For 8 years I was with a therapist I loved and adored and whom I thought hung the moon. Too bad he wasn't trauma trained. Yes, we made galaxies of progress, but by the end of 8 years that's all I could say. I'd made progress. I wasn't healed. I used to wail at him, "Henry, when will we ever be finished?" And Henry would sagely reply, "You'll know when you get there."
Not good enough.
We all know that according to research conducted by the American Medical Association psychotherapy only has about a 38% recovery rate and even that result takes about 11.5 years. If we're going to be in therapy -- and I really believe in it as a foundation for healing -- then we need to set some ground rules for ourselves. We need to make sure we're in the right therapy. If I knew then what I know now, here's what I would have been thinking:
#1 We need to evolve - If we become stagnant in the therapeutic relationship we're doomed.
#2 Therapists need to be creative - If they feel stumped we're doomed.
#3 We need to make progress that releases us - If we circle endlessly we're doomed.
#4 We need to feel someone's guiding the boat - If we feel unfocused we're doomed.
#5 There needs to be a plan - If there's no structure to our therapy we're doomed.
The bottomline of all of this is that we shouldn't be the ones running the show - we should be partners with someone who knows more and sees more clearly than we do. There were many times I felt Henry didn't give me the guidance I needed to move me toward resolution. It's nice to be able to go into therapy and be allowed to talk about whatever you want. But if you're there because you have nightmares every night - and instead of discussing the cause of them you want to discuss, oh, I don't know just about everything else under the sun - then what's the point?
If a therapist can't gently guide you back to the reason you're in there then what's going to become of your quest for healing? Of course, we don't always feel like diving into the deep. But if a therapist doesn't help us build a framework for doing just that then we can't ever hope to be free.
There's no science to therapy, but even in the hands of a professional we must consider whether or not he or she is the right professional for us. Just because someone has a degree or is highly recommended doesn't mean he or she will be our personal Messiah. Wecan't just sit back, relax and say, "Whatever you say, boss." WE are the boss. It's our lives and healing that are at stake. We can't sit on the sidelines.
Even if the relationship fit is comfortable and supportive we still need to ask ourselves: Is this therapist going to take me to the place I need to go? If you find yourself (as I did) despairing that you'll never be finished, or feeling you're not getting anywhere or feeling that the therapeutic relationship isn't moving you forward toward freedom then it may be time to assess if it's the right relationship for you where you are now. We are all on a continuum. What's right at one moment can change in the next and we need to be aware of those shifts, and also, when it may be time to seek new help -- not as a decision made on the fly but as the result of some careful thinking and assessing of where we were, where we are, and where we hope we're going.
What are your experiences in therapy? Did one therapist take you all the way from struggling to healing?
(Photo: Lauren Anabela)