4 therapy on the fly…

PSYCHOBABBLE: Everything you ever wanted to know about therapy but were afraid to ask April 7, 2008

“ Are you analyzing me right now?’. “Ooh I better watch what I say!”. This is the reaction I often receive when I tell people I am a psychotherapist.  I reassure them that analyzing them on my time off is not something that I have any desire to do. I feel very privileged to work with the people who have chosen to work with me and blessed to be able to do work that I enjoy. But I am not about to do it for free with every person I meet. The quickest way to get a therapist to analyze you is to say those magic words. My first thought upon hearing them is “ Hmmmm…I wonder what that person is scared of…?”
I know that unless you have been in therapy yourself therapists can seem somewhat mystical and sometimes even maniacal. As if we can see through you. Which sometimes is true. But any good therapist does not offer feedback unless asked to do so, and perhaps not even then. Truly it is not a mystical process. Unless you consider the amazing strength of the human spirit and the will to live and heal, mystical. Which I do. Regardless of the number of times I see people come back from pain and horrible circumstances that they have sometimes begun this life with, I never fail to be floored by the process. In a literal sense there isn’t any Voo Doo, potions or actual head shrinking involved. The latter always brings to mind the image of cannibals. No ,just a lot of thought, theory, intuition, skill, knowledge, experience and a great big heart. Other therapists might disagree with the last ingredient. I believe, however, that you cannot truly help someone change by visiting with them their darkest of places, if you do not truly care about them. It is a unique type of love relationship. It is one-sided which is essential. That does not mean I do not learn from the people that I work with. I do. Every single session. It is a wonderful byproduct of the process. However, the focus of the process is you. For one hour out of every week on you and your growth. How often does that occur in your life?
Well you might say to yourself is that a reason to begin therapy? Just to spend an hour on myself? And I would say yes. If you have a willingness to work and something that you would like to work on then maybe therapy is the right path for you. People come in for all kinds of reasons: relationship issues, career/ life direction issues, family of origin, communication, shyness, anxiety, coming out, depression, writer’s/artist’s block, childhood sexual/physical/emotional abuse, etc. Only you can make the decision for yourself, because it is not a decision that you make once. It is a decision that you make over and over. And believe me, if you are not doing this for yourself, you will not make the decision to participate over and over again for someone else.
It is essential that you feel safe with your therapist. I do not use the word comfortable because therapy is often uncomfortable. You don’t go to feel comfortable, just to talk or even just to feel good. Essentially you are coming in to work on freeing yourself from whatever you feel holds you back. I have even heard other therapists say, “Oh, if a therapist is technically good the client doesn’t have to like them.” I think that is Bubbkus! How are you going to offer up your innermost feelings, the things that perhaps you have never told anyone else, examine and learn from them, if you don’t like the person you are working with. It is kind of like looking for an apartment or a house. Sometimes it is the first space you walk into sometimes it is the fifth, but either way the space feels good, inside of it you can see laughter and tears and a future. That is what you are looking for in a therapist. The same kind of feeling. That under their care and through working with them you can foresee a better future for yourself, even if it is just a glimpse.
Sometimes, you may have to see more than one therapist to find a match. I would suggest that you give yourself at least two sessions to see how you feel with them. The first session can be intense because is about the reasons you are seeking therapy. It can feel like a relief but it can also bring up a lot of feelings. This may be the first time you are talking about these issues. It can also feel awkward to be expressing these private thoughts and feelings to someone you do not even know. This can feel overwhelming. It may make you hesitant to return to this therapist. This could be the therapy working for you. I suggest returning for sat lest one more session to share your feelings with the therapist.
I think it is important for your therapist to have a sense of humor. It is a quality that can help you navigate the darkness. Humor can give perspective and a feeling that you are not alone, or crazy. Learning to find humor in the things that hurt you the most can make them feel all the more conquerable.

It is important that you feel respect for your therapist. There are places that they will need to push you that you will not want to go. Times when you disagree with them and will need to confront them as you are learning to confront people in your life outside of therapy. It is equally important for therapists to respect their clients. I certainly do not like or agree with everything that my clients do, but I always enjoy, genuinely care for and respect them. This is the context in which therapy works.

Which leads us to the question: What type of therapist is going to be a match for you? Old, young, a peer, same ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. How much experience would you like your therapist to have? All of these details are important . And this is not the time to be PC. You really have to ask yourself these questions and hear the answer from your gut. Make this about you and your needs not about how it might look or about pleasing others. When I think about matches for people I know. I go with my first thought which usually matches with my gut. You could try that and see what happens.

To accept insurance or not to accept insurance. I personally do not accept insurance. I have had bad experiences in which the involvement of an insurance company has added substantial and unnecessary stress to the client’s experience during a time of healing. There are some really great people working for insurance companies. I just haven’t run across them often. My sense is that they pay out as little as possible. People are making therapeutic decisions based on monetary issues: How many sessions should a particular diagnosis take to improve…etc. Often the people making these therapeutic decisions do not have any mental health training. Now that is not true for all insurance companies. Many companies do employ staff psychotherapists. I know quality therapists who do choose to accept insurance directly, working “in Network” with various insurance companies. I choose instead to work with clients who have insurance by having them pay directly. I provide them with a bill to send into the insurance company for reimbursement. This way they are able to use their insurance that they pay so dearly for and not have the insurance become directly involved in the therapeutic process.

Feedback is fundamental for a successful therapeutic relationship. Of course your therapist is supposed to give you feedback. It is also really important for you to give your therapist feedback about them, the process, things you like and were helpful. That you didn’t like and but were still helpful. Things you just did not like period. Things you might like more of such as: homework, choices of what to work on in the session, time at the end of session to regroup before leaving the office, summary at the end of or beginning of each session, etc. Therapist does not know all. I choose to practice from the Feminist Paradigm which says that the therapist is the expert on therapy and the client is the expert on themselves. The therapeutic relationship is comprised of both pieces. Gone are the days of the couch, lying down, the man, adding the occasional “Hmm, hmm” staring down his beard at you. At least in my office.

So there you have it. This about as much as I can tell you about therapy without you being in it. In my opinion we have always had therapists of a sort. They were the shamans, spirit guides, matchmakers, chiefs, grandfathers, grandmothers, great aunts, the consigliore. All of these people were in the role of providing counsel to others. As people within these communities gained distance both emotional and physical from each other, many of these roles that were integral to those communities became obsolete or nonexistent. Hence the rise of The Therapist, a person’s counsel you can seek within your present community.

We live in a world where there is great pain and great beauty. In therapy you learn to accept the pain as a part of the process of change. Change which inevitably leads to opportunity and then to some sort of beauty. Feeling more comfortable with change because of your increasing knowledge of it’s process. Finding joy and success. Setting your own pace in an urgent culture that would like to set it for you. Finding out what makes you sing and smile. Discovering your needs, which can be met by you and which need to be met by others. How to trust. How to like and love yourself. But ultimately, I think the most common denominators of healing are acknowledgement, acceptance, kindness and action. First with yourself and then with others.

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Psychobabble4u signing off:)

(c) Cori Grachek,: January, 2008

If you have any questions about therapy, are interested in therapy or just have a more private thought or question that you would like to share with me I can also be reached at .

**This is not and can never be a replacement for therapy