What to expect from therapy

PIXABAY/CC0

PIXABAY/CC0

Sometimes people are scared to try something new because they are not quite sure what to expect. My youngest child was hesitant to eat green (mint) ice cream until he saw his big brother enjoying a bowl first. After that, we got him his own serving and he then promptly decided it was his new favorite flavor of ice cream and his favorite dessert of all time. Something big and serious happens in your life and you think about talking to someone about it. It can seem daunting, overwhelming, and scary even. You are not sure where to begin or what to do. Hopefully this blog can give you a bit of a picture of what to expect and help you feel more comfortable in reaching out if you have something you want or need to share.

How do therapy sessions work?

This can and should vary between therapists and approaches (especially depending on what the specific issue is), but you will often find a few common factors - which you can expect if you work with me. First, there is talking. This is a big component of almost every type of therapy or counseling. In order fo rum as professionals to get to the spot where we can be helpful we need to understand what’s going on now and what was going on before. Once we start to understand where you’re coming from then we will probably start to ask you about your emotions. If possible we try to avoid the stereotypical, “and how does that make you feel?” While the question has become a bit of a silly trope, the sentiment is important. We want to understand when new things happen how do you respond, what is going on in your head and in your gut. When we get a sense of what’s happening we begin the process of helping you get to where you want to be. In my practice I set goals with client at the beginning and then we check in on progress towards those goals every so often. That way, we are all on the same page and working toward the same finish line.

Can therapy save a marriage?

This question is a bit too complicated for a one word answer. Saying “maybe” doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence - but also doesn’t really paint a picture of what I mean. Whether or not to “save” a marriage is a much bigger question than merely asking if therapy is the thing that can do it. To paraphrase one Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) from Jurassic Park, “they were so occupied to think whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to ask if they should.” Sometimes marriages are already over before a couple walks into the therapy session. In some of those cases one or both spouses want to go to therapy so that they can say they “tried everything” before the divorce and so feel better about their decision to separate. Other times one partner is ready to bail on the marriage/relationship and the other wants desperately to save it. In a situation like that, maybe the committed partner could convince the partner with one foot out of the door to stay, but that likely wouldn’t last. In difficult situations like this, therapy is often the best way to ask questions about the relationship and each partner’s commitment to it. Then the therapist can help both parties make sense of the answers and help them figure out how they want to move forward. Therapy can be a part of saving a marriage (if that’s what both partners want), but like you will read below, therapy is only part of a solution.

Will therapy help?

Therapy can help, whether or not you will find it helping in your life depends partly - well - on you. Therapy is a collaborative process, it involves (among other factors) the therapists skills and education to be combined with your openness and willingness to put in the work. Yes, there is work. Asking if therapy works is like asking if school will help you be smarter. It surely can, but I’m sure you can think of a few people who went to school (maybe even university and graduate work) and still have a lot to learn. Like a school, you need good education and training to be able to teach effectively, but the teacher can no more make you do the homework or make you study than the therapist can make you talk nicer to your partner, make you relax when you are beginning to feel anxious, or make you look at life differently.