When you are hurting inside, or when your life just doesn’t seem to be going the way you’d like it to be, talking with friends or family can sometimes help you feel a little better. But even the most well-meaning friend can’t offer therapy. Therapy is a unique treatment process that uses specialized techniques that have been designed to offer effective, long-lasting help for people suffering from a wide range of difficulties, such as emotional distress, anxiety, interpersonal problems, fears, a significant loss, or a clinical disorder. Therapy can also help you to achieve your aspirations for personal growth.
How Does Therapy Work?
One misconception about therapy is that seeing a therapist is a sign of weakness. In fact, the opposite is true. Recognizing the need for help and seeking professional therapy is a sign of both strength and your determination to live a productive and meaningful life. Working together, you and your therapist will identify your goals and agree on how you’ll know when you are making progress. One of therapy’s definite goals is that something positive and useful will come out of it for you.
Therapy has been called the “talking cure,” since the exchange of words between the therapist and patient appears to be the most obvious form of communication. In reality, therapy can offer a much richer experience than the simple exchange of words. The thoughts and feelings you share and the professional techniques the therapist uses are important you build a relationship together. Because the relationship with the therapist is so essential to the effectiveness of the process, it is very important that you find someone with whom you feel a comfortable connection, a therapist who makes you feel understood.
As your therapy sessions progress, and your trust in the therapist’s acceptance of your thoughts and feelings is established, you will actually use the relationship as an opportunity to reconsider significant emotional experiences and work through problems in your life. It is the very process of trusting in that safe place, where you can release your feelings, and knowing that the therapeutic relationship permits you to meaningfully explore deeply felt sources of conflict and dissatisfaction that will finally allow you to make lasting, positive changes in your life.
Choosing The Right Therapist
During the process of choosing the therapist that will best suit your needs, pay attention to the academic degrees, licenses, and certifications used in the psychology profession such as: Ph.D., Psy.D., M.D., M.F.C.C., or L.C.S.W.
Some therapists are “licensed”, some “certified”, and others will be “registered.” Therapists may also list a particular orientation for their style of therapy, you can ask the therapist to explain their practices. Wisdom, empathy, and compassion are all attributes you’ll want your therapist to have, but knowledge, experience and excellent professional training are essential. As you decide on a potential therapist, there are some specific questions you might ask that can provide valuable insight into how good a match they are for you. You can ask for some basic answers during your first phone call (as the initial phone call is usually fairly brief, focused on setting a first appointment and the particulars of the therapy schedule and fees), and ask more detailed questions during your first therapy session.
When To Seek Therapy
At times you might need to talk to someone who can help you. When you feel your life is getting out of control and you can’t fix it alone. Or you may feel trapped, and sense that there’s nowhere to turn; and you worry a lot of the time, and never seem to find the answers. When the way you feel is affecting your sleep, your eating habits, your work, your relationships, your everyday life, and the advice offered by family or friends doesn’t really help you feel any better – then you may consider seeking therapy.
Some of the most common reasons for seeking help from therapy include:
Everyone experiences emotional pain from time to time. But when the distress is particularly severe or long-lasting and interferes with your ability to function in your daily life, or If you are experiencing sadness, grief, or anxiety that is persistent, therapy can help relieve the symptoms, address the underlying causes for your distress, and provide you with help in restoring your emotional well-being.
Therapy can help you overcome the obstacles that prevent you from reaching your goals and becoming the person you want to be. Although you might not have significant clinical symptoms, therapy can help you learn more about yourself, as well as others, and how you can live your life with deeper personal meaning.
Perhaps your emotional distress is coming from difficulties in your relationship with a spouse, parent, child, co-worker or significant other. Therapy can be valuable in helping you to more fully understand the problems and provide you with the skills you need to improve your most valuable relationships.
Emotional distress or relationship problems can occur because of inadequate coping mechanisms, such as excessive shyness, weak communication skills, lack of assertiveness, or poor anger management. Therapy can help you to acquire new strategies that can then help you face and resolve many of the problem areas in your life.
Losing someone who is important to you (through death or separation) can result in great emotional pain. Therapy can be significantly helpful in coping with the loss.
Trauma, Violence or Abuse
If you have been a victim of trauma, violence or abuse you might become so overwhelmed by feelings of fear, anger, or helplessness that your ability to function effectively is significantly impaired. Therapy can help provide a safe, confidential setting in which to discuss your victimization issues with a caring, supportive expert and help you find ways to move forward with your life.
While they can be embarrassing to talk about, sexual dissatisfaction and sexual dysfunction are very common problems. There are therapists who are particularly skilled at helping you understand and overcome issues that may be impairing your sexual functioning.
If you have a psychological disorder, you can benefit from an overall treatment plan which includes therapy and others forms of treatment, such as medication, or alternative therapies (yoga, massage, sound therapies, etc.). Research findings show that individuals with psychological disorders such as ADHD, eating disorders, major depression or anxiety disorders benefit significantly more from a combination of psychotherapy, alternative therapies and medication than just from medication alone.
If you’ve never been to therapy before, you’ll wonder what that first session with your therapist will be like. It’s difficult to describe precisely what to expect, as each therapist-patient relationship is unique. However, it’s likely that your therapy process will depend on four significant factors. These are:
- Your openness with your therapist and your willingness to discuss your problems, and your full participation in the therapy process.
- Your attitude about and your commitment to your therapy.
- The personal style of the therapist you choose.
- The theoretical orientation and therapeutic approach of your therapist (psychodynamic, cognitive, humanistic, etc.)
Studies suggest, that it is not the orientation, style, or even years of experience that a therapist has, but rather the attitude of the patient that correlates most closely with successful therapy. Patients who are committed to achieving results are far more likely to benefit from therapy than those who take a “prove it to me” stance. While you may have legitimate reservations about the likely benefits of therapy, be sure and discuss those reservations with your therapist early on, and at any later point in your therapy if such feelings should resurface.
And perhaps the most important factor – your openness. The process of therapy requires you to share very personal information with your therapist, information that you may find embarrassing, or even shameful. Be advised that very strict rules of confidentiality apply to the conversations between you and your therapist, and are designed to help you feel more comfortable in sharing you life more fully and openly. Only by partnering with with your therapist can you get the full benefit of a more objective perspective, and expertise.
Have confidence that you’ll discover the therapist who is right for working with you to help overcome your problems, and progress towards a more fulfilling and happy life.