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  • Writer's pictureHeather Steele

What exactly does a Therapist do?


Therapy Session - Morrisville Counseling and Consulting

Therapy. Hearing that word can bring up images of two people in an office. One laying down on a couch talking about their childhood while the Therapist is mumbling “hmm.. yep.. interesting.” and jotting down notes on a pen pad. While that is a typical illustration that comes to mind, it is not entirely accurate. Therapy is a valuable resource that is utilized every day to help people. Therapy and counseling help people overcome a wide variety of obstacles to their mental health including such things as depression, trauma, substance abuse, and abandonment.


Therapy is not just talking to someone.


Speaking to a therapist is not just about talking to someone. For both parties, it's about building a connection that's supported by trust, respect, and integrity. Providing details about your life to someone you hardly even know might seem daunting, and vulnerable, but that is the point. The point is to open you up, to feel comfortable enough to be able to release those trapped emotions that have been suppressed.


Some may feel judged by opening up to friends or family members. Your therapist is meant to be a neutral party. A judgment-free zone where you have the ability to speak to someone who dives deep into the personality of who you REALLY are. Looking for clues to your past and understanding the depths of your psyche in order to break whatever it is holding you back.

The best way to describe great therapy is almost like talking to yourself, the inner you. Think of it as the inner being or as the great Psychologist Carl Jung describes it “The Shadow Self” [1]. To keep it short Jung believed the Shadow Self was a suppressed part of one's personality. A repression of one’s beliefs or ideas that can be carried onto adulthood. A blind spot in the mind of what makes up an individual. This might seem like a scary concept but it’s necessary. A great therapist helps you face yourself, even challenging you at times, but never lets you lose you way.


Why would someone want to seek therapy?

Individuals can seek therapy for a wide variety of reasons. Often times it involves a person's mental health. Maybe someone has suffered depression since childhood and whatever they seem to do nothing helps to release it. Maybe someone is an unfortunate victim of past trauma or overwhelming loneliness. Panic attacks and anxiety, substance abuse, life struggles such as relationships, or even work-related issues.


Understanding why one would need therapy ultimately comes down to the individual. If you have issues that are disrupting your day-to-day life then it is a good option to seek out treatment. A typical recommendation before being placed on any medication is to speak with a therapist. They will help get to the root of the issue where usually medication in some instances covers up the cause. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Many insurance companies cover some form of therapy and a lot of workplaces include it as part of their employee plans.


What can you expect during therapy?


While each situation is unique to the individual, it is common to get caught up in the stereotype that therapy is just about communication. Yes, communication is a huge aspect of the process and odds are if you don’t have some form of communication, you will just be spinning your wheels. Great therapy takes it deeper.


There might be interactive lessons that pertain to your situation. Your therapist may have handouts to give you or suggest certain techniques such as meditation or breathing to help with mindfulness. It is good to understand which techniques your therapist specializes in and if those are a good fit for your needs.


What to expect in your first therapy session


You can expect your first therapy session to be much like an appointment with your physician. Most are held in comfortable office space with couches or chairs to sit in. Usually, the first session is more of an icebreaker. Getting to know each other. Seeing how each connects and how the process typically goes for future sessions. A normal session typically lasts between an hour to an hour and a half depending on the counselor or Therapist.


What should I tell my therapist?


By now you realize talking and opening up to your therapist is a huge aspect of the process. At this point, you’re probably wondering what should I tell them. The main key is to tell them how you are feeling and what specifically is going on with your feelings. You should never feel pressured to explain anything that you're uncomfortable with but understand that sometimes to be comfortable we must first be uncomfortable.


This is something that doesn’t need to be done right away and you are perfectly allowed to do it when the time is right for you, but you shouldn’t have any fear talking about sensitive topics. When being asked questions by your therapist, it’s often good to talk about how you feel at that moment. This is something your therapist will help guide you through.


Childhood abuse, sexual abuse, and trauma are sensitive topics that can be uncomfortable to talk about. It’s perfectly natural to want to suppress these topics and keep them to yourself, but talking to your therapist about these subjects is the most effective way for them to help you heal those wounds. All these things will be confidential. There are many laws that regulate patient confidentiality and it is part of a therapist's code of ethics to keep these subjects between the two of you.


Is It okay to get emotional during therapy?


Absolutely. Often times breakthroughs will be reacted to with extreme emotions. These can be a wide variety of emotions including anger, glee, or sadness. Understand that this is a normal part of the process and that reacting this way, even if it takes you by surprise, is just your mind's way of clearing out the old emotional baggage and trauma. Therapy can reopen some wounds and while it may seem like your therapist is intentionally trying to hurt you. They are not.


Having and gaining trust in your therapist is something that can be immediate or over time. This is perfectly normal, but in all forms of therapy, the process should be a safe space for you to express how you feel and to leave the judgments about your own self on the back burner. At times you may feel uncomfortable facing these issues and it is the therapist's job to guide you through them. You should never feel pressured or overwhelmed. It should be something you do at your own pace.


What kind of skills and techniques does a therapist have?


A therapist will have a wide variety of skills and techniques that they can use in order to treat a patient. The biggest of all would be the skill of listening. Listening is arguably the biggest tool in a therapist's arsenal. Understand though that there is a big difference between the concept of hearing and listening.[2]


By listening, your therapist understands you and the complex situations you are dealing with. They simply are not just hearing you as you would say hearing your TV in the background while you're making dinner. Through their skills of empathy and communication they can break down your own thoughts, no matter the complexity and be able to relate them back to you. Therapists must have an open mind and having that ability allows them to understand their patients.


Therapists do more than just listen. They help you address your problems. They help you recognize patterns of self-doubt and negativity. Therapists will never tell you what to do, but rather will guide you into productive things that change your mindset over time. The process can be gradual over the long run but as the saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” On the journey of becoming the best you and healing, your therapist will recognize the obstacles you face and give you the best techniques on how to overcome them.


Therapy also contains a wide variety of techniques. From simple things such as breathing and meditation to more complex techniques such as hypnotherapy, somatic experiencing, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy just to name a few. One of the newest forms of therapy is EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Something that even a Royal like Prince Harry has used. This form of therapy is a trauma-based therapy that involves linking eye movement to thoughts and memories [3].


This repetitive movement can be calming and desensitize the patients to the connection of these memories. This allows the patient to release the negative connotations associated with them. Understanding the skills and the techniques that your therapist uses, allows you to go into the sessions and be comfortable knowing what to expect.



Should I seek therapy even if I’m not depressed?


You don’t need to be depressed in order to speak to someone. Everyone wants to be understood. We are all human. We all have complex thoughts and emotions. Having feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, sadness, worry, and anxiety. Many people may not feel that they have any serious issues affecting them. But Therapy and counseling is something that can benefit nearly everyone.


We all experience struggles in our lives. Those things could be something like the death of a family member or losing a pet. The break up of a marriage or even feelings of isolation. These things could be impacting your day-to-day life in ways you might not even be expecting or recognizing.


If you ever have thoughts or feelings that you are not happy as you once were, that you're not good enough for certain things anymore, or just general unhappiness that you can not understand the reason why therapy may be a good option to explore those emotions. It is when these feelings grow into something that impacts you and disrupts your day-to-day living or mental health, that you should seek out someone.


Morrisville Counseling is here to walk with you through your struggles and fears.


Therapy isn’t something that you should be afraid of doing. It is perfectly normal to seek out someone to speak with about issues you are facing. It is about time that we move away from the stigma surrounding therapy and embrace the benefits. We all are searching for answers.


By seeking therapy when you need it, you can find the answers you are searching for. Our team at Morrisville Counseling specializes in the most common areas of struggle and the techniques to treat them. Give us a call for a free consultation to see if we are a good fit and to help you overcome whatever is holding you back.


References:

  1. Your ‘Shadow’ Self – What It Is, And How It Can Help You - Sheri Jacobson - https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/shadow-self.htm

  2. What’s the Difference Between Hearing and Listening? - Sara Linberg - https://www.healthline.com/health/hearing-vs-listening

  3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy - American Psychological Association - https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/eye-movement-reprocessing


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