In this episode of our addiction and recovery podcast, Thanks for Sharing, Jackie Pack talks about the therapy process. It’s not an uncommon for clients to ask questions or be confused about what to expect as they start therapy. Therapy can feel abstract. Often clients aren’t sure of what they are supposed to do, what they should feel like and what outcome they should expect. Sometimes, it can be hard for therapists to explain what therapy is. In this episode, Jackie tries to tackle all these tough questions.
TRANSCRIPT: What Is Therapy?
Hi everyone, welcome to Thanks for Sharing. I’m your host, Jackie Pack. Today’s episode is entitled “What is Therapy?” and I decided to do this particular episode after I noticed that I’ve been having a lot of different version of that conversation, “What is therapy?” in different circumstances, with different people. Sometimes I’ve been having them lately just with several clients as they’re in the process of therapy, they’re already on this journey, but they look up for one reason or another on this journey and say, “Wait a minute. What am I doing? What is this about? Am I doing it right? Am I doing it wrong?” And so we have the conversation, like “What is therapy?” Now I also supervise therapists who are in the process of becoming CSATs, so for a therapist in the process of becoming a CSAT and getting their CSAT certification, one of the requirements is that they complete a minimum of 30 hours of supervision with an approved CSAT supervisor, and I am an approved CSAT supervisor, so I get to talk to therapists all over the country who are in that process and seeking that certification. Sometimes we talk about “What is therapy, and how do we view that in terms of sex or pornography or betrayal trauma, and how do we put all of the pieces together?”
Now I also supervise therapists who are in the process of obtaining their license, so for therapists once they’ve graduated from their master’s program, they get an interim license. They’re not considered fully licensed until they complete, in the state of Utah it’s 4,000 hours of work that’s supervised by a supervisor, and 4,000 hours is around 2 years of full-time work, so if you’re not quite doing full-time work, it would take longer. It typically does not take less than 2 years to complete the 4,000 hours, and that doesn’t mean that like as their supervisor, I’m sitting in every session with them because that would be laborious and I wouldn’t be able to see my own clients. What that means is that we have a weekly time that I sit down with them and we talk about their case load and we talk about the clients that they’re working with and how that’s going and what comes up for them and where they’re going with this client. So oftentimes “what is therapy?” comes up in those conversations as well. And then I’ve also in the last couple of months started to do some coaching with therapists who maybe they’re not seeking their CSAT certification and they’re not needing to work on licensure hours, but they are looking to maybe deepen their clinical skills or to work on some things as a therapist in a way that expands and improves the quality of the services they offer, and then I also have people just in my regular life who will say, “What is therapy? What exactly do you do as a therapist?” And I think it’s kind of a hard question because therapy is not this concrete exact science. Therapy is somewhat abstract.
Now last year towards the end of 2019, there was a book that came out called “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” and the subtitle is “A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Life Revealed” and the author is Lori Gottlieb. I think this is a great book, and I think she does a wonderful job of taking kind of an abstract concept like therapy and in the process of the book, helping the average reader understand what therapy is about, and I found myself several times throughout the book nodding my head or saying out loud, “Yes, yes, that’s it.” And she takes I think 3 cases that she works with, clients that she works with, kind of from beginning to the end or beginning through the process, she may still be working with them, and you kind of get to see the evolution and the role of the therapist and the therapeutic process, and then she also is open about the fact that some things came up in her life where she found herself seeking therapy for herself as a consumer or a client of therapy, and so she shares those experiences too, and I think it’s a wonderful read. Now sometimes I know that I kind of have a skewed version of good books, like sometimes when clients will say to me like “Do you have a recommendation for a book on this particular topic?” and I’m like, “Oh you know what a really good book is,” and then I have to say “Sorry, good for a therapist sometimes is skewed. What a really good book / really hard book to read is…” But I really do think general population will really enjoy this book, and it is on the New York Times Best Seller, so I’m not alone in that opinion.
One of the things Lori talks about is she says kind of at the beginning of therapy, she says “Whatever the problem, it generally presents because the person has reached an inflection point in life. Do I turn left or right? Do I try to preserve the status quo or move into unchartered territory? Be forewarned, therapy will always take you into unchartered territory, even if you choose to preserve the status quo. But people don’t care about inflection points when they come for their first therapy session. Mostly they just want relief. They want to tell you their stories beginning with their presenting problem, and as a therapist to work with these clients, we get more and more and more of their story, and the more trust we build with them, the more vulnerable they get, and we start to see them and their story and how it all comes together. So therapy is about understanding the self that you are, but part of getting to know yourself is to un-know yourself. To let go of the limiting stories you’ve told yourself about who you are so that you aren’t trapped by them, so you can live your life and not the story you’ve been telling yourself about your life.”
Now it isn’t uncommon for us at the practice that I own to get calls from potential clients or clients who are wanting to come in and start the therapy process, and oftentimes in that first phone call, they have a checklist as to what they’re looking for in the therapist they want to work with, and where our office is located, there is a strong active religious community, so it isn’t uncommon for potential clients to call and want to work with someone of their particular faith. They also, I said in an episode a couple episodes ago that I did on EMDR that the general population is getting pretty informed about EMDR and they know if I’ve got some trauma I need to work on, I ask for EMDR therapists or I searched that into the Google search when I’m looking for a therapist, or I think the general population also kind of knows if they’re experiencing sex addiction, pornography addiction or betrayal trauma as a partner, we work with CSATs, and there’s also APSATs that you might work with, so they’ll search for that or they may call and say, “I want a CSAT who’s trained in EMDR,” or “I want to work with a male,” or “I want to work with a female,” so they have kind of this outline of the therapist that they want to work with, and oftentimes if the therapist is in a state where there’s a particular religious faith or it’s like kind of a more religious state, it’s not uncommon for a therapist to say I want to work with somebody of my particular faith, and I understand wanting somebody who understands your background and your belief system as a client, and who is respectful and can honor that. That is totally understandable, but I also think sometimes these questions or these requests are coming from a place of fear and anxiety. The client may often say… maybe they’re not saying this directly, but they may kind of have this like, I know I need to work on therapy and I know I need to work on this issue, but I don’t want to work on any other issue. There’s some anxiety or fear about maybe how deep the rabbit hole goes, and so they’ll say I need to work on this issue, and that’s all. That’s all I want to work on, and as a therapist, we know that’s not usually how it works, and maybe this issue that they come in with are connected to all these other issues, and it’s hard to touch this issue without touching the other issues, and so we have to create safety, and we have to build some support, and we have to create some trust so that the client can go where the client needs to go, but sometimes I wonder if some of those things, like I want to work with a female and they’re a female, or I want to work with a female and they’re a male, that may happen, and that may be totally appropriate in the beginning. I’m not saying its not. I just sometimes wonder what’s behind that. Do they think if I work with a female, then she’ll agree with me because we’re females, and she sees the world the same that I do, or sometimes the male client prefers a female therapist and maybe that’s because he has had some really traumatic experiences with males in his life and he thinks this female isn’t going to be traumatizing to me or I’ve sometimes gotten this where the male things, yeah she’s a female, I can kind of walk over her or if I push back on her, she’ll probably give in. They might see a female therapist as weak, or different things like that. I think sometimes people are saying I view myself through this particular faith lens or through this particular religious lens, and I don’t want to have to question that, and so if I work with a therapist who has the exact same beliefs as I do, then I’m not going to have to look at maybe some of those issues around my faith. The truth is that even for people who may belong to the same faith community, beliefs aren’t something we replicate or have an exact match on. Because of our unique life experiences and how we interpret and make meaning of our life experiences, it really is difficult to find two people who are exactly alike in their beliefs. Now I think it is important that a therapist doesn’t have their own particular agenda for clients that they’re working with. They can’t want this pre-determined outcome for their clients, nor can therapists work harder than the clients. It typically doesn’t work when the therapist is working harder than the client. Maybe the therapist does have some fears in working with the opposite gender. Sometimes I will say to them, okay, then don’t work with the opposite gender. Don’t take those clients if you don’t know if you can work with them. But I also, as I’m working with therapists, I say to them, “What do you think that’s about? What are the conversations you don’t want to have with the client who’s the opposite sex of you?” Or let’s say the therapist believes religion does more harm than good. Again, that would be the therapist’s bias getting in the way of the client’s therapeutic process and that journey and the outcome that is going to happen as a result of the journey the client is on.
Now when I was in graduate school, so this would have been 1994 & 1995, we would talk about countertransference. So what is countertransference? Well, transference is the process of the client projecting their feelings onto the therapist, and this does happen. This can happen where mom issues get projected onto the therapist or dad issues get projected onto the therapist, and whatever they’re experiencing… or authority issues start to get projected onto the therapist, who they may feel has some type of authority. Countertransference is when the therapist’s issues get projected back onto their client, so it may look something like, wow, this client reminds me a lot of my ex, and it’s really difficult for me when I work with them because my issues with my ex come up, or I’m just kind of back in that relationship while I’m sitting in the room with this client. So when I was in grad school, they taught us about countertransference and kind of the way that they taught us about it was like this is what countertransference is, and don’t do that. Don’t let that happen. Countertransference is bad, and as therapists, we shouldn’t do it. Now I think in the decades since I was in graduate school, the thinking on this has evolved somewhat, and there is an acknowledgement that therapists are human and we have our own feelings and we have our own background and our own stories and our own issues. That can get triggered and come up as we work with clients and various psychology principles. So my experience as I supervise new therapists is that there’s usually still work to be done once they come out of graduate school helping them get comfortable with what comes up for them as they are sitting in the room with this client and how to know how to use it in a way that’s helpful for the client and when and how it’s appropriate to bring that into the session or into the room.
So as therapists, we know for clients that it’s their honesty with themselves that helps them make sense of their lives with all the nuances and complexity, and if clients repress those thoughts, they will likely behave badly because the thoughts don’t go away. They come out sideways, and sometimes clients don’t even recognize them when they come out sideways, but if they acknowledge them, the individual, the client tends to grow. Well, the same is true for therapists. It’s our honesty with ourselves that helps us make sense of our lives with all the nuances and complexity, and if we repress those thoughts, we also will likely behave badly, and if we acknowledge them, we’ll grow. Lori Gottlieb in the book says “An interesting paradox of the therapy process is that in order to do their job, therapists try to see patients as they really are, which means noticing their vulnerabilities and intrenched patterns and struggles. Patients of course want to be helped, but they also want to be liked and admired by their therapists. In other words, they want to hide their vulnerabilities and their entrenched patterns and struggles. That’s not to say that therapists don’t look for a patient’s strengths and try to build on those. We do, but while we aim to discover what’s not working, patients try to keep the illusion going in order for them to avoid shame, to seem more together than they really are, and both parties, therapists and clients, have the wellbeing of the client in mind, but often work at cross-purposes in the service of a mutual goal.” So also in the book, Lori says, “One of the most important steps in therapy is helping people take responsibility for their current predicaments because once they realize that they can and must construct their own lives, they’re free to generate change. Often though, people carry around the belief that the majority of their problems are circumstantial or situational, which is to say external or outside of them, and if the problems are caused by everyone and everything else by the stuff that’s out there, then why should they bother to change themselves? Even if they decide to do things differently, won’t the rest of the world still be the same?” I mean it’s a reasonable argument, right? But that’s not how life generally works.
So there’s a famous line: “Hell is other people” and it’s true the world is filled with difficult people. Lori says, “I’ll bet you can name 5 truly difficult people off the top of your head right now. Some you assiduously avoid, others you would assiduously avoid if they didn’t share your last name, but sometimes more often than we tend to realize, those difficult people are us. That’s right—sometimes Hell is us. Sometimes we are the cause of our difficulties, and if we can step out of our own way, something astonishing happens.” So therapy helps us in that really complicated, messy process of yeah, maybe seeing what other people did to us that caused some problems, but then also starting to recognize that we can and must take responsibility for where we are currently and the responsibility to construct our life in a way that is meaningful and satisfying is my responsibility. Now sharing difficult truths might come with a cost. As clients start to bring in more and more of their story and share that with the therapist, sometimes that comes with a cost, and that is now you have to face what we’re looking at. You brought this part of the story in, and we have to look at this. We have to face this. But there’s also a reward, and that reward is freedom. The truth releases us from shame, and I think that’s sometimes another paradox that we find in therapy sometimes where if we’re feeling shame about an experience we had or something that we did or something that we didn’t do or whatever that is, we feel like if I’m feeling shame about this, the last thing I want to do is tell somebody about it, and yet the irony is that when we do start to tell somebody about it, it depends on who we tell, but when we do start to open that up and we start to talk about that and we start to share it, we start to get released from the shame, and I think that’s a paradox. I think that’s an irony, and that therapist needs to be that safe place where we start to open that, we start to feel that, we start to look at that, we start to see the truth that is staring at us.
There’s a quote from Einstein that says, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” I’m going to say that again. “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” This also reminds me of the “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson. So I’m gonna read you that.
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
Oftentimes therapy is seeing the hole, recognizing that you’re lost, why you feel helpless or why you feel this isn’t your fault, why it might be your fault, helping you find the way out, learning how to get out of the hole quicker, then recognizing the hole before you fall in, examining what the hole is, how the hole got there, examining why you couldn’t see the hole before, and eventually learning to walk down a different street. So what is normal or familiar for clients isn’t the therapist’s norm or their familiarity. This isn’t what they grew up in oftentimes, so the therapist can see things that the client may have blind spots around, or they haven’t even thought to see or question or examine because it seems so normal, and oftentimes in therapy what’s normal is actually just familiar. As a therapist, I also have education, I have additional training, and I have years of practice that can also benefit clients. Again, referring back to the book, Lori says “Typically therapists are several steps ahead of our patients, not because we’re smarter or wiser but because we have the vantage point of being outside their lives. I’ll say to a patient who has bought the ring but can’t seem to find the right time to propose to his girlfriend, ‘I don’t think you’re sure you want to marry her,’ and he’ll say, ‘What? Of course I am! I’m doing it this weekend.’ And then he goes home and doesn’t propose because the weather was bad and he wanted to do it at the beach. We’ll have the same dialogue for weeks until one day he’ll come back and say, ‘Maybe I don’t want to marry her.’ Many people who say, ‘No, that’s not me’ find themselves a week or a month or a year later saying, ‘Yeah, actually that’s me.’” So I often tell clients that therapy is a process of discovering the self, of seeing the self in a way that you haven’t previously. We ask ourselves questions, we get curious, we examine things that have been unexamined or only partly examined, we connect dots that may have not seemed to connect, and yet with further examination, it becomes very clear that the dots are connected.
I will also tell clients, and I tell therapists that I supervise or coach, that during the process of therapy, one of things that happens is clients meet a new version of themselves. Now initially when they get a glimpse of or view this new version of themselves, it’s a stranger and they don’t recognize it, and they may even turn away from it or not like it. Now this new version of themselves isn’t bad. It just is uncomfortable. It’s different. It’s unknown. It’s foreign. But as therapy continues, the person they once viewed as a stranger starts to become more familiar. They start to recognize, hey there’s some things here of value that this new version offers. It starts to make sense, and they recognize themselves in this person, and things start to happen. I start to see clients speak up about things and recognize that they have an opinion and that they can share it and they can state it, and it doesn’t have to change the other person, but it changes them by speaking up. Now this isn’t a personality transplant. They aren’t a different person, but therapy is transformative. The process of therapy helps to take the sharp edges off. A client may become less reactive or less critical or less defensive. They may be more open, more aware and insightful. They may be able to let others into their lives in a way that they couldn’t before. Often they have an increase in confidence. This can happen when these hidden or unknown parts of the self are explored and accepted and brought into the light and understood. They don’t have to hide anymore or be small anymore or be larger than life or be fragile or insecure or self-deprecating, afraid of being found out for who they are. One of the things clients often start to realize as they stay in therapy and they stay with this process is that there’s no more secrets. They’re telling the therapist things that they never tell anybody, even from themselves there are no more secrets. They’re bringing it out, they looking a it and they’re examining it. Oftentimes we have so much shame underlying the truth of who we are, we’re so afraid of the truth that sometimes we hide it from ourselves, but in the therapy process, in this transformation process, they are a new version of themselves. They aren’t hiding things from themselves. They’re not afraid to bring it out and look at it and get curious about it.
So going back to what I was talking about at the beginning of this episode, when a client maybe is calling and asking to work with a therapist who may have a similar lens as they do, the client views themselves maybe through their religious lens or their gender lens or their political lens or the role they played in their family, so at our clinic, when I’m talking to our staff, we are sensitive to these requests and we try to accommodate if we can, but we also know that some of these fears and anxieties like it’s not our job to avoid those places that they’re anxious about going. In fact, it’s our job to go there, but we have to build some trust and create some safety and some support so the client will go there themselves. We’re not dragging them kicking and screaming to that place, but they’re no longer afraid of viewing this, of going there, of seeing this, of wondering, of feeling. So oftentimes as the client is transformed, that process that happens in therapy, this transformative process, and this process of them becoming a more whole version of themselves, they’re going to then go back to these parts of their lives, their faith, their religious congregation, or their persona spiritual practice, they’re going to go back to their spouse, their kids, their co-workers, and on and on, and they’re going to take this new version of themselves to those parts of their life, and that’s going to also transform those parts of their life. Sometimes they may completely change the things in their life. They may transition away from practicing religion, they may divorce, they may change careers. Now sometimes this is more of the exception to the rule, but again as therapists, we can’t be afraid of this change process. We also don’t take a position on what the details of the outcome look like. The nature of life is change, and the nature of people is to resist change. Therapists, however, are in the business of change, even if the process is messy, even when we’re uncertain what is all going to be included and what terrain we’re going to cover, so in therapy, we ask the clinician or we ask the therapist to bring themselves to the process, not in a way that we make decisions, but in an interactive way, in a dynamic relational way because the client can only go as far as we can accompany them. This also means that as therapists, we have to stay open to our own process of change, and we will need at various times our own therapist or guide to help us through that. Now I think as a therapist and what I tell other therapists is we have to be thinking about and talk about how to deliberately use ourselves, the therapist self, in proactive, deliberate way to help the client find a reason to do this. What is the reason they have to start this process, and what’s their motivation for continuing? Because oftentimes we’re starting this therapy process and it’s going to get hard. If it’s not hard from the beginning, it’s going to get hard, and we can’t put things back in place. When this change process has begun and we’ve initiated the process, we can’t undo what we started, so we have to be able to know and talk about and be open to conversations about how do we continue forward and how do we find motivation and find courage and bravery to continue this process of transformation?
Now I’ve had clients in therapy before tell me, “I’m ready to start feeling better. This is taking longer than I wanted.” Or I’ve had clients who will kind of say to me like, “Hey, I just want to give you some feedback. When I leave my therapy session I don’t feel good, and I cry, and maybe it takes me a day or two to start getting back to my normal self after a therapy session.” And I understand this. I’m fine when clients come in with this feedback, and I’m okay when they’re telling me this is happening, this is what’s happening to me and I’m uncomfortable with this, not me as therapist, but the client is uncomfortable with this and they’re unsure with this. Of course they are, and so again we have these conversations. Well what is therapy? Where are we at? And oftentimes they want to know “Am I doing this right? Am I not doing this right? Do I not get something?” And again, some of this is their own self doubt and their own internal landscape, and so I’ll validate, no this is normal. It’s a normal process for clients to maybe feel worse before they start feeling better. It’s normal to come in thinking I’m going to work on this issue, and end up after however much time realizing oh my gosh, I have to work on so many more issues than the one I thought, or this is a much deeper process than I was realizing. So I often will tell clients therapy is a lot like surgery, except we don’t administer anesthesia. Clients say “This hurt,” and we say “Oh that’s good to know. Thank you for telling me that. Can I push that again?” And they’re like, “What? No! I just said it hurts. Why would you push that again?” But I may push that same spot, that same spot that hurt, I’m going to push that the next time and the next time and the next time, and then maybe we need a break, and I’m like okay, that’s fine. Let’s not push it for this session, or maybe 2 or 3 sessions, but we still have to go back and push that spot again. It’s kind of like neurosurgery. I’ve never had neurosurgery done to me, I’ve never been in the room with neurosurgeons. I did have a neighbor when I was growing up, a neighbor across the street, she had to have brain surgery, but I’ve seen brain surgery on TV, not that I think that’s the same thing, but one of the things that I kind of have an understanding about with neurosurgery is they need to keep the patient awake during the surgery so that they know what’s happening in real time. The neurosurgeon needs to know, if I press here on your brain, can you still access the language part of your brain? Could you still speak? Or maybe you’re not speaking and when I push this all of a sudden you can speak. However, unlike neurosurgeons, we gravitate toward the sensitive area, pressing delicately on it, even if it makes the patient feel uncomfortable.
So again going back to the book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone”, Lori Gottlieb says, “It’s impossible to get to know people deeply and not come to like them.” And I think that’s true, and I also think it’s important as the client deeply gets to know themselves, I also think it’s really hard for them not to come to like themselves. Now she also talks about a trap therapists can fall into, a trap that Buddhists call “idiot compassion.” In idiot compassion, we avoid rocking the boat to spare people’s feelings even though the boat needs rocking. Your compassion ends up being more harmful than your honesty, and people do this with teenagers, they do this with spouses, addicts, and themselves. Its opposite is wise compassion, which means caring about the person but also giving him or her a loving truth bomb when needed. Now oftentimes I think in our regular life, we have a lot of superficial relationships and interactions on a day-to-day basis. We also may have maybe moderately superficial, maybe a little bit deeper than just superficial, but still maybe not as deep as we can go in therapy, and you might be one of the few fortunate people who actually have some friends or some people in your life, some significant people in your life who will also give you a loving truth bomb or maybe tell you things that they know are difficult to tell you, but that it’s important that you need to know those things, and that’s… if you have one or two of those people in your life, you are blessed. When I’m supervising or working with new therapists, I often have to coach them on how to deliver these loving truth bombs, and over the years of being a therapist myself, I’ve had to do this quite a few times. So I will tell them, look I’m not asking you to do something that I haven’t had to do, and one of the secrets is it doesn’t get easier every time you do it, even though I may have been doing this for 26, 27 years, that doesn’t mean that this is an easy thing when I have to do it again for this client. Now I’m also okay with that. I think when we are delivering a truth bomb, we should as therapists and as professionals, we should feel the weight and we should feel the heaviness of what we’re giving to clients. So I find if I’m going to do this, I find that it helps if I can connect with a feeling of love and concern for this particular client that I have to give this feedback for. I also connect with a sense of responsibility. I’m the therapist in the room, and that’s my job. It’s part of my job. It’s not my only part of my job, but it’s an important part of my job, and I’ll often say to therapists that I’m supervising, if the client’s therapist can’t be truthful in a loving and helpful way, then who’s going to be? These therapeutic relationships oftentimes are some of the most real and the most raw and the most honest relationships, and as a therapist if you hold back or if you don’t believe in the strength of your client to navigate some of these loving truth bombs, then I think often we’re underselling our clients’ ability to survive, our clients’ ability to cope, and our clients’ ability to heal.
Now I also believe that all behavior makes sense, so for me if I’m seeing something and I notice it and I know what it is, but I don’t know where it comes from, I first want to kind of get a sense of where is this coming from? Why is this showing up? And I know that if I don’t understand it, I need more of the story, and once I get enough of the story, whatever that is, this behavior or this way of showing up for them or this quirk or whatever that is is going to make sense, so when I deliver this truth bomb for the client, I can also deliver it in a way that for them they can have self-compassion towards the behaviors, the attitudes, their approach, whatever that is, their energy, all of these things that are getting in the way, they can have compassion for themselves about that. To me it’s always a success if I deliver one of these truth bombs and the client… I mean again it’s not easy for me to give, I know I’ve been on the other end of that, it’s not easy to receive, but as we talk about it and as I hold space for them and as I approach it in a kind and loving way and also maintaining the integrity and honest truth of this, it’s always a success for me if the client can kind of get to this place of saying “That makes sense. Of course I do that. Knowing my story, understanding the impact on me, of course this is what I do” or “of course this is how I come across.” For me, I’m like, yeah, that’s self-compassion. That’s understanding in this radical way and having insight that can then start to lead to change. Some of these traits may have made sense at one time or they might have even been helpful when the client was younger, but oftentimes these traits or these coping skills that we had when we were younger as we grow up, they become a very painful way of living, and they get in the way of us being different or having different experiences, and so I think this process of therapy and this transformational process really is about clients starting to see that it can be different because I think oftentimes they don’t even know what needs to be different, so when they start to have this awareness, when they start to have this insight, when things start to make sense and we’re connecting dots, that’s when they start to think like maybe I don’t have to do this. Maybe it can be differently. Maybe life can be different, maybe I can be different, and when that starts to happen, we now have hope, and therapy is also about hope. If we didn’t believe that change was possible, therapy wouldn’t be a thing, so there’s hope that they can be different and that their life and their relationships can also be different, and that the suffering they may be living with and that they have lived with doesn’t have to continue.
Now I will also say that good therapists go light on both judgement and advice giving, and by and large, that’s not what people really come to therapy to find. There have been times, and even I when I’ve been a consumer of therapy and gone to a therapist, I will say sometimes like, I need advice on this. How do I handle this? And sometimes that’s really what I think I want, and when I’ve worked with really skilled therapists, I’m like oh, that’s not really the best question to ask or I ask that question and maybe I even wanted some advice or some counseling regarding how to handle this, but what they did with me was get me to understand the situation in a whole new way so that what I needed advice on is actually much more informed and I’m understanding it from a different perspective. So oftentimes if all we’re doing is giving advice as a professional, your client may follow that advice of a professional about the same amount as they would have followed the advice of a friend or a boss or their parents, which is not a really great success rate, and so again I think it’s better as therapists if we go light on judgement and light on advice giving. I think what clients come to therapy for is an experience, a healing, corrective experience. What they require is understanding, empathy, attention, acceptance, honesty, and encouragement.