How Does Therapy Work? A Series.

Updated: Jan 17

Step 1. Be a person

You’ve been existing on this earth for a while. You’ve had experiences—

They can be confusing.

They can be joyful.

They can be scary.

They can be sad.

They can be worrisome.

They can be frustrating.

They can make you feel two or three ways at once! Part of being a person is attempting to find meaning in your experience—connecting the dots. That’s human nature— creating a narrative. Sometimes that narrative gets jumbled. Sometimes it’s unhelpful to you. I don’t have to tell you what it’s like to be a person. You know exactly what it’s like. Having a body and a mind and a heart both connects you to those around you and sometimes moves you further away from others. Nevertheless, being capable of thoughts and feelings often feels like a blessing and a curse. So, what do you do?

Step 2. Consider therapy

Maybe you want some help sorting out the pieces of your life, creating a helpful narrative, understanding the ways in which you’re responsible for your existence— however meaningful or meaningless you may believe it to be. That’s a reason to go to therapy. Maybe you’ve been having the same disagreement with your partner for three years and you’re ready to piece apart the underlying patterns that could derive from your childhood, generation, or our animal nature.

Sometimes, daily stressors or relationships or your own thoughts lead us to significant discomfort. Sometimes significant discomfort can affect functioning in such a way that you use all your sick days at work or you’re missing three pieces of homework in a row or you’re finding yourself d i s a p p e a r i n g. Sometimes significant discomfort can affect functioning in such a way that puts you in front of your primary care doctor asking what they can prescribe. It’s possible your doctor will tell you that you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, BPD or any other number of acronyms.

But here’s the thing: therapy does not necessitate a diagnosis or vice versa. Therapy is a little mysterious and works in numerous ways. It’s not supposed to be a sounding board, but it is. A therapist is judging in that they’re attempting to analyze and synthesize what you’re saying, but they’re not providing value judgments. In that way, you’re sitting with someone who’s job is to be with you. There doesn’t have to be a back and forth: “how was your day/how was your day.” Therapy is a place for you to spill your proverbial beans all over the floor and then leave the room without sweeping that floor (if you don’t want to). Do you remember the last time you didn’t have to pick up after yourself?

So, you can sit down and do 50 minutes on why you think your boss is favoring your coworker over you even though you know you’re the only one actually preparing for conference calls. The way therapy works here is that the therapist is providing a genuine relationship in which you are given the space to have your unbridled thoughts and feelings. This is something that we are often missing when we are being parented. Not because we had bad childhoods, but because our parents are people with their own “stuff.” So, there’s often a little something inside of us that doesn’t necessarily know how to validate our feelings around even the most mundane stressors. Therapy provides you a model for parenting yourself in a way that matches your personality as well as a model for the way you can behave in relationships. You may feel like you struggle to be your genuine self in relationships (how could you ever not be yourself?). The relationship you have with your therapist is a microcosm of the way you can experience relationships in the world. You can still be regarded positively while being vulnerable.

This is not to say that therapy isn’t for clinical issues. Significant negative experiences in childhood live in your body and may live there forever. The more that you can get those experiences out of your body, the more you’re able to cope. Talking about it is typically the number one way you can cope.

Singing about it,

dancing about it,

drawing about it,

ripping up pieces of paper about it

or breathing about it

are just a short list of ways you can cope and guess what— more will be discussed in therapy. This is not an exhaustive list of reasons to consider therapy, but it’s a start.

Coming next week, more steps including doing research to find a therapist. If you’re not really into doing ALL that work, click here to schedule an initial consultation.

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