I thought it might help to write a follow up from my last article.
This time the focus is on what to consider once you have decided to seek help. Please rest assured if you have decided to go ahead with therapy but still feel unsure this is perfectly understandable. In fact, once you start there may be some weeks in which you find yourself so pleased you started on this journey and others which leave you doubting if you should have ever bothered in the first place. At this point, the brakes can indeed be put on. Alternatively, you may just want to slow down and almost like a car, start cruising, take your time, recap what has been said so far, gather your thoughts. This is ok and is also what the sessions can be used for.
There appears to be some who think the whole session needs to be used to talk and get feedback and that every minute must be filled. This is not the case. On the contrary, silence can be helpful too. To sit with your thoughts, not alone, but alongside your therapist. Perhaps to revisit something that came up a few weeks ago that is still on your mind. A new week does not necessarily mean new material.
Accepting it is ok to not be ok
Putting on a brave face is something I think we are all guilty of doing at some point in our lives. Therapy helps teach you it does not have to be done here. It allows you freedom to do what you need to do – whether that is cry, laugh, shout, feel and express anger. It takes time to reach the point in which you feel able to do this with your therapist, for some it will take longer than others. Yet the relief when you start to let go of some of the thoughts and feelings you have thus far been unable to share is hard to put into words. To know this person will be there for you, at a set day and time each week, allows you to start to rely on not feeling so alone and isolated. Although letting somebody in may feel daunting it can also result in you feeling less trapped in your own thoughts with no escape and nobody to turn to.
Dedicating time and making a commitment
It is worth noting that therapy is a two way process. The relationship between therapist and client is extremely unique and involves commitment by both in order for the relationship to develop and work.
Deciding to embark on therapy is not an easy decision to make. For some, taking time out of their busy day will be challenging; for others asking for help may be something they are not used to doing. The cost too pays an important part in decision-making. You may find yourself questioning your self-worth; do you deserve to spend this money on yourself or should you be spending it on something else?
It may be that some or all of these questions are all familiar to you. What is worth pointing out is that these are all things which can and should be discussed with your therapist. The more honest you can be with yourself and your therapist the better.
This leads me onto another very important fact. It has to be the right time for you. Many people start therapy as they have been pressurised into coming, perhaps by a parent or spouse. YOU have to want to come and YOU have to want help and support in order to make changes in your life. Therapy will not work if you are not committed to talking, sharing, being open and willing to discuss really difficult things.
When to have therapy
It is important to try and choose a day and time which suits you. We all lead busy lives but it is vital that time is set aside before a session in order to think about those issues most pressing at that moment. Equally, after a session to think about and process what just happened. All these factors are extremely crucial and I believe can affect the outcome of your experience.
All these factors demonstrate just how much of a commitment therapy is. I strongly urge you too to make sure you have a support network around you outside of therapy. I appreciate for some this is not possible and may indeed be the reason why they have embarked upon personal therapy in the first place. However, those who can are encouraged to let others know what they are doing. I say this because therapy is mentally exhausting. Before a session you may feel anxious and after a session it is not uncommon to feel drained. If others whom you know will be around at these times are aware that you are having therapy they can be mindful of this which will in turn allow you the support and space you will need.
Face to face? Zoom? Telephone?
Therapy can be experienced a number of ways. Having recently returned to working face to face with clients I would recommend this as the first choice to anybody looking for a therapist. I feel a deeper level of work can be reached and the relationship built between client and therapist becomes more alive in the room. However, it may not be possible to work face to face. Zoom still offers a chance to see each other and build the relationship in this way. The telephone may be others’ preferred way to speak, especially if they feel intimidated perhaps or even struggle to look at others when sharing things they may never have told anybody before. For these people, they may thrive and find comfort in talking to their therapist over the telephone. It may be freeing and liberating and help them open up if they cannot be seen.
Who to choose?
There is always a reason we choose the therapist we choose. No therapist will work with somebody they know, or are too close to others who know prospective clients. Often, therapists include a picture of themselves and it is encouraged to read the blurb they write about themselves and think about if what they have written resonates with you. Often they may have a specialist subject. It is worth considering if you want to work with a man or woman and what sort of age you would like them to be. It is interesting the type of clients who gravitate towards a certain therapist. Exploring the reason with your therapist why you chose him/her can be very insightful if you ever do this!
A final thought
I want to add though that from a personal and professional perspective I believe therapy is invaluable. It really can be life changing. As cliché as it is, it really is about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes when the light is too bright, the therapist can act almost like a pair of sunglasses. They can help guide you through difficult times, not to make the pain go away, but certainly to help ease it. Unless you have the opportunity to feel supported and listened to this may all sound a bit far-fetched.
When I recently ended a five years of therapy I said to my therapist, the door is now closed, but it is not locked. I am open to the prospect of needing to speak with her again in the future. For now, she is with me in my thoughts. I often wonder to myself what she would say to me in certain situations. This demonstrates my final point, that although there comes a point when sessions end, you are never alone nor do you need to be.