03/22/18 Filed in: Therapy
Many people equate therapy with advice, but they are not the same. When well-meaning friends or family members give us advice, they are generally trying to pass on the benefit of their wisdom. This isn’t a bad thing. Indeed, sometimes the advice turns out to be just the ticket for solving the problem at hand. But what do you do when your personal problems prove immune to common advice? That’s when a therapist can be of use to you.
Your mind is (delightfully) complex. Your senses give you information, which your mind turns into perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. You have attitudes, opinions, values, and beliefs. You are motivated to do some things but not other things. Much of your behavior is governed by forces outside your awareness. Human beings are amazing creatures, capable of wonderful achievements, but this does not mean we are entirely logical or without conflict. Sometimes these complex processes get complicated, and that’s more or less when we get stuck.
Therapy is a process of learning about your own psychology so that you might move through life with a little less friction. Everyone knows that life can be difficult. But sometimes life hurts. If you are depressed, anxious, or struggling in a relationship, you might not know why you feel the way you do. The underlying problem may not be obvious, let alone the cure. But think of it this way: symptoms tell us that something about your life isn’t working. Yes, you want those symptoms to go away; of course you do. But to do this we have to dive a little deeper into your personal life to see if we can discover what your symptoms might mean. This will require you to talk about yourself as honestly and openly as you can.
Therapy is also a relationship. Human beings are hard-wired to connect, which means we grow and develop through relationships. This starts the moment we are born and it continues throughout the entirety of our lives. Some of the most important things we can learn about ourselves (and others) occurs in the context of human relationships. We all need someone in our corner who cares about us, listens to us, encourages us, worries about us, roots for us, and occasionally gives us feedback that we need but would rather not hear. Unlike ordinary caring relationships, however, a therapist also has specialized training and knowledge. He listens not just with his ears, eyes, and heart, but also with his head.
And yet a therapy relationship is not like other relationships. It does not have the natural give-and-take, the mutual sharing and reciprocity that friendships have. One reason for this is because the session is your time –– the focus is strictly on you and your needs. But also, a therapist generally does not talk much about himself because it allows him to maintain a degree of objectivity about you and your concerns. This is something your friends and family members might not have if they try to help you, but it is necessary if we are trying to give you an unbiased experience.
So let me circle back around to the original question. What is therapy? The short answer is this: it is a process where another imperfect human being with professional training joins forces with you as you work to solve your problems. We create a relationship for the purpose of helping you heal, grow, or make progress towards some goal.
Make no mistake, therapy does not change the fact that life is hard, nor does it give you magical results. But it can help you feel better, cope better, and get better.
If your personal life isn’t working for you, you might give it a try.
Are you looking for a good therapist? I should have some openings in January, if you're interested.
I could tell you about the various problems I help individuals and couples address in my practice –– anxiety, depression, relationship issues, traumatic stress, infidelity, panic attacks, and more –- but what I'd really rather you know is that I specialize in joining forces with people who are trying to make their lives better.
My ideal client is the person who is trying to make progress towards some goal. Our job, should we work together, is to figure out what's stalling the progress you've been trying to make on your own.
No magic bullets, no judgement, no b.s.
If you're interested, give me a call. If my openings don't fit your schedule, I'll give you the names of some other good therapists to call.
One last thing. Yes, you really can make your life better. It might take effort, time, and commitment, but even small changes can alter the course of your life.
As of this moment, I am not in the office. I'm on Christmas break. Each year I take a week off between Christmas and New Years to spend time with my family. This is one of the ways I recharge my batteries. I like my work, indeed I see it as a calling or a mission. But it is also important that I nourish those relational connections in my personal life that keep me sane.
I love Christmas. I love the anticipation, the excitement, the traditions. But what I enjoy most is giving. I give presents, of course. But I also give my time, energy, and attention to the people I care about. Giving is good for the soul.
The aim of psychotherapy is to help you improve the quality of your life. It’s not enough just to feel better. We want you to actually get better. There is a difference.
Just talking about a problem will often make you feel better. It just feels good to vent sometimes — to tell somebody what it is like to experience what you are struggling with, be it depression, anxiety, a relationship problem, a work problem, a major decision, whatever. Talking helps. Of course it does. The act of talking in and of itself allows you to clarify what you think, feel, want, need, and fear, which can lead to some relief.
But getting better takes you one step further. After you spend some time in our sessions reflecting on the deeper aspects of your life, sooner or later you will find yourself confronted with a choice. Do you want to go on feeling the way you've been feeing, or do you want your life to be different? Because if you want a different life, eventually you'll have to do something to make it happen.
Getting better requires action, usually in the form of small steps. Therapy helps you identify what actions to take, and how to take them. (Hint: your brain/psyche usually resists change. Therapy helps with that.)
I love it when my clients feel better. But I love it even more when they make progress towards a goal.
Interested? Maybe I can help.
Therapy and cell phones don't mix.
Sometimes clients will come into a session, forgetting to turn off their cell phones. When it goes off, as it invariably will, most people realize what an intrusion it is and then turn the thing off. I appreciate this.
But some people leave still their cell phone on, and then we spend the rest of the session listening to ping of text messages, or worse, the ringing from an incoming call.
I try not to be rude. I try not to say, "Turn that darn thing off, will you?" But sometimes I fail. Sometimes I lose patience.
Look, therapy is an activity that requires you to turn away from the press of day-to-day living and focus on the deeper aspects of your life. We need to focus on the experience of being you — your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories, and more. And for that we need your full attention.
So do me a kind favor. When we meet for our appointed hour, turn off your phone and put it away. No, I don't mean leave it out, turned upside down and within easy reach. Put it away. Be brave. You can live without it for an hour.
Let's focus on you. Let's make your life better.