) start swirling around your mind (mason jar) you may feel stressed, overwhelmed, fearful, confused, depressed, agitated, distracted, or a combination of any of these things.  Also, notice that when these thoughts, feelings, and emotions (glitter) are swirling about, it is really hard to stay focus on any one thing (the gnome) as these cloud your ability to focus on what really matters, such as your work, tasks, relationships, wellbeing, etc.

When you engage in mindfulness and pay attention to what is happening in the moment, gently watching the thoughts, feelings, and emotions (glitter) swirling, noticing your breath, sitting in stillness, becoming aware of the physical sensations in your body, allowing things to unfold naturally without trying to change anything, suspending all judgment, you may begin to notice that the thoughts, feelings, and emotions (glitter) start to slowly settle until you are able to see more clearly and your mind (mason jar) becomes calm.  With a calm mind you are able to focus on what is important so that you may feel more relaxed, improve your concentration, be able to make better decisions, and feel a sense of peace or wellbeing.

 

Try it out now.  Take a minute to watch the very short video below for a brief demonstration of the basic principles of mindfulness...

Private Practice Grand Opening June 1st!

I am so excited to announce that I finally have an office space to begin my private practice!  And it's beautiful to boot! 

This is such a lovely, warm, and inviting space, plus it has a great view of West LA!

I am so excited for you to see it, so, I have decided that for my Grand Opening I will be offering one free therapy session (after intake) during the month of June for new clients! 

First off, I want to say that this is a great value!   But most importantly, perhaps, is that this allows time for us to get to know each other and begin building therapeutic rapport.  Building rapport with clients is one of the most important elements of  the therapy process as it builds a trust bond between client and therapist, allowing for a successful healing process.  In fact, some studies have shown that rapport between client and therapist, as well as the client's participation in the therapeutic relationship, is even more crucial to the healing process than that of the actual therapeutic interventions and techniques (Orlinsky, Grawe, and Parks, 1994). So, you can consider this free session as a way to improve outcomes over the course of your healing as you develop and grow in therapy.

 Furthermore, this will also allow you, as the client, more time to determine whether or not my practice is a good fit for you.  Just like in life, some people we will mesh well with and others, not so much.  It's nothing personal, it's just personality, styles, and ways of relating.  Not every therapist works well with every client, and vise versa, so choosing a therapist that you feel comfortable with will further help you along your journey. 

Please call or message me and mention the Grand Opening Special so we can begin your healing process together.