The secret to having a life-changing experience
To be honest, this isn't a topic I usually think about or discuss. The people who come into my office have typcially already answered the question of "why therapy?" long before I meet them. Their answers might include: "It's worked for me in the past", "I have nothing else to try", or "why not?"
These are all good answers, to be sure, but I think the best answer is because you are ready. Ready for the change for the better, ready to try another way to achieve it, ready for your life to be different. You know what change I'm talking about - the one you've been thinking about, maybe for years: more open and real communication with your partner; or less loneliness, or drinking, or self-criticism; or just simply more joy, fulfillment, or contentment. In short, a better life.
Now don't misunderstand me. Therapy is not magic, and it seems to me that many people seem to think it is, unfortunately. This misperception doesn't help therapists at all. Clients come in either expecting a miraculous, instantaneous change just by being in the therapist's office, or they don't come in at all, thinking therapy is some sort of voodoo where the therapist can read your mind and exploit your weaknesses.
Therapy is neither, though it is both a science and an art. The secret to good therapy - therapy that WORKS - is twofold: one, a solid relationship with your therapist built on trust, and two, your committment to do the work.
What do I mean by these two elements? First, the all-important therapy relationship - you need to be able to trust your therapist, and believe that he or she truly cares about your problems and honestly wants to help you. A great therapist will encourage an open dialogue with you, even about ways you think they (the therapist) might have screwed up or misunderstood you. As in life, the therapeutic relationship is not based on the fake, potentially plastic avoidance of conflict, but the ability to have the conflict and work it out together.
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