There are many different schools and styles of therapy. But, consistently it has proven that the quality of the relationship between counselor and client is critical to the successful outcome regardless of the approach. Trust, safety, willingness to take risks and explore difficult terrain requires a special connection. Here are some individual experiences with the therapeutic process.
“I was hesitant at first, to see a therapist. Honestly, I always thought that was for people who were mixed-up, or couldn’t cope with life. That’s not what it’s about. After my divorce came through six months ago, I found myself thinking about everything. I couldn’t stop reminding myself about the mistakes I’d made. A friend of mine suggested counseling, so I did some research and found someone not that far away. We’ve been working together now for about three months and I feel so much different. I’m less anxious. Those bothersome thoughts don’t run around my head all the time. I’m so glad I chose to do this.”
“When my mom died suddenly I was a mess. She wasn’t even sick! All of a sudden one night I got the call from my sister that she had collapsed, and was dying in hospital. I didn’t want to believe it. I couldn’t accept it. My sister and brother sat me down, and suggested grief counseling. I called the funeral home and they helped me find someone. He’s wonderful. Really understanding. He listens to everything I have to say, but he doesn’t tell me what to do. I’m glad. I don’t want someone doing that. He asks me what I want to do. He asks me what I need. I don’t think I could be coping as well without this process.”
“Our 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed with persistent leukemia over a year ago. At first, my husband and I went into denial. This couldn’t be happening to our sweet little girl. But it was. Sitting beside her in the hospital, so fragile, so vulnerable, and so sick broke my heart. I couldn’t deal with it. Each day was exactly the same; get up in the morning, go to the hospital, sit with her, come home, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day, and the next. One of the doctors noticed the dark circles around my eyes. He said I looked “wiped”, and suggested I see one of the Social Workers in the hospital. So, I did. My goodness, I can’t believe the difference. Finally, someone was listening to me! I was suffering too, and I was making myself sick. He pointed this out to me, and we started to talk about all the feelings I’d been bottling up for so long. Now, I’m coping way better, and I can face each day with some renewed hope.”
“I went to a therapist some years ago, and I did feel better. But, then, I lost my job, finances got rough, and I felt really down. My doctor said I had depression and I should see someone. I realized that just because you see a therapist doesn’t mean everything will be perfect. This time I asked around more. I checked out a few people. I even had a few sessions with different therapists before I chose someone. I’m working with her now, and find that there are so many issues I didn’t deal with the first time. This therapist is a much better match for me. I see her twice a week, but eventually will go down to once a week. This was a good decision.”
“Honestly? I thought people going to therapists were a bunch of whiners; always crying about how hard their lives were. Then, I got sick. I couldn’t get better. Doctors called it Lyme Disease. There were days I was in so much pain I couldn’t think straight. Sure, the doctor helped, but I realized I was lashing out at everyone. Yelling at people; frustrated, angry, and I wanted everything to go back to what it was. My doctor said I should see someone. I didn’t want to, but I followed his advice. I see this counselor once a week now. I can’t believe the difference in my life. He helps me so much. We talk about everything I’m going through. All my feelings, my worries, my fears, and all the things I still want to do in life. He’s helping me to separate myself from the disease. I wouldn’t be doing nearly as well if I didn’t have him.”
“I come from the most dysfunctional family you can imagine. My dad was a long-time alcoholic, and my mom was his enabler. Two older brothers both died from a drug overdose. Over the years, I just tried to say it was them and not me. I’m nothing like them. Then, I took a course in college on psychology, and I learned I could be at risk too. I decided to see one of the college counselors. What a difference! There were so many things I needed to say that I didn’t even realize. I am a lot angrier than I thought. I find talking to the counselor to be the best part of my week. And, I’ll keep going until everything is worked out.”
Do any of these experiences sound familiar? Going to a therapist or counselor for individual therapy doesn’t mean you have a mental illness, or that you’re in trouble. It means that you need someone to talk to for any number of reasons. In the course of a lifetime, so many things happen to us that are unexpected. And, there are the expected problems too, such as the death of loves ones. For all these reasons and more, individual therapy can be a truly healing experience.