Thursday, December 6, 2007

More Thoughts on Therapists and Therapy

The whole subject of therapists and therapy can get pretty convoluted if you ask me. While I'm pretty sure we're all on the same page that therapy should be a healing thing, I'm think we all have different ideas about how that should be accomplished.

I also think we all have different ideas about what a therapist should do for us as well. Should a therapist be doing what we think or is there a set role they are supposed to play in healing. Personally I think the later is the case and that understanding that and what that role is can be helpful in finding the right therapist or making the choice to stay with a therapist we may already have.

So exactly what is a therapist's job? A therapist is not equipped to "fix" us although that's what most of us think. We are the only ones who can do that. All changes that lead to healing must come from within. Any outside fixes are nothing more than band aids from what I can tell.

I think the job of a therapist is to be a facilitator. Simply put to help us find our way through our feelings, to explore how they have affected us and to see if they really fit for us today.

Therapy is quite simply about changing our perceptions. While that can be simply stated it is not so simply done. Perceptions are pervasive and sneaky, if you ask me. I look back at my former view of myself and it now seems so foreign. There is no way anyone could make me wear that mantle again.

My perception of myself was so darn heavy, so destructive, so inhuman. Yet I bought it hook, line and sinker. I wore it with the same zeal and passion that I live my life today. My thoroughness nearly killed me in the process.

I had no idea when I first walked into therapy that what I was going to do there was to learn to look at myself differently. The therapist listened to what I had to say. She helped me explore those feelings to the fullest extent and she guided me to the source, my perceptions. Once there, she provided me with the tools to challenge my perceptions.

She never pushed her values or her perceptions upon me. She helped me to see that I was living my life by a double standard. There was one set of rules for others and a much harsher set of rules for me. She helped me to see that others had something to gain by keeping me knocked down under those harsh rules.

I don't remember her ever specifically saying I could or couldn't do something. I don't even remember her saying that anything that happened to me was particularly terrible. What I do remember is questions, lots of questions. Those questions helped me to find my way through the maze of my psyche.

So I started off in therapy believing that I was a horrible person and that I didn't deserve to be alive. I believed that if people could see who I was they would run from me in horror. So it was better to keep my distance to avoid rejection. I believed that I was fat and ugly, oh and stupid also comes to mind.

My therapist helped me to see that all of those labels I had learned from the offenders in my life. I had woven them into quite a garment that I wore always. Allowing my feelings to the surface and exploring them helped me to see the root of all those labels.
Seeing the offenders in a true light instead of the way they had insisted I see them, helped me to question the validity of their labels for me. I came out the other end believing that I am a good person and that I have a lot to offer the world. I did that with the help of a therapist who supported me with her questions. Questions that I thought were to help her understand when they were really questions to help me to understand.


Lynn said...

This makes a lot of sense to me, RR. Especially the part about being able to question the labels that have been assigned you by taking a really good look at those who put them there. Though I am not in the best of places right now, I am still much better off than I was before. My mother had me wrapped around her little finger and my life was a living hell with her. I first called this therapist because I was having such a miserable time when I decided to move out of the neighborhood (she was eleven doors down!) and I knew she was going to give me hell and I didn't feel like I could deal with it. The funny thing is, I had been thinking about moving to get away from her for a long time, but it was an incident of extreme violence across the street that made me hurry up. I had no idea at the time what kind of terrible stuff had been triggered by that. Ugh.

Enola said...

Sounds like you had a great therapist. I do too and I'm so grateful.

Kahless said...

I could write loads more myself on therapy; such an emotive subject.

Your post is a good one and I enjoyed reading it.

"She helped me to see that I was living my life by a double standard. There was one set of rules for others and a much harsher set of rules for me."

Rings true for me too.

A have a couple of questions which I'll pop back with, as I have to dash now...

Lily Strange said...

Man, I wish I could find a therapist like that. I've gotten just so far with them. At this point I can't afford therapy anyway though.
I do have that double standard for myself. I know I'm my own worst enemy. But how to change it. That, I'm not sure.

Fallen Angels said...

I've been lucky to find a really good T as well...I am really greatful for that.

Your last two lines have really stuck with me. Not really sure what to say about it other than it has put a whole new light on things in t for me.


jm said...

finding a good therapist and realizing it can be so beneficial to the healing process. we had some bad luck with therapists but we did see a few good ones. sometimes it seems some areas are devoid of knowledgeable Ts sometimes but that is probably a negative perception on our part. anyway, this is a good post in our opinion and thank you for it.

peace and blessings


April_optimist said...

For me, my therapist was there to provide a safe space in which to explore the dark things I was afraid of facing. He believed me and IN ME when I had trouble doing so myself. I will always be profoundly grateful that he did.

Rising Rainbow said...

lynn, it surprises me sometimes the similarities between your life and mine. I was wrapped around my mother's little finger as well. And I lived right across the street from her. Boy am I glad to be free of that! lol

enola, I am grateful too both that I had a great therapist and that you have one too!

kahless, I am still waiting on your questions. Did you decide not to ask them or did you forget?? I really do appreciate your questions.

lily strange, it's one step at a time on the change. It's awkward too. But knowing you have it is a good start.

fallen angels, I'm glad if it is helpful.

Kahless said...

No I hadn’t forgotten; but I wondered whether the answer lay in “it depends upon the individual.”

Another blogger said to me recently, and it may have been a tongue in cheek comment I am not sure, that my therapist needs to push me more. That posed a lot of questions in my mind about the role of therapist. I look back at my last T and he really challenged my thinking, but he always seemed to challenge everything I said. In one way I felt it was a mind-f*ck but in another way I wonder whether that was what “therapy was about” That I needed challenge to change. But he would never let me disagree with him; if I did he said I was playing a game and it was indicative of the struggle within my head and that I should let go of the struggle.

My current T supports me and cares about my wellbeing. She said I don’t have to answer any question she asks if I don’t want to. She doesn’t accuse me of playing any games and accepts me. Part of me feels that I need someone to stand at my side and believe me. But am I fooling myself and it not helping me.
I used to dread seeing my old therapist, but felt I would also be lost without seeing him. I look forward to seeing my new therapist as I feel I have stuff which I really want to talk to her about. Last T I would leave the session and feel crap. New T and I leave no worse and often better when I walk away. Is that wrong? Is my current therapist sufficiently challenging me? Do I have to be challenged and pushed in a big way? I want someone to understand me. I have not had the experience of someone understanding me in my life. I want to learn that it is possible. So I tell her loads more stuff than I ever told the last T.
What are your thoughts on the subject?

Thanks as always

Rising Rainbow said...

kahless, wow, I have lots of thoughts on this. I already have a post written for today but I will work on this and maybe post something tomorrow. But in short form, I think you need to trust your feelings NOT your head. Sounds to me like your feelings tell you that the current therapy helps you to feel better while the therapy with the other therapist did not. I would listen to that. Specifically why I feel this way and the answers to your questions I will include in the post or posts.