What your therapist wants you to know about therapy
by, Lisa Herman, PsyD, LP
You know that feeling…when you get introduced to someone new and you ask them, “What do you do for work?” and they look at you with a gentle glance and say, “I’m a therapist.”
As your new therapist acquaintance waits to see how you will react to his/her job profession, an inside joke among our colleagues is that it most likely will go one of two ways:
1) You automatically think, “Yikes, now they’re analyzing me!” and you will find any excuse in the book to slowly step away from that dangerous ESP-like therapist person;
2) You want to ask them their thoughts about your rocky relationship, if your crappy mood is “normal” or what you think about the latest issue on mental health in the news.
Clearly, not everyone has an extreme reaction. Yet, this running joke must come from somewhere?
Have you ever wondered what mental health therapists REALLY want you to know about therapy?
I asked our own Synergy eTherapists, what they want people to know about therapy.
If you’ve never been to therapy, just like most first time experiences, it can be really nerve-wracking, overwhelming and even down right scary!
I mean, you’re talking to a stranger about your deepest, most vulnerable thoughts and feelings!
What??!! Why??!! This concept can seem so bizarre.
And even worse, most people don’t really know WHAT to say or WHERE to begin. People might think that in order to go to therapy, you should be aware of your thoughts/feelings on a pretty consistent basis AND be able to express all of it – in, like, actual, words – to some so-called “emotion-grabbing” helpful stranger whose going to sit there and stare at me.
Maybe that’s not the exact technical term for a Therapist (“emotion-grabber”), this is more like it:
Word Origin: Noun
A person trained in the use of psychological methods for helping patients overcome psychological problems.
In order to take the mystery out of mental health counseling and reduce stigma of attending, I wanted to debunk a few myths, ask a few questions, and gather some truths from those that know best: Therapists!
Here are a few thoughts from some of our very own Synergy clinicians.
Andria Botzet, MA, LAMFT, Synergy eTherapist
“Know that it can be an emotionally difficult experience at times, and challenge yourself to stick with it, even when it gets hard. “
Therapy takes work. I wish therapists had magic wands to make everything all better with just a wave of the wand! The reality is that if therapy was easy, people would have done it on their own already. Know that it can be an emotionally difficult experience at times, and challenge yourself to stick with it, even when it gets hard. That’s where the growth really begins!
Therapy is a process. Having realistic expectations about that process will enrich your therapeutic experience. Most therapy doesn’t look like it’s portrayed on television shows! Talk to your therapist about how you can collaborate to address your concerns and create realistic expectations for your experience.
Which type of therapist to see. A Psychologist (LP) a Family Therapist (LMFT) or a counselor (LPC)? The primary difference between the various types of therapists is our training. Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT, LAMFT) work with couples (married or not!) and families as well as individuals and groups; our training has focused more on the relational aspects of a person’s well-being, so even when we work with individuals, we are considering the interactions of that person’s larger family & social network.
Lisa Herman, PsyD, LP, Synergy eTherapist
“You are the expert! We work together in a collaborative manner to help you find the most authentic and peaceful version of yourself. “
Therapists’ kids (and sometimes therapists!) have tantrums, too. Just because therapists who work with children and families know some of the best techniques to use when responding to an emotionally exhausted “threenager” or teenager, doesn’t mean therapists respond perfectly to our own kids all the time. The hope is that we are aware of our limitations in the moment (or day or week!) and know when to reach out for support.
You are the expert! The therapist is the guide, the teacher, the mentor, the guru…we work together in a collaborative manner to help you find the most authentic and peaceful version of yourself. Not every technique will work; maybe you prefer to use some skills over others. Just because we suggest an idea doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. With some trial and error and team work, a lot can happen both with symptom reduction as well as with improving communication skills inside of the therapeutic relationship.
Therapists typically do know how to switch from wearing the clinical hat at work to our casual hat at home. Some people might think that therapists are always asking everyone in our family, “How do you feel about that?” or helping our friends learn about mindfulness (well, sometimes we do!). However, we are trained to leave our clinical hat at the office and to not over-analyze everything that happens in our personal life.
Nicole Smith, PsyD, LP, Synergy eTherapist
“Taking steps to take care of you will affect everything and everyone else in your life in a positive way. “
Any change is possible. Whatever you put effort in to changing is possible with the right resources and personal effort. Your therapist can help you determine what resources (e.g., friends, family, community resources) could be positive supports for you depending on your situation at that time. The effort you put into therapy can be directly related to the amount of progress you feel over time.
It’s important to take care of you. Taking steps to take care of you will affect everything and everyone else in your life in a positive way. The healthier and more balanced you are, the better everyone around you will be. Self-care IS engaging in the therapy process.
Kayce Bragg, LPC, Synergy eTherapist
“Meaningful change can take time, so stick with it and make sure you’re ready to maintain on your own. “
Therapy is hard. It takes a lot of work on your part and sometime you might feel like you want to quit. Sometimes your therapist might say things that are hard to hear, but if you keep pushing through and process those emotions together, it will be worth it in the end!
Therapy takes time. Because the immediate focus is on getting you some relief with short-term goals, you may feel better within a few sessions and think you don’t need it anymore. Meaningful change can take time, so stick with it and make sure you’re ready to maintain on your own.
Therapy is fun! It can be very cathartic to have someone to talk to about your problems who doesn’t have a stake in the outcome. If you develop a good rapport with your therapist, it can sometimes feel like talking with a friend. It’s “okay” to laugh and enjoy yourself!
A few other therapists in a closed Facebook group for therapists chimed in as well, and here is what they said they wanted you to know:
Therapists are human, just like you!
When working with children, parents should plan to be actively involved and ready to make some changes of their own in order to improve their child’s behaviors.
Therapy is not an event it’s a process.
Meet a few therapists before you pick one. If you don’t “feel” comfortable, choose to see another therapist with a different therapeutic orientation. People often give up on therapy because they start with someone new who isn’t a good fit fro them and they assume therapy is “not for me.” Try someone new and know that healing is for everyone!
Therapeutic alliance and trust are important in any treatment and the process of therapy. Use the therapy office to practice voicing uncomfortable feelings as this will help when you communicate with those you love in your own life.
We don’t ask clients to lie down on a couch anymore!
You will get more out of therapy if you do the work outside of the 50 minute session.
What questions have you always wanted to know from therapists? We welcome your questions through Facebook or email. Feel free to contact any of us to learn more about how online therapy could benefit you or a loved one.
Dr. Lisa is the founder of Synergy eTherapy and Licensed Psychologist in MN and NY.
To schedule your FREE consultation with her, please click HERE.