I know it’s been a long time since I posted. Work and napping after work have kind of taken over my life. One thing I’ve been thinking about is starting therapy for the first time, as a friend of mine recently has. I thought it might potentially be useful to compile some things I’ve learned about that whole process. So, here goes:
1. Effective therapy is more than talking.
The first time I saw a psychologist as an adult was during my first semester of college. I had this idea in my head – based entirely on movies and television – that I would go in and describe my problems, then the psychologist would say, “Aha! Here is your problem!” And then I would be cured.
In reality, therapy is a long process that must take place in most, if not all, areas of your life. It involves changing the way you think about life, handle your problems, and talk to people. It can be really, really uncomfortable. But – as cliche as this sounds – if you want your life to change, you have to be prepared to actually start doing things differently.
2. You are totally allowed to disagree with your therapist.
During my sessions with that first psychologist, she would occasionally posit theories that made no sense to me. “It sounds like you’re feeling this” or “You’ve probably experienced that.” At the time, I thought that she was the one with the medical degree and was therefore the authority figure in our relationship. I thought I had to go along with everything she said.
In reality, psychologists/psychiatrists/therapists can indeed misinterpret things, apply theories that aren’t relevant to you, or just be plain wrong. You have the right to speak up when this happens. It’s also in your best interests to say something, since treatment that isn’t based on an accurate understanding of you and your circumstances is not going to be effective treatment.
3. You’re allowed to fire your therapist.
The relationship between a therapist and their client is arguably the most important aspect of any psychological treatment. You need to be able to fully trust and confide in your therapist and take the advice they give. If you can’t do either of these things, the chances that you will actually benefit from the relationship are pretty much slim to none.
Sometimes a certain therapist and a certain patient are just not a good fit. In worst case scenarios, the therapist could even be incompetent or abusive. If this is happening to you, you have every right to walk away. Tell them it’s not working out and start seeking treatment from someone else if you care to. A professional will not take this personally or get mad at you – and even if your healthcare provider fails to act professionally, that is not your responsibility.
I think those are the most important lessons I’ve learned from my adventures in psychotherapy so far. If anyone reading this cares to chime in with their own advice, please feel free.