I love hearing stories about experience with other therapists. I think it is a very important thing to pay attention to. Especially when people make comments or complaints about being confused by what their therapist does or doesn’t do in a session.
Before things get dirty, I will admit that I make mistakes everyday. A day without me making some kind of error is next to impossible. I am human, and I am always becoming a better therapist. The becoming part never really ends. The action there, the present tense focus on Now is integral to the kind of therapy I practice. Now is the only time a person can change. Thinking about my profession in any other way leads to stagnation and self-congratulation. No, thank you.
The pain I may feel is only there to help me learn something.
Man, this is sounding a lot more confessional than I was expecting. So, that’s something.
The Now that I am so enthusiastic about nevertheless exists between two very troublesome bookends: the PAST and the FUTURE. Or, to consider them in more emotional terms, the REGRETS and the ANXIETIES.
Between those two straits, those psychological versions of Scylla and Charybdis, does effective therapy exist. Stay too much in the past, and there is no way to change and a lot of depression. Worry about the future too much, and the only thing left will be anxiety and helplessness.
So next time your counselor asks you the ubiquitous question: How do you feel (about whatever) right now? They don’t mean to be hitting you over the head with the same dull hammer. They are attempting to gauge if you are in the NOW and what that feels like. Your answer is very important to them. And you.
For some of us, the NOW is scary and bad and we get out of it as soon as possible. Please let me be distracted by my cell phone, or Facebook, or what my mother thinks of my lifestyle. Something. Okay, but knowing that about yourself and sharing that with your counselor is huge. Huge.
If you know why you are avoiding something (the NOW, intimacy, anger, your job, your childhood, politics, Seth McFarlane hosting the Oscars, whatever) then you and your therapist can talk about strategies around that particular something. And having a target is good. The best kinds of targets are the ones you find yourself.
Perhaps the biggest reason we avoid being in the NOW is the intensity of it.
There is nowhere to hide. That includes your therapist. It gets very existential and very personal. And one has to want that. Or trust enough to go there. Do you want to go there? Do you trust going there with your therapist? If you are not sure, why not try asking them about it. If you are not comfortable asking your therapist questions then that’s a problem.
Again and again the research has shown that what makes effective therapy isn’t years of experience, or theoretical orientation, gender, or fees, but the relationship between the client and the counselor. It remains the biggest predictor of good therapy. And you deserve that.