5 Secrets Your Therapist Won’t Tell You About Therapy
“You will discover a whole host of underlying issues you didn’t know were there.”
The last few years have seen more and more people turning to therapy for support in working through some of life's more challenging times. It’s a luxury to say the least. But if you’re stuck or struggling I can’t recommend it enough. But there are certain things that had I known before I started would have made the journey a whole lot easier.
Real change takes time
Therapy isn’t quick fix. If you’re going in hoping for real change it won’t happen overnight. Forget thinking that you will emerge after 6 sessions with a solution for all that ails you. Therapy is a long term investment and it’s not for the faint hearted. It requires you to think, to observe and to reflect week after week after week. To dig deep and search your soul for the strengths, the weaknesses, the warts and all and to say that’s not easy is an understatement.
The mind is a complex oule contraption and will only reveal what it knows you can handle so the process can be frustrating. You can start to feel something without understanding why and willing it into consciousness won’t cut it. You have to respect the process, and where you’re at in your process. It will make you question every relationship past and present as well as your behaviour, your habits, your reactions and all the murky stuff in between. With weekly sessions in the diary you can only avoid things for so long. Sooner or later you will be forced to confront those habits and relationships that no longer serve you.
You will discover a whole host of underlying issues you didn’t know were there
Most people go into therapy with a single complaint. A feeling of ‘meh’, a struggle at work. But you soon realise that the complaint is just a symptom of an underlying dysfunction. The procrastination you’re dealing - most likely fear or failure or fear of success. Those tendencies for perfectionism - deep seated feelings of inadequacy. Those addictions - to alcohol, to drugs, to work, to exercise - distraction. Distraction from the feelings that are too painful to explore.
I always resisted the notion that all our behaviours are driven by something rooted in the past but it’s true. The habits and behaviours we develop are a response, a coping mechanism of sorts to adversities in our early years. It’s not until you start to explore your reality that you can peel back the layers and really begin to understand yourself.
It Will Get Worse before it get’s better
This is probably the toughest part of therapy. For most, reality as you know it will change. As you get to know your real self you will start to see things differently. Your closest relationships will come under scrutiny and that can be a really hard thing to accept. Coming to a realisation that a person or relationship you really cherished isn’t quite what you thought it was is a hard pill to swallow but over time as you start to build strength it will get easier. But it does take time and self-care is an absolute necessity in getting through those hard times.
It will be awkward at times
Sitting in a silent room with a perfect stranger is a bit of a head f*** to start. And the worst part of it is that you’re paying them. Getting the most out of therapy involves honesty. This includes being honest if you disagree with what your therapist is saying. Being honest if they’ve said something that annoys you. Being honest if you think they talk too much, if they give advice too much. This is your session. You’re paying for this uncomfortable mess so you best be damn sure you’re getting bang for your buck.
Just remember they have sat in that chair with hundreds of clients. They’ve seen and heard it all. They’ll have experienced conflict and more jaw dropping moments than you can shake a stick at so trust me nothing you say will come as a shock. Being honest about what works for you and what doesn’t is part of your growth and there is something to be learned from it all - from your reluctance to confront it, from the way your blurt it out to the way you feel after it. Each interaction in therapy provides an opportunity for growth and if you approach it like that you will move your progress along much quicker.
You’re not broken, you don’t need to be fixed.
Many people go into therapy with the belief that there is something wrong with them, that’s at the core of many many issues. But you need to realise that you are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. Instead consider it from the point of view of being fragmented. Your actions and reactions are most likely a result of past incidents. The journey to adulthood is a long one, shaped by every interaction we encounter along the way. And those incidents our adult self views as minor could have had a massive effect on our child self. Therapy is about exploring all the painful bits you stuffed away as a child - the painful memories and the part of your that you didn’t think we accepted. Therapy is about integrating your whole self. It’s less about being fixed up and emerging with a different personality and more about becoming who you were always meant to be.
Sure the process is long and winding and frustrating as hell but if you can bear the short-term pain, the long-term gain will be all the worthwhile.
Photo Credit © Pavel Nekoranec
About The Author
Siobhan is a Trainee Psychotherapist, Mental Health Advocate and Editor of crakd. She’s also embroiled in an intense love affair with eclectic interiors and colourful food.
Follow Siobhan on Instagram @siobhan_scan