We live in a bit of a ‘go to an expert to fix all my problems’ kind of culture and because of this I find that there can be a tendency to stay with a therapist longer than necessary or worse yet, stay with one that doesn’t necessarily help at all, yet because we’ve handed our power over them in the short-sighted belief that they can fix us we don’t even realise that we’re not getting better. Let me be clear about this – only you can heal yourself and it’s up to you to take that responsibility, find those tools (from the right therapists) and commit to doing that difficult work, yourself. I find that until this realisation is met many people spend a lot of time spiralling in avoidance and escapism spirals in the illusion that someone is healing them, when in reality only you can heal yourself. I know this because I experienced this first hand and had to call myself out on my own bullsh*t, but to do that takes awareness, reflection and courage, it wasn’t easy.
When I think about therapy, there are a lot of things at play here and ultimately the therapist is only human too so we have to see them for what they are – someone who provides tools for us to heal ourselves, whether that’s providing healing through massage for symptoms such as physical pain or a different perspective on how to think about life events. The role of a therapist isn’t to give the final fix solution and to think of them in this way is naive, like any other human, they might get it wrong or their judgement might get the better of them and this is ok (within reason) because they’re only human too. This isn’t to say that they should be allowed to work by sloppy practices, not at all. As long as they act professionally and try to do the best for the client with the tools that they have available to them I think it’s acceptable to acknowledge that they are on their own journey too, learning things and passing them on as they go. But ultimately the work that needs to be done remains within the responsibility of the client.
I’ve found that in order to really steer my recovery I had to keep asking myself a series of questions so that I didn’t get lost in the wishful thinking that x, y or z therapy was going to ‘heal me forever’ because that my friends, that, is delusional thinking. These are the questions that I use to sense-check my therapies and how they are currently working for me.
- Has this session made a positive influence on me?
If you read my therapy reviews you’ll notice that I do a physical and emotional sense check before and after each therapy review. By doing so I allow myself to check in with the current state, record them as they are, then I can go back to what I’ve written and objectively see whether or not the therapy was beneficial to me, rather than just rely on my (often rose-tinted) memory. If no positive difference has been made then you can choose to persist and see if you need a few more sessions to really get into it or consider that it may not be the one for you. If it’s positive, great! Stick with it for as long as you continue to get what you need from it.
- Am I still getting what I came here for?
Firstly what are you going to the particular therapy for? If you’re going to have your symptoms treated then regular sessions are probably useful and necessary, that’s how I use sports massages – a good way to manage the problem of my tense shoulder that is sometimes unbearably tight. However, if you’re looking to heal then it might help if therapy is seen as an opportunity to receive tools that help you solve your problems. I used my counselling sessions for both treatments of symptoms – I needed to vent in a non-judgemental space to release some pent up emotion but I also needed some objective viewpoint and knowledge of what might be happening in my brain to be able to understand, process and help myself in the reflection periods in between sessions. After quite a few sessions I reached a point where I felt like I’d attained all the tools that I needed from this counsellor and that particular therapy. It was the signpost that I didn’t need any more sessions, for then at least. I take comfort in the fact that I know a good counsellor who knows my baggage and can be there for more sessions as and when I need them for now though I feel quite capable of processing on my own and I know this comes from a place of reassurance, rather than fear of what’s in my subconscious.
- What does my intuition say?
Ultimately all therapists are only human and are still susceptible to human traits, such as mistakes, misjudgements and their own emotions. The most important role of a therapist is to create the security for you to be able to get what you need from them, whether that is emotional security in a meditation workshop, physical security in salon environment or psychological security in a counselling session. If you don’t feel safe then you won’t be able to indulge in the therapy. I found however, that the fear can either be a resistance to the therapy for fear of expression (usually because of the shame that our society associates with expression of emotion) or that it’s a legit message from my intuition that is telling me that this person/therapy isn’t right for me at this moment. I always air how I feel now and give the therapist the opportunity to make me feel secure, just in case it’s my own worry of what I’m too shameful to let go of, which most of the time it is. If the therapists answer fills me with integrity and security then I know that it was a fear of vulnerability/expression popping up but it’s always worth sense-checking this because I have had a few experiences where I’ve not been satisfied with the answer and I’ve upped and left the therapy altogether.
For example, my first experience with a counsellor after the attack was not positive but I fought my intuition and went back a second time and this time I told the counsellor of my expectations – of being able to get on a boat in 4 weeks time and sail from the UK to Mallorca, in winter, with three men I’d never met before. The answer I received rang alarm bells for me to change counsellor, it was “I would never recommend for any young woman to get on a boat across tricky waters with three strange men, let alone in the state that you’re in”. What happened here was that the counsellor had measured me by her own limitations when in reality our risk factors and capabilities are completely different. As a trained counsellor, she should have been able to extract her judgement from her professional opinion but she didn’t. This is actually pretty bad practice for a counsellor and I hope that she has the mindfulness to reflect on this, and why I ultimately cancelled all our future sessions, however, I also recognise that like me, she’s also only human too and we’re all constantly working through things so I’m compassionate towards this. I can’t expect everyone to have the same level of courage, adventure and well, let’s be fair, recklessness that I may appear to have, I imagine for some this attitude to life is really scary. I can, however, choose to leave a therapist that doesn’t understand me and find one that does, which I did because ultimately I am in control my healing, no anyone else.
For the record, I got on that boat and sailed across those ‘tricky’ waters with those three ‘strange’ men.
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