Therapy really can work, but maybe not for the reasons you may think it does. Movies and TV have caricatured therapy in many negative ways, and often portray the space as sappy, shallow, unhelpful. I’d like to dispel some of the myths and give a clearer explanation as to why therapy really can help.
First and foremost, therapy is not a place where advice is dispensed. Most therapists did not go to school to become professional advice givers. I’m not saying that suggestions aren’t ever made in the therapeutic relationship, but advice giving is not primarily what the work is about, and certainly not what produces lasting change.
Secondly, there is nothing magical about therapy. Your therapist is not holding magical knowledge that, once you hear it, everything will be different. Therapists are not fixers or rescuers.
Here’s a more helpful way of thinking about yourself in therapy:
- You know that something’s not working, for example your relationships, your job, your level of life satisfaction. Or you’re sad, angry, isolated, confused, or some combination of these.
- The effective therapist is going to, with you, create a space where you can question your assumptions, look at your presuppositions, process your losses, validate your hopes and needs.
- Good Therapy is a space where you can say words you’ve longed to say, or feared saying. You can try new approaches to old conversations or beliefs, and know that you will not be judged. You will come to understand that you, even at your worst, make sense.
There is a significant body of research that has found that therapeutic technique accounts for only 15% of a person’s improvement in therapy. 15% is attributed to the individual’s expectancy that the therapy is going to help. We call that the hope factor.
30% of what contributes to a client’s overall improvement is attributed to the therapeutic relationship that develops, Which means you need to make sure you’re sitting with someone with whom you feel really comfortable.
Finally, 40% of the change a person experiences during their time in therapy is about the choices they begin making in their lives outside of the therapy space. Which answers the question: What am I going to do with my new found understanding and awareness?
Doing therapy well, and reaping the benefits, is really hard work. No magic words, no technique that will spark lasting change. Therapy is about creating space where you can say anything, and take risks, and begin to imagine living your life with greater intention.
Take your time when you’re looking for a therapist. You get to be picky, and we as therapists are used to rejection. It’s not about us. Interview several therapists, because this work is largely about being with the right person, that you believe can walk with you on your journey of healing and growth.
If we at Cedar Tree Counseling can be helpful to you in that process, please feel free to give us a call. We’d love to help.
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