“So, what is therapy? What do you do?”
I’ve already explained that the most important part of the therapeutic intervention is the relationship. So it’s easy to wonder what that means… After all, you have relationships with your: friends, family members, colleagues, and community members. There must be something different that happens in therapy.
So lets start at the beginning:
In your first session, your therapist will likely establish your working alliance. This allows you to create a safe and purposeful environment for therapy.
Relationships are built on trust. You need to trust your therapist – and an easy way to build trust is to be upfront about everything you do and expect.
Next, your therapist will want to know why you have come to therapy. What do you want out of the intervention? There is no use the therapist addressing your workaholic, stressful job situation, if you are in therapy to discuss a bereavement. Again, this is part of the working alliance.
Getting to know you
Therapy involves posing questions to you, so that you can reflect on them and understand yourself better. However, before a therapist can pose the right questions, he/she needs to get to know you.
My favourite way of getting to know someone quickly and well is to use creative mediums. I may give a client some cards, charms, figurines – anything really. I’d ask them to pick out the things that they are drawn to, and discuss them.
I might give a focus like ‘family’ or ‘school’. Other times, I leave everything open.
The things that you pick out first are often most important to you, and therefore the things that may require the most time and energy during the intervention. Of course, it’s not just the therapist that learns from this exercise. You can learn if you don’t over think your answers. Doing so will give you a fresh insight into yourself.
I remember when I went through the process. Not only did I learn from the items that I chose to include, but also from those I had ultimately forgotten about. Sometimes this discovery sparked a discussion that addressed the core of me.
Addressing the core issues
As your therapist get to know you, the therapy becomes more and more personalised.
The therapist will continue exploring key areas of your life, perhaps coming back to some things after a while. During this time your therapist will root for you and be the devil’s advocate. The idea is once you understand yourself better, you can challenge yourself to overcome your personal obstacles. The same obstacles you identified at the beginning of the intervention.
Preparing to move on
Once you are content with how far you have come you will be eased out of therapy. Your therapist should not be the person you go to for years and years – unless you are in dire need for it. Ideally, you would develop coping mechanisms, resilience, self awareness and long term goals for yourself. You may have forgiven people and taken risks to trust people. You may have faced your fears.
Whatever you intended to achieve, your therapist would hopefully have supported you to get there. Then when you are ready, you’d say your goodbyes and move on with your life.
After all, life without your therapist is the ideal.
No two therapy interventions are the same. Yours will be personalised to you, but hopefully this will give you an idea of what is involved.