Considering therapy? Honestly, I AM biased. I do believe we ALL can benefit from time with a good therapist. Getting the perspective of someone who is objective, studies humans for a living, and has the know-how to communicate what they see in a way that will benefit you is, well, just priceless. And finding the right one IS hugely important.
It’s not all just on the therapist, though. Go prepared.
When you head in for your session, there are a few skills and default thoughts you can leave outside the door, in order to have the best, most healing experience possible.
1. Argument. You’re not going to need this one inside.
Now I’m not talking about telling your truth. If the therapist is trying to identify how you feel and restates something you’ve said in a way that is just off, say so. As in “I wouldn’t identify it as anger so much as a burning desire to never see that person again.” Or “I don’t know, it just feels more blah than that. Like, I have a hard time even caring.”
But don’t waste your energy arguing with the therapist. You’re paying this person to learn what they know, so when they share an insight, listen, consider it. (And they should be doing this- reflecting back to you, offering perspective, coaxing your insight- about 30% of the time. They should not just “validate your feelings” and nod or ask “how does that make you feel?” like we see in the movies all the time.)
If you truly ARE paying them to talk at them and you don’t want any reflection at all, by all means, tell them. Some therapists will still take your money, but I wouldn’t consider that very ethical…or frankly, all that much fun. I like to see people grow.*
*The two exceptions might be if you realize you are a “verbal processor” and you just can’t tell anyone else the truth about your life right now OR if you are intentionally engaging what we call “narrative therapy,” a method that can be really healing in certain instances, like processing grief.
2. Thinking “I already know this.”
Yep. Some of it you do already know. And you’re not doing the right thing with the information or you wouldn’t be having the distress that brought you to therapy.
Just notice when you think things like that. Instead of the reflex of thinking “I already know that, why should I pay someone to tell me what I already know?” replace it with, “hmmmm, that’s interesting. That sounds familiar. How can I use that to do something different?”
Plus, consider the possibilities. Listen better. You might not know what you think you know. Besides, that thing you think you know? Usually there’s more to it than you considered previously.
3. Defaulting to “It’s really just common sense.”
If it were common sense it’d be more common. And if it were common sense to you, again, you wouldn’t be in the distress that brought you to therapy.
Yes, many of the central concepts of health and well-being are common between disciplines. You will find relationships between concepts and insight with things you’ve heard or read or tried before. Listen and go further. Lots of the things that trip people up are simple and many of the adjustments therapy offers can seem simple as well. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy.
A good therapist sees and can identify your sticky spots for you and will let you know the ways she sees you getting in your own way. Let her.
Get the Most from your Therapy
These reflex tendencies are usually born of a sense of inadequacy, actually. Arguing with the therapist displays some defensiveness. You might think it’s masking your insecurity, but it’s really highlighting it. Honestly, you don’t have anything to prove, least of all to your therapist.
Thinking you know things already closes you off to possibilities. Yes, you know some stuff. You are an expert at your own experience. Go you! A good therapist is an expert at people. She’s probably intuitive. She’s got an arsenal of tools and skills and frameworks with which to approach your challenge.
And the only thing you need to keep considering when you’re thinking “it’s just common sense” is “how can I use these insights in my daily life?”
After all, applying what you experience inside the therapy office is key to your growth and you deserve to grow as much as possible. Be sure you’re doing all you can to allow your therapist to help you.
Wondering when you know is the RIGHT TIME to break up with your therapist (or at least spend less time there?) Stay tuned for the next blog post.