I have been thinking recently about therapy, the process of change, how I do therapy and how that process has impacted my clients.
I love (sarcasm) the emails I receive almost every day. You know the lists. “Ten things to do to be happy, etc., etc..” Why ten” Why is ten a magic number? Why is ten THE magic number? Who comes up with these lists & why are they or why do they seem to be the definitive list” The Internet & social media especially Twitter has impacted this process. We struggle to read anything beyond 140-characters. We have become skimmers. If the article is more than 2-3 pages we probably won’t read it. Mark Manson will even tell you when an email arrives in your mailbox how long the article will take to read. Read it or not. I don’t care!
Almost every client with whom I have every worker has asked, “Are there any books you can recommend? This question is often asked at some point during the initial session when I’m still trying to get to know you and assess what your therapeutic needs are. Those self-help books are useless if the purchaser isn’t going to read them, practice the skills often contained within them and do the homework assignments which are also usually contained within them. I refer to self-help books as “feel good” books. They make us “feel good” when we read them and then we rip them and their author apart “because they don’t help anymore.” The books will not make a difference if you won’t continue to practice the process of change.
Therapy is often complicated by the fact that many people don’t understand what therapy is. Therapy is not a time when we meet, you tell me what is bothering you and I tell you how to fix it. That’s what friends are for. Therapy is an opportunity for me to help you understand that change is a process and to help you build the tools which you will need to traverse this process of change.
Medication is another bone of contention with me. Clients get pissed when they find out they may have to wait 2-3 months to get into the doctor. Then I have to beg and plead with the doctor who has known the client for less than 30-minutes to not prescribe a Benzodiazepine. Then clients get this classification of medication, they feel good and they stop attending counseling appointments because “I feel better” so there’s no reason to continue counseling. If you want medication but don’t want to change anything in your life, please don’t waste my time. Go see your primary care doctor. That way when you become addicted to the medication you’ll just have another issue to address and like the many other issues in our life where we blame someone else, you can blame your doctor for “getting you addicted.” Mark my word; the prescription of Benzodiazepines will be the next healthcare “crisis.”
A client called me last week and complained that she felt “like counseling’s not working.” I explained to her I had sent her a letter months ago and closed her case because she had not attended an appointment in 8-months. She was unhappy when I explained I did not feel like counseling was helping because she had not been engaged in counseling. Personal responsibility is huge in the process of recovery.
We have become a society that looks down on failure and making mistakes when there is so much to learn in that process. If we don’t take risks and make mistakes along the way, how are we expecting ourselves to learn?
I keep saying the “process of change” because that’s exactly what it is; a process. There are no easy answers. There are no quick fixes. Therapy is a process of taking a good hard, long look at ourselves, acknowledging what we don’t like, asking for help if necessary and making the difficult decisions & choices to correct what we don’t like. Anything else is just whining and best done with a friend or on Facebook.
I never said that change was easy and that it isn’t scary, but if we’re not willing to confront those things that scare us, then nothing changes.