Therapy is a doing word
If I didn’t believe that all my clients were capable of change, I really couldn’t do my job! Human behaviour change is at the core of my work. And as a curious observer of human behaviour (kind of goes with the territory), I find the actual process of therapy absolutely fascinating. I often catch myself reflecting on what is actually happening in the moment when I’m working with an individual or couple – I guess all therapists do it – but I think it’s an important skill that we develop over time. I also believe it is part of a bigger reflective practice that encourages me to hone my craft and expertise as a Counsellor, and I take that very seriously.
It’s an interesting concept though, seeking out and engaging in counselling with someone (look out for a blog soon for my tips about how to choose a therapist). For those interested in the idea of behaviour change there’s a whole bunch of research about understanding when a person is actually READY to engage in the work, and in fact one of the things we therapists are on the lookout for is someone’s readiness for therapy. There’s a model for it and everything – The Transtheoretical Model, Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983:
People can (and do) hang out in the ‘pre-contemplation’ and ‘contemplation’ stage for AGES, sometimes years. Clients rarely start therapy at that point – though their friends and family might be nudging and urging them to! I usually get to meet clients around the ‘preparation’ stage when THEY have decided it’s the right time – when they have the emotional energy, time, money to ‘do the work’.
This is an interesting phrase and I’ve speaking to clients this week about whether therapy feels like work or whether there might possibly be a better way of expressing what it feels like to actually work on our shit (I recognise that isn’t it). I’ve done my fair share of time on the other side of the room – in the client’s chair. I worked with my first Counsellor at 16 years old and have seen I think six different therapists since then (might have lost count actually). I know what it’s like to ‘do the work’ – I still do it. But we’re so good about talking about it aren’t we? We IG our way through our time sometimes, clicking on the little love-heart to show how much we love the motivational, self-actualising quotes about how we want to feel ‘better’ about our life. But honestly, therapy isn’t like that – it’s not just about talking about our pain in well-worded platitudes, as beautiful as they might be.
Therapy, you see is a DOING word. And that’s why I think we often use that default phrase, ‘doing the work’. You see it’s all very well and good finding a therapist that you like and connect to, attend your sessions diligently and even actually resonate with the suggestions and strategies they share with you. Therapy requires ACTION. It’s a bit like going to see a physiotherapist after a hip replacement – if you don’t practice the exercises, remind your muscles multiple times a day how to connect to your brain and each other again you simply fail to progress. Doing therapy isn’t like a magic-wand experience – how awesome it would be if I had a stick that I could wave and literally erase people’s psychological pain – alas it involves consistent input from us both.
Doing the work can look a little like this:
- Taking time to reflect on what you’ve learned in session – maybe even using a reflective journal practice to make notes of any ‘ah-ha’ moments
- Practicing new ways of thinking, speaking and being
- Learning to be comfortable with your emotions – noticing, naming and sitting with them
- Putting in place healthy boundaries (and enforcing them)
- Engaging with others in new, more healthy ways
If you’re ready to do your work, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03 9077 8194.