For a while “You should see a therapist,” was an insult. When therapy first started to mainstream only the weirdest most baffling of psychiatric disorders were given a lot of attention. To see a therapist way back at the advent of psychotherapy meant no one on Earth understood why you acted the way you acted and you either needed a straight jacket or some kind of tranquilizer. Fortunately, that is no longer the case.
Even though most of us understand that totally sane and “normal” people seek out therapy, we might not understand what good therapy is for us regular folks. I personally find a great deal of value in talking with a therapist. I just love feeling someone totally focus on me. In regular conversations there is a give and take and you have to allow the other person time to talk about themselves. Not with therapists! I also love the judgment free zone. Sometimes I just want to say something and see how it feels to say it. If you do that with the regular people in your life they might hold you to it! It’s also so empowering to sit down for an hour a week with someone and intentionally focus on your own growth and heart. But truly, these are all just perks. If you’re lucky, you can find these kinds of perks in a really wise friend or mentor. So what makes a therapist different than a good friend? The main roles of the therapist, (and what you pay them so much to do) can be seen in two stages: Conceptualization and Treatment.
This is a seven syllable word that roughly means “what is going on with you.” (hey look that was seven syllables too!) This is where the therapist uses all of their training and research on human behavior, development, systems, psychology and relationships to help you understand what might be happening in your given situation. It’s equivalent to that swelling part in movies where the side kick tells the main character that they are running away from love just like their Dad ran away from them! Some therapists will offer some poignant analogy that sums up your life and causes you to see things differently. Others might ask one innocuous little question that causes all this salt water to pour right out of your eyes. It’s a time of discovery. It’s the part of therapy that makes you sigh and think “Ohmigosh, that’s exactly what is happening.” Full disclosure: this is my very favorite part. It’s not always so profound and dramatic.
Treatment is the part after conceptualization where the therapist uses all of their training on behavior, effective methods and facilitating change to help you reconsider and redesign the way you think and function around a given topic. After the initial shock of emotional disclosure, this is the hardest work of therapy. Sometimes change is really slow and you might start wondering if this is worth it at all! Struggling through this part with another person is deeply rewarding and can dramatically change your life. Quite often you get to work on an area and you see just how many ways you have completely entrenched yourself in a way of being and it’s just really hard to let go.
In reality this one-two sequence might happen a thousand times over the course of your therapy. Regardless of what you see someone for, the most important part of this whole process is your relationship with your therapist. You have to like them at least a little bit. Everyone is different and different people see things in different ways. You want to find a therapist that makes you feel really seen, heard and understood.
If this sounds exciting to you and you live near Aiken, SC, feel free to go here and come see me. I promise if you don’t feel seen, heard and understood from me, I’ll do what I can to help you find someone better suited to help you.