Therapy is a tool to help you to develop a better understanding of yourself. The process looks at experiences in your life and how these experiences contribute to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you have that are contributing to difficulties in life and then explores ways to modify these behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.
Let's take a look at the therapy process and explore how it actually works. Most people are accustomed to going to a doctor, telling the doctor about their symptoms, receiving a diagnosis along with a prescription, or further testing. Therapy doesn’t work this way. There is no quick response to therapy. Therapy is significantly different because it is a process that takes time. It’s a process that you really can’t put a time stamp on because it is dependent on each individual’s openness to the process. Some people have no problems with being able to identify the difficulties that they are experiencing and with addressing the flaws with their behaviors, while others have extreme difficulties and often fight the therapy process through denial or fear.
Let’s look at some examples to help you develop a better understanding of the therapy process. We have two clients, both expressing difficulties with being able to maintain stable relationships. (Please keep in mind, these are two simplified examples showing how the therapy process works).
Example 1: Client A, we will call her Sharon, comes to therapy because she has been having difficulties with being able to maintain healthy relationships. Through the course of the session Sharon provides the therapist with detailed experiences of a couple of different relationships that she has been involved in that ended on bad terms. Sharon provides her therapist with details regarding how these relationships began, evolved, and ultimately ended. She is very open with describing her behaviors of being overly clingy, doing things to get attention, and not being able to trust others. Sharon expresses to the therapist that she doesn’t understand why she behaves the way she does and that she has no idea as to how to stop these unwanted behaviors. Through the course of the session, the therapist is able to introduce Sharon to interventions that will assist her with improving her communication skills and begin to explore the history of the behaviors and what experiences in her life influenced her use of the troubling behaviors.
Example 2: Client B, Bethany, comes to therapy expressing that she has a history of bad relationships. During the session, Bethany doesn’t really provide her therapist with examples of these bad relationships only that the relationships didn’t work out. She tells her therapist that everything was fine for a while and then all of a sudden it wasn’t. Bethany continues to provide very little information regarding the relationship difficulties and continues to request help from the therapist. She often answers with I don’t know or I don’t remember. Bethany is not being difficult per se but seems to be lacking the ability to be able to really explore the relationship problems or explain her troubles within them. She appears to be having difficulties with being able to explore or identify specific information as to what went wrong due to the fear that something might be wrong with her. Bethany seems to be fearful and guarded with what to expect from the therapy process which makes it difficult for the therapist to provide her with the appropriate interventions and skills.
From the two examples above, we can see that Sharon is very engaged in the therapy process and is open to making change where Bethany is fearful of judgment and resistant to being able to provide the information needed to foster the therapy process and make a change.
A good rule of thumb for the therapy process is: the more you give in therapy, the more you get from therapy.