If suggests that you might want to consider working with a therapist, you might think, “I’m not that crazy!” or “I’m not weak; I don’t need anyone’s help.” These reactions point to the fact that our society has assumptions about what therapy is and who needs therapy, which creates a stigma around counseling services.
I’ve talked to some people who would say, “Well, you’re a therapist. Of course you think that everyone needs therapy.” They have a point – I might very well be biased! However, I don’t think most people need therapy. And yet, I do believe that most people could see real benefits from therapy.
So, then, who could benefit from therapy?
While the answer can be varied and more encompassing than this, one simple answer is: those who want to create real change in their lives and have had difficulty doing it on their own.
Thanks to the way our brains and bodies are built, we can become pretty set in our ways. It’s very likely that at one point in our lives, these ways of being were productive – they got us what we wanted. For example, When Ben showed anger on the playground, the kids around him would let him have his way. When Laurie was stubborn enough, her dad would let her eat whatever she wanted. And when Paula did some of her sister’s chores, she’d be allowed to go along when her sister went somewhere fun with friends.
Unfortunately, being quick to anger, being overly stubborn, or caretaking others to be accepted doesn’t always work anymore as an adult. Yelling at his boss could get Ben fired. Always saying no could invite Laurie’s partner’s resentment. And putting others’ needs ahead of her own all the time could leave Paula feeling depleted and, ultimately, isolated.
In all of these examples, the emotion, behavior, or way of being simply isn’t working anymore. They are no longer contributing to the life that these individuals want. And, when something is no longer working, it’s time for change.
Making changes – even perceivably easy changes – can be very difficult. Sometimes, the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are so automatic that we simply need another person to help us gain the awareness and tools needed to interrupt them. Other times, our way of being may have been shaped by a traumatic event, which needs to be resolved before we can make changes. Or, we may simply be afraid of what we might lose if we were to make real change. While different therapeutic approaches have their merits, I utilize body psychotherapy, EMDR therapy, and the tenets of narrative psychology in working with my clients to address these three different reasons why change is so difficult.
For a longer explanation of the benefits of body psychotherapy, I have written a series of blogs, which starts here. However, the basic principle is simple: by becoming more aware and in tune with our bodies, we can bring greater awareness into our experiences, gain access to important information, and disrupt our automatic ways of being so that we can introduce change. Not every gurgle of the tummy is necessarily going to be eye opening, but think what could happen if, say, for instance, Ben started to notice how he began to make fists each time before he yelled at his boss, which resulted in a moment of awareness where he could regain the choice to interact with his boss differently.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is a research-proven approach to processing old, traumatic or otherwise distressing events. By bringing awareness to all aspects of the experience (from the sensations to the negative thoughts to the images) while creating a sense of safety, EMDR allows your brain to naturally reprocess the a traumatic event in a way that it couldn’t when the experience was actually happening. After reprocessing, the event will not drive current behavior as it has in the past, and it will be easier to change ways of being that are no longer working. You can find out more information about EMDR Therapy here.
Once we begin to make changes in our selves and change our relationship to the events that have had such large impacts upon us, it’s natural to resist change as we face questions about who we are and who we will be. By working with your story about yourself, you can go from questioning mistakes, time wasted, and self-criticisms, to understanding the value of past experiences as well as taking ownership of your continuous growth and transformation in order to have a more satisfying and meaningful life.
You may not need therapy. Most people do not. However, the benefits that therapy can offer are often very much worth the investment. If you are considering therapy, or know someone who is, please contact me so that we may talk more about how my approach to therapy may specifically benefit you.
Angry boy photo courtesy of Jeremy Kunz.
Tunnel photo courtesy of Billie Ward.
The Power of Choice photo courtesy of Simon Greening.