There is a misconception that therapy is a place for people to go to complain or vent. While your therapist is a good person to talk to about what is going on in your life, there is much more to it than that. Complaining stays on the surface and ignores what is underneath. Therapy goes deeper, as connecting with our feelings is what will lead to lasting change.
As a relational, collaborative, process-oriented therapist, I give space to talk about what is happening but also ask you to pause, listen, notice, and explore. What we’re looking for is to answer the questions, “where is there emotional charge in the story you’re sharing? And why do you find this annoying, awkward, triggering, etc.?” You may have brushed past these feelings before, even actively avoided them, because they were uncomfortable, but this strategy isn’t always helpful and has likely led to other problems. I don’t want to repeat this strategy in therapy because that is not why you are here. So, when you come to therapy, I’m going to pause and slow you down, so that we can go into those places that are hard and scary for you. This may sound daunting and overwhelming, but through the trust and safety I build with you, we will walk together and shine a light on the areas that are hidden so that you can understand what’s happening and why. Your feelings are giving you information and I want to help you tune in and listen to the message. The key to this process is being able to feel what you couldn’t feel in a given moment with the comfort and safety of another. This is the beauty and power of therapy; your therapist builds that safety with you so that you don’t have to do it alone.
I look at my job as a way to help you shift from a state change to a trait change. A state change is how we cope or manage in the moment. A trait change involves changing your perception of self and others and your experience of the world. When you stop just riding on the surface and look below, you get a better picture of what’s happening. It allows you to be non-judgmental of yourself as you make sense of your reactions and behaviors, “Oh, that is why I do that; that makes sense.” It helps you understand, hold, and integrate all parts of yourself, “I can feel this way and that way about a situation and that’s okay.” It also provides you with more flexibility as new options become available, “Now that I know why, I can choose to keep doing that or stop doing that.” This shift allows you to be more present and aware, more curious and open, truer and more authentic, and more intentional and purposeful. This shift also increases your emotional flexibility, range, and depth. Therein lies the true value of therapy, not just getting a few things off of your chest, but lasting change.