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Unraveling Therapy

A few years ago I saw this illustration that captured the idea of therapy:

The first image illustrated what would be the client (but let’s call him human) before coming to therapy: sullen, defeated, uncertain, void of purpose/meaning with a thought bubble above his head that looked like the ball of Christmas lights Russ is tasked to untangle in the infamous National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. 

The second illustrated that same human sitting across from what would be the therapist— snug in her cardigan (yes, we have a collection of them) sitting in her chair taking the collection of jumbled thoughts and feelings and unraveling them one by one— the human, I can imagine, is experiencing a sense of relief and clarity as each thought or feeling was untangled. 

I love this illustration, as it has stuck with me for quite some time. The therapeutic journey is one that is sacred and hard to be described by any one human, as we each enter  this space for different reasons and for different seasons in our lives. 

For many, maybe they have yet to find the courage to seek out a therapist to help unravel the messiness of their humanness, and that’s okay! 

The honest truth: many individuals may come, or avoid, scheduling their first appointment because of their assumptions or misunderstanding about what therapy is, and is not; Let’s take a moment to unravel some of these preconceived notions:

What it is not: A quick fix • The illustration described above, as great as it might be, may give the false impression that you can “try it (therapy) once” and be cured, but there is nothing farther than the truth. The therapeutic process is not hasty or impatient, but rather a slow burn. It allows room for you to explore, expand and evaluate areas of your life and experiences at a rate that is comfortable to you. Your life and your story is unique to you and there are no promises towards specific outcomes. Your process will require its own set of skills, interventions and processes. Finding the right therapist for you and your stressors is key to unlocking the benefits of therapy. Tip: our administrative team would be happy to support you in finding a right fit from our talented therapists here at ZTG.

What it is: A space for self-acceptance • All forms of therapy aim to support you in being more accepting and compassionate towards who you are. Self-acceptance alone is a huge force for change. As Carl Rogers once said “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” In this space we honor your complexity and your humanness and when you decide to, too, you can move mountains!

What it is not: An eraser • Therapy is designed to help support you in managing life more effectively. As much as anyone could hope, the pain, difficult memories or challenges of your past cannot be taken away/erased by therapy, but it is an opportunity for you to relate differently towards your past and explore and redefine meaning from those experiences that shape your life and who you are today. 

What it is: A space to increase openness • Therapy has the potential to let you see life more as a dance, rather than a series of obstacles, suffering and road blocks whether they are from your past or what you see when you look ahead into your future. When you have a greater openness towards life you learn to accept the full complexities of life and what it means to be human. To be human means to embrace the highs and lows in order to cultivate a greater meaning and more well-rounded perspective. 

What it is not: A friendship • A healthy therapeutic trust and rapport between you and your therapist is necessary for therapy to do what it is designed to do. It is common to feel close to someone you’ve confided in –  however, your therapist is there to support you in a professional manner and will strive to set and model healthy boundaries that give you optimal space to explore YOU— your thoughts, emotions and values in a nonjudgmental, safe space. 

Reminder: *Therapy should NEVER include sex - click here to learn more

What it is: A space to learn how to manage symptoms Having difficulty with depression, anxiety, stress, etc?  Therapy can help you identify new ways of coping with such struggles. One should not expect for symptoms to go away entirely, but expect to learn to be more confident in managing symptoms that disrupt your day to day life. 

What it is not: A change agent • One big key to therapy is recognizing that as much as you want your therapist to change you, it’s not our job. You, first, must recognize and desire change within yourself. A therapist cannot force you to change. Like the stubborn 15 year old we all once were, if you’re not ready to make a change, no one else can make you either. Talking with your therapist about any resistance/ambivalence surrounding change could be a great place to start. 

Whether you are embarking on your first therapeutic journey, your sixth or twentieth, I hope you embrace the fullness of your human experience and honor your ever present journey towards self-discovery and life fulfillment.

In closing, I’d like to end this first blog by quoting Lisa Olivera, a therapist and author of the book Already Enough - a Path to Self-Acceptance:

“As a therapist I won’t: Try to fix you. Give you advice. Tell you what to do. Pretend I know more about you than you do. Assume what is best for you. Have all the answers. Make the hard stuff go away. As a therapist I will: Remind you that you aren’t broken. Give you room to access your own wisdom. Support you in figuring out what to do. Recognize that you are the expert on your own life. Remember that only you know what is best for you. Honor that I don’t know it all. Collaborate with you on how to make the hard stuff easier to sit with.”


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