By Cheryl Deaner, MS, LMFT
Therapy can bring positive changes to a person's life that last a lifetime. However, having a certain mindset going into it can make it a richer experience. Here are three suggestions for you if you are thinking of starting therapy.
First, you have to want to change what is causing you pain. You might think, "Well, of course I do!," but it is not that simple. By change I mean changing yourself, which is actually the only way you can get anyone else to change. Changing yourself can be challenging and can require persistence. However, there is nothing like the serenity and confidence that can be yours when you realize that your life has been made better purely through your own effort.
The second suggestion is to be willing to be frank - to take some risk in telling the truth, not just to the therapist, but most importantly to yourself. How have you gotten to the place you are in today? How are the feelings you are having affecting your life? What influences have made you who you are today? Questions like these sometimes are not answerable in a first session. It can take awhile for deeper truths to surface. You may not be able to immediately understand why things are like they are, but your story will come out at its own pace if you let it, and a good therapist will be sensitive to that pace. You may discover that letting someone truly know you can be not only a major relief, but a turning point in your life.
The third suggestion is to spend some time finding the right person to work with. Is the therapist you contact willing to talk to you on the phone first to help you decide if their personality, training and style feel like a good fit for you? Do they seem kind? Can they listen? After a session, do you leave a therapist's office feeling better than when you walked in? Trust grows from a good relationship, and therapy is about being very real.
When therapy works, it is a powerful healing tool that allows you to see beyond your present circumstances. It can be an experience that not only enlivens your thinking and feeling, but gives one the kind of hope, clarity and connectedness you need to live life more fully. Therapy is a unique relationship like none other, and trust grows when therapy feels right.
About the Author...
Cheryl Deaner, LMFT, practices on the Oakland/Emeryville border of the East Bay and in San Francisco. She sees individuals, couples and families and specializes in relationships, codependency and life-transitions.
Last Update: 8/27/2011