Three Things that will Hinder your Therapy

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.”

Yes, clarify.

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.

Choices and Guilt

Call him an old soul; we do sometimes.

What would you give to be free of shame and guilt? I bet you’ve been on a few guilt trips in your lifetime.

My son, age 22, speaks precise truths that took me 45 years to learn. The hard way. Well, okay, maybe 40 years. And my youngest son helped me learn.

I can’t quote verbatim because his words are more precise. They hold in their brevity more than I can possibly capture. Here’s my best try:

“We only have so much time on the planet. I make choices by asking myself  ‘will this add value to my life or to the life of someone important to me? Will it matter?’ If the answer is no, I don’t waste my time.”

And he does not feel guilty about his choices. That also is a “waste of time.”

HE DOES NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT HIS CHOICES. EVER.

He allows that he doesn’t have to make perfect ones, after all. He does not have to never miss out on something. He doesn’t even think that way, in fact. He shows up for his own life and lives it. I know part of this is the way he’s made and it comes easier to him than to some of us.

I love this about him.

I know some of the hard he’s experienced in life encourages such vision. I wouldn’t wish it on others even though he has grown into a fine man (whose frontal lobe probably closed about 4 years ahead of schedule!)

I love this about him too.

Such perspective is rare for his age, but it’s a good one we can learn at any age – even those of us who’ve spent years responding to the pull of shame and the leverage of the guilt trip.

And those of us who have actually repeated such techniques on others can (and will almost naturally) STOP doing this to others when we stop doing it to ourselves.

Magic almost. Miracle, if you prefer.

Health! Ahhhhhh yes.

There’s enormous freedom in living like this. And I’m convinced it doesn’t have to feel like artful tight-rope-walking between self-centered asshole and sappy, people-pleaser doormat. It does get comfortable.

As in, true-nature-comfortable, not zero-conflict-ever-comfortable.

Be encouraged!

Because sometimes there IS fall-out from living like this. At least until other people get used to the change. You’re upsetting relationship status, after all.

And for some of us, this means learning to carry our own pain and to NOT shoulder others’ pain. The good news is our own pain is not going to kill us. It’s only pain.

Everyone else’s pain piled on us might kill us.

It might cost us more than we can afford to pay. It might keep us from being awake for the good. It might cost us our very selves.

Taking responsibility for our own lives, knowing, allowing that our choices will not be perfect is the beginning of healthy relationship.

Far from being selfish, making choices that honor our limits and respects our own values frees others to do the same. Then, when we connect with those we love, it’s a healthy decision and a joyful experience, free from the weight of obligation and guilt.

Saying all this is easier than weathering the weight of guilt the first time you do something different. I realize that.

Still, I know what it’s like both ways. I know which is better. You will get over the guilt when you realize it keeps you trapped. And you will allow the shame to drop away and never attach to you again when you realize how much life and freedom awaits.

Need help getting there? It’s my job. Let’s get started.

 

 

Is it time for help?

Only you can determine if now is the time to get professional help (for yourself or a child.) Your doctor, a family member, or a trusted friend might say so. They could be right and it can be helpful to get “outside” feedback from those you trust. Still, we are so accustomed to “doing it ourselves” or feel we “should” be able to handle this or figure it out that this strong belief can muddy a relatively simple decision.

Definitely get help if you or someone in your care is experiencing or expressing suicidal or homicidal thoughts no matter how “serious” you think they are or are not. Definitely get help if you or someone in your care is hurting her/him-self in any manner, no matter how “mild” it seems. Definitely get help if you recognize that you or someone in your care is hurting other people verbally, emotionally, or physically.

That said, sometimes it’s not that clear. After all, there are multiple things to READ and try on the internet or in books that are self-help and promise a cure. And you haven’t yet tried everything! Plus, you’re resourceful, smart, and have gotten this far.

So when is it time?

Any one (or more) of the following over a span of two weeks or more mean it’s worth finding a real, live professional to lend a hand:

  • your situation keeps you awake at night or
  • wakes you up in the middle of the night or
  • is on your mind first thing in the morning
  • your work feels significantly more stressful than normal or
  • you’ve received feedback that your personal life is interfering at work
  • a friend or colleague has tried to end a conversation when you need to talk
  • you don’t take pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • your children become depressed or anxious
  • your children develop stomach aches or act out at school
  • you’ve been researching solutions on the internet
  • you purchased a self-help book or people are “gifting” them to you
  • people are giving you (solicited and unsolicited) advice about how to manage
  • anything you’re experiencing is uncomfortable enough to make it significant to you
  • you have a question about your specific situation (or a bunch of them)

Life happens to all of us. Loss happens to all of us. Unfortunately, you don’t get a gold star for handling it better than someone else or for NOT asking for help. You also won’t get a gold star for including therapy or coaching as your go-to resource.

You’ll get more than a gold star and you’ll get it sooner.

The rewards of good “therapy” are intrinsic: reversal of symptoms, access to a warm, knowledgeable, and specifically helpful human, validation of your process, skills to manage in the best ways known to man, an ongoing resource for any future disruption.

It can be risky. Growth can be painful. Change is hard. Trust is hard for some of us. Meeting someone new and sharing wounds is hard for nearly everyone. Pain is pain. Grief surely sucks no matter its shape or source.

The way through is not always simple or easy, yet it’s worth trying to find the right trained person.

Your resources of time, energy, and (probably) money are limited, so you want to know you will connect with someone you 1. like  2. trust and 3. know is skilled to help in your situation.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and help you skip to the perfect connection. (If you didn’t already see this, I’ve provided some quick guidance here with links to a couple other articles.)

I know I’m not the right person for everyone -though I wish I could be- so it’s also not a matter of me just saying, “come here; I can help.” But if you hear me saying that to you, well, then do come here and let’s connect!

Most importantly, if any of the above list fits your situation, then it IS time to find a professional someone to help.

Depression is a wily snake

Maybe you know you’re depressed.

Could be your doctor gave you the PHQ9 and expressed concern at your result. Could be people in your life have noticed a change and wondered aloud.

It’s also just as possible you “feel uneasy” are “not yourself” or are “just blah” and it may never have occurred to you this feeling has a diagnosis, much less a treatment!

All around the globe, common depression symptoms include low moods, sadness, crying, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping, but that’s just for starters. Other symptoms (like decreased concentration, illogical thinking, or physical symptoms) and the very nature of depression can make it one wily snake to pin down!

(Another tricky thing about symptoms is they can be shared by bipolar, major depressive episode, or chronic depression as well as other maladies and it can take a trained professional time make an accurate, specific diagnosis…but enough talk about symptoms!)

What sufferers want is to feel better. Duh!

Nearly all practitioners, whether medical personnel, psychologists, counselors, or social workers, agree there are physical factors involved in mood disorders which- in the VAST majority of cases- will respond well to medication even if some trial and change is needed.

Let me be clear: a good practitioner won’t force meds on you even when they heartily believe in them. A good practitioner will take the time to explore your reasoning or any worry you might have. You’ll make a decision together and she’ll continue to respect your position and concerns each step of the way. (For 50 signs of a good therapist, read here.)

The good news is there is MUCH you and a therapist can explore as additional ways to feel better, cope better, and hopefully GET better. Therapy is no guarantee your depression will be cured or that life will no longer hurt. Good, productive therapy aims to point you toward solution and support you as you walk through the challenges. Just having that support can mean a significant improvement in your life!

Yes, you could tough it out some more. You could just try the meds your doctor prescribed. Or you can do more to feel better sooner. And no matter what your current state of mind is telling you, the TRUTH is, you deserve a good life.

This Buzzfeed article makes some good points about the downward-spiral and vicious-cycle-perceptions that keep people trapped in depression. Gently intervening in these “thinking distortions” takes the safety and skill of a trustworthy therapist.

Of course I’m going to promote therapy as a solution. I’m definitely biased toward therapy! I’ve seen it make a positive difference again and again and again and again and again…

You get what I’m saying.

If you have energy to do just one thing this week, let it be reaching our to connect with a good therapist. If you’ve landed here and finished reading, it means you’re already well on your way.