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  • Writer's picturekellyharveylpc

Understanding the therapeutic process

Sometimes therapy takes a meandering path, and that can feel disjointed, especially in the beginning. It does not mean that you are off track or won’t arrive at your desired destination.

As a therapist, I am looking for the patterns in your life: patterns of thought, habit, behavior, relationship or pain. If we talk about work this week, then your girlfriend, then your friendships, then your mother and back to work, it might feel like ‘a lot of random things’ that don’t add up. I hear it differently. I am listening to how you attach, how you problem solve, how you manage conflict, or challenging people, what cognitive distortions get in the way of your life goals, what mistaken beliefs or painful life experiences are acting like scar tissue and impeding your movement now. Over time, I start to point out the similarities, so that you can see the pattern, too. We decide together when it might be useful to change a thought or behavior. What are the risks and benefits?

If you have a question about your therapy, it’s always legitimate to ask your therapist for feedback. It’s been useful to me when clients ask for specific feedback about what I see and hear in what they are sharing. It allows me to clarify my thoughts and give voice to the patterns. I’m not a mind reader…when we talk about it, you can make corrections, deepen a thought, or expand on a belief that has meaning.

It is also useful, periodically, to verbalize your goals in therapy. They often change over time. I try to reassess every six months or so with clients I see longer term. Often, we have solved the initial problems or dissatisfactions that brought them into therapy, and it’s useful to clearly state the current goals.

Good therapy is a mutual process by two deeply interested parties. The specifics of how individuals work varies widely, but that matters less than you feeling that the person you are working with gets you, and is invested in the process. If you aren’t getting the clarity that you seek, bring that up to your therapist. If you still aren’t getting it, perhaps another practitioner would be a better fit. We each bring our training, experience, and personality into the mix. As clients, we need different things at different times. You will learn a great deal from any seasoned therapist, but you will not learn the same thing. The process is for your benefit; it’s okay to be the captain of the ship!

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