Things I wish I knew by, Alisa Donaldson MA, RP (Q)
Whether you’re thinking about psychotherapy for the first time, or you’ve been to sessions before, there are some key points that can help you with the process. These are some “attitude checks” that I wish I knew when I first started therapy for myself, and that I wish I could impart to every client I see. So, I’d like to share them here. Reading them may help you to feel better prepared for your own sessions.
- You don’t need to already know what you want.
Sometimes when folks start psychotherapy, they already have an idea of something in their life that they’re struggling with, or something they’d like to change. But sometimes, it’s not incredibly specific, but just an overall feeling of overwhelm or discouragement. For couples, it’s often a vague understanding that communication isn’t going well, and closeness has been lost.
It’s actually okay if you don’t have a three-point plan on what you want to focus on in therapy (but if you do, that’s fine too!). Therapy itself is a discovery process, and often goals are revealed as we explore together. A good therapist knows how to guide you in fostering curiosity about your life and the areas that are asking for your attention.
- Willingness to try is key.
Some folks have a hard time imagining what help will look like. They’ve been a bit “stuck” in their experience, and they don’t know how it could change. That’s actually okay. Knowing how change can occur, and what it takes to get there, is the therapist’s job. We’re trained to recognize patterns, and to know how to process through barriers to change.
But having a willingness to at least try is the client’s job. After all, you are the one living your life, so only you have the power to change it. That may sound overwhelming right now, but a good therapist can help you to recognize and live your power for positive change. As long as you’re willing to try, change is possible.
- You are an expert, and your voice is important.
Speaking of client’s jobs, another key one is to know that you are the expert in your own life. Yep. As knowledgeable and trained as a therapist can be, they still won’t be the one in your mind-body, and they won’t fully know all the nuances of your experience. That’s why collaboration in therapy is so important.
And that’s why you should give feedback to your therapist. If something isn’t quite aligning for you, you have the right, indeed, the invitation, to say so. If therapy is going in a direction you don’t want, tell your therapist. It’s better to talk about it, than to just do what your therapist says, or worse yet, to drop out of therapy. Communication lines should always be open about how the process is going, and a good therapist will want to know.
- It’s not about “fixing” you.
Some folks envision psychotherapy as similar to visiting a hospital or a doctor’s office: someone diagnoses what’s wrong with you, then gives you a prescription to fix it. And indeed, sadly (in my opinion), many psychotherapists operate that way.
But here at Ellis Nicolson & Associates, we choose to take a “non-pathological” view of human experience. This means that we have a deeper understanding of the “why” behind what others might view as “wrong.” In other words, we know that humans are creatures of habit, and often these habits are our own ways of coping with difficult situations. So, we can be compassionate towards your patterns, even while we help you to change them. Rather than “fixing” you, we support you in connecting with your inner wisdom, and in finding more health and happiness.
- It can take time. And it’s worth it.
We’re hard-wired to want the quickest solution possible. And that’s okay. But it’s also important to have compassion for yourself in the change process, because changing patterns is hard work. You’ve been living with some of them your whole life! Making lasting change may take more than a couple therapy sessions, or a couple weeks.
In my experience, the clients who benefit the most from psychotherapy are the ones who aren’t overly concerned about how many sessions they need. This means they are able to trust the process, for however long it takes. It’s also an indicator of a growth mindset, one that has a willingness to try.
- It can be costly. And it’s worth it.
Obviously, it sounds self-serving for me to say that. I’m clearly a biased source, but hear me out.
We typically spend a lot of money on pursuing happiness in other ways (hobbies, entertainment, experiences). Why not invest in your happiness by improving your emotional health?
Psychotherapy’s benefits can be profound and long-reaching. In that hour, you are setting the intention to care for yourself (or your relationship, in couple’s therapy), and that’s a very powerful intention. You are also taking the time to pay attention to important things that “normal life” typically distracts us from. The changes you make will likely have ripple effects into all areas of your life, for the rest of your life. When you look at it that way, the return on investment is hard to overestimate.
What do you think about these six points? Do any of them resonate with you? Do any of them feel strange? If you have been in therapy already, have you found the same realizations yourself?
Maybe you’re still on the fence about getting started. Perhaps something here has helped you to feel more equipped. If you still have questions, remember that the associates at Ellis Nicolson offer free 15-minute consultation calls. You can click our “Book Now” button to set one up.
Let me sign off with one more thing…
- You are amazing.
Whatever you’re dealing with right now, you have incredible inner resources to help you cope. You’re more powerful than you know, and you are your own best news. Connect with a therapist who sees that, and can help you see it, too 😊