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How to get the most out of therapy(6 Posts)
Last week I had my first session with a psychotherapist, who I liked and found professional. I contacted her because I realised I wanted to find someone and some time and space to talk through things that have happened in my life over the last 15 years (basically my adult life - I'm mid-thirties) including family bereavements, a period of a highly stressful job, a couple of unhealthy relationships, and now a marriage where we both struggle to communicate, and having unexpectedly become a parent (DD now two). I also grew up in an unusual family dynamic which I think has impacted negatively on my relationships and my self-esteem. I feel like I've lost a sense of who I am, and also I think my marriage would benefit from counseling but I wanted to work on myself first and work out what I want.
In the first session I set out all of the above, cried a lot and felt tired but lighter afterwards. It felt like a good first step. But now I am very apprehensive. Mostly because I don't know where to start. There seems to be so much to cover and I've no idea how to marshal my thoughts. I am worried I am just going to end up rambling every week and not getting to the bottom of anything. I'm prepared to be in this for the long-term if it helps me feel positive about the future, as well as improve my self-esteem and my relationships with my parents and husband, but is there anything I can do to make the process easier in some way?
Or is this an extremely naive question? Should I just do a few more sessions and see how they go, before getting too hung up on the process? I will discuss my worries with the therapist but I know that ultimately she will talk about what I want to talk about - I just can't work out specifically what that is from the multitude of experiences I've had.
I should also say I had counseling in the past following the death of my brother. I liked that therapist too, and thought she was great as she helped me see that my anger was a lot to do with also 'losing' my parents to their grief. But I've never known what to do with that knowledge and in practice it has made me feel resentful over the years. So I'm also worried I will get to that point and never resolve anything in myself.
Long sorry! Any insights appreciated.
I'm glad you found a therapist you liked. I think its normal to be apprehensive and to seek ways to reduce the apprehension especially in the early stages. Who could start a new process and new relationship without feeling anxious? Only an automaton.
There is a strong sense in your post of having a "lot to cover", a "lot to get through". Of having to "get the most out of" therapy. It sounds like you brought a lot of material to your very first session and that you got deep down to the emotions quickly and told a lot of your story.
Your therapist might be as interested in the dynamics of his/her "here and now" relationship with you in the room, as in the details/history you brought.
I see you talk about "marshalling your thoughts". This interests me, especially in the context of a marital relationship where you say you struggle to communicate, that your idea (or one of your ideas) of therapy is that it's a place to transfer/download your thoughts from your head to your therapist. As opposed to, for example, a place to express your "here and now" feelings about this new relationship.
In my experience therapy works not so much by your telling the therapist all your history and the therapy shining an interpretative light on it in a way that hasn't occurred to you, like a kind of double hander Cluedo project. But more by the fact that you will relate to the therapist in the session in ways that illuminate your patterns of relating in general, with your earliest attachment figures and with your current ones (eg husband). Your therapist should be able to spot these patterns in your interpersonal dynamics.
So I wouldn't worry what to talk about. Whatever you talk about, it will be "grist for the mill". I would try to express the feelings you have while in the room, if you can feel them and name them.
A good therapist can help you to "marshall your thoughts" and move towards a positive attitude to your life through proper planning. Not all therapists ae into depp emotional naval-gazing - some approach the task as a way to help you track your way through the mire of your thoughts.
Do feel able to simply ske the therapist: "In what way do you feel you might be able to help me? - what would be your plan of action?" That is entirely reasonable; and if she says something to the effect that she has no plan and is happy to have you "waffle on" with no direction, then she is probably one to miss!
I wish you lots of luck with your brave decision ti tackle those things in your life that you ae struggling with.
Bumps has given you great advice there.
I also had the same worries as you when I started my therapy. I had so
much in my head and so much going on I didn't know where to start and worried I wouldn't be able to articulate it very well.
My counsellor worked step by step and as Bumps said shone a light and helped me interpret emotions/feelings in a way that hadn't occurred to me before. I had a lot of 'lightbulb' moments where things slotted together and I could make sense of what was going on. Take the lead from your counsellor, s/he will know how to guide your sessions. I got some life changing skills from my therapy. Best of luck OP
Wow, thanks so much for responding! and for giving me a completely different way of thinking about therapy. I have gone in to it almost seeking someone (anyone!) who will listen while I vocalise everything that's swirling around my head. However, thinking of it instead as a very much current relationship with its own interesting dynamic is really helpful. It also puts a lot of the stuff I've read about therapy in to context and the theory makes a bit more sense now.
It's also helpful for me to think about thoughts v feelings, as someone who has tended to prioritise thought over feeling for the last few years just to keep going... And I thought my issue was going to be articulating my thoughts! - I can see that I may have a much harder but hopefully more fruitful challenge of identifying my feelings and addressing my reactions to them.
One thing I was worried about is unintentionally lying or exaggerating to the therapist about my feelings or thoughts. There were a couple of things I said to her had made me feel really desperate, but when driving home I thought actually it's not so bad... I was worried that I might get bogged down in going over things which, while interesting because I haven't talked them through with anyone, might actually not be very important with respect to how I feel now. But I can see that if I'm aware of feeling like I've exaggerated something, then that could be interesting in itself, and I can discuss this with the therapist. This is very different from short-term counseling I've had in the past, which can only be a good thing. The idea of developing skills from therapy is something that hadn't really occurred to me!
Thank you so much each of you, I am feeling positive about my next session now. and also less pressured.
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