Going through a period of psychological turmoil can be taxing on anyone, and having to deal with a mental health issue in the first person is no joke. If you are seeking help, attending therapy, taking medication, or planning to, this letter is for you. It is a compilation of the observations I have made with my clients, and the accounts I have heard from fellow Psychologists. It is a small effort on my part to help you understand and remove the obstacles that may hinder the effects of therapy for you. Having said that, this is not a generalization but an example of what you can do to help your therapist help you better.
The most common problem that arises in therapy is that of dishonesty — where the client either hides a part of the truth or lies about one or more aspects of his/her life. Many therapists may want to include the point of clients not doing their homework, but that’s still a lighter matter that can be taken up later. I would also like to rule out clients who exaggerate their symptoms because that can be seen through very clearly and taken care of easily.
As humans, we are prone to giving in, every now and then, to the many vices of our human nature. We want to feel accepted, we want to have a sense of belonging, we want to be liked, we want to be seen as good people. In the course of fulfilling these desires, we tend to compromise on our actual identities by adopting a hint of fake-ness in our mannerisms. Knowingly or unknowingly, we do this in order to avoid negative consequences of showing our true selves to other people — real or perceived.
When we do this for too long, putting on a mask day in and day out, it leads to one of two things — we either become the mask we adopt, forgetting who we really are, or we become so frustrated with having to put on a mask that we desperately seek a person or place where we could just be ourselves. While in everyday living, this may or may not be a source of stress or hindrance, it is a huge hurdle in therapy.
You see, the very essence of therapy is to help you discover yourself and be a better version of yourself, for you to be authentic and comfortable in that authenticity. Therapy is also the place that allows you to be vulnerable and to come face to face with the aspects of yourself that you were perhaps too scared to let surface otherwise, because therapy is a no-judgment zone. It is understandable that therapy may seem intimidating for the same reasons and it may lead you to create walls between yourself and your therapist. However, we are here to break those walls together so as to help you find strength in your vulnerabilities, to help you feel more confident about coming face to face with the parts of your life that you dare not accept due to the trauma or uncertainty attached with them. A therapist is someone who is willing to delve deeper into your issues with you in order to sort them out and help you emerge victorious on the other side. If, however, you feel unsure or uncomfortable sharing your vulnerabilities with your therapist, then you must have a dialogue with him/her about it. Maybe there is something lacking in their rapport with you, maybe they are not in tune with you, maybe they are not the right therapist for you — both of you can only figure that out when you have an open and honest conversation with them. If only they know what’s bothering you with regard to your therapeutic relationship, can they help you change it for the better.
You can indeed talk to your therapist about anything, especially how therapy is working for you. There is nothing wrong with telling your therapist that a certain approach is not working for you; there is nothing wrong in telling your therapist that you would like them to pay more attention to you; there is nothing wrong with informing your therapist that you felt hurt or disappointed by something they said to you. In fact, the mark of a good therapist lies in the way they handle these concerns. If, after sharing these details with them, your therapist puts in more effort to establish a better rapport with you, or readily agrees to try a different approach, or starts paying more attention to you, or invests more time in the psychoeducation part of your sessions, then that therapist is, in fact, the right one. If that does not happen, then it is time for you to look for a new therapist. After all, you’re in therapy to grow, not to restrict yourself.
In case you decide to discontinue therapy with your current counselor or discontinue therapy altogether, having that final conversation can also help us understand where we may have lacked in our services to you. We do care about you and your well-being, as such we do care about getting honest feedback from you so as to keep the goals of therapy and mission intact.
Having said all this, you must know that your hesitations are valid, your inhibitions and concerns are valid.
But, always remember that therapy is a place where you can be yourself. You should have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Your relationship with your therapist is a therapeutic alliance that is meant to help you feel better and be better. It is a healthy exchange that starts with you, exists for you, and is driven by you. Be honest, even about the hesitations and negative beliefs that are holding you back, and see how things improve.
Find Envelope 1 here.