To be a good therapist, it is important to undergo the process of therapy yourself. The first time I went for counselling was during my masters program, when I had not even thought about undergoing counseling myself. In my naïveté, I had believed that I was quite ready to simply ‘deliver’ therapy. Thankfully, I had to go for counseling as an academic requirement, because once I finally found my therapist, there was no looking back. We worked through so many of my issues, and it made me sensitive to being on the other side of the equation too. Over the years of being on both sides of the counselling process, I have learnt a few things that I’d like to share. But before I jump into that, let me explain what therapy means to me.
Therapy is the process of meeting with a trained therapist to resolve unwanted thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are causing distress, or working on challenges that we might be facing. A therapist will create a supportive environment where we can talk freely about our concerns.
The therapeutic process, if warm and nurturing, can help us live a healthier and more productive life.
Now, here’s how I’ve come to understand therapy, and how I think you should understand it too:
Therapeutic progress is a gradual process
There is often not about that one big moment where we overcome our issues and suddenly everything is fine. Therapy is gradual and instead involves a series of small victories. This process requires us to work outside therapy as well by applying to our lives what we realize in the therapy room. Be patient; let’s give ourselves time to understand what’s going on within us.
Therapy is empowering
Being treated medically involves complete eradication of the illness or disease using chemical medication. In therapy, we are helped by becoming empowered by working on our strengths. We can then feel like stronger individuals who are equipped to deal with the challenges of life, with or without therapy.
Therapy is an interactive process
Sometimes there are more questions, sometimes there is less talking, sometimes there is so much to say, sometimes there is complete silence. But there is always interaction.
A good therapist will not tell us what to do, but will guide us and help us look for solutions that come from us, and seem best according to us to resolve our concerns.
Whatever it is that we choose to do through therapy is created and resolved together.
Therapy is for everyone
Therapy is not only exclusively for people diagnosed with mental illness. Therapy can help everyone explore themselves and help us lead a more meaningful or more aware life. It can help us understand our emotions and find our strengths to work on which will help us build a strong foundation for our future selves.
Therapy can be enjoyable
Some think that therapy is a scary process that involves uncomfortable questions about the past – mainly childhood – where a therapist keeps digging for unconscious issues. This is not true.
You can talk about whatever you like in therapy – issues and happinesses alike.
You can talk about anything that matters to you. Sometimes this can involve your past – but it’s really up to you how much you’d like to talk about it.
Therapy is not easy
I said that therapy can be enjoyable, but it also involves hard work. When you go for therapy, you challenge beliefs and ideas that you have held on to for years. You try to change but might find yourself slipping into a web of challenges. Sometimes just opening up to your therapist can be challenging. But you need to remember that this is all part of the process, and all towards making you feel better about your past, present and future.
Let’s change the way we view therapy.
Talk about our experiences, write about them or sing about them. Let more people know what therapy is like.
Let’s reduce the assumptions that stop people from receiving help they need, and accepting therapy as one possible avenue for this. Let’s invite society to accept therapy as a healthy and positive choice.