We live in a bit of a ‘go to an expert to fix all my problems’ kind of culture and because of this, there can be a tendency to stay with a therapist longer than necessary or worse yet, stay with one that doesn’t help at all. The thing is that because we’ve handed all our power over to said therapist then we can ignore our intuition when it’s telling us to get rid! Here’s the trick – only you can heal yourself. and it’s up to you to take that responsibility, find those tools (from the right expert) and commit to doing that difficult work, yourself.
I know this because I’ve experienced it first hand in my own trauma recovery process (heartbreak, post-traumatic stress and grief all in one difficult year, ouch). It wasn’t easy and in the midst of such emotional turmoil (not to mention all the shame around admitting such intense emotions), it was difficult to know what kind of therapist to go to and whether or not they helped.
I’ve found that in order to really steer my recovery I had to keep asking myself a series of questions so that I didn’t get lost in the wishful thinking that x, y or z therapy was going to ‘heal me forever’ because that my friends, is delusional thinking. These are the questions that I use to sense-check my therapies and whether they are currently working for me
Has this session made a positive influence on me?
If you read my therapy reviews you’ll notice that I do a physical and emotional sense check before and after each therapy review. By doing so I allow myself to check in with my current state and write it down, then I can go back to what I’ve written and objectively see whether or not the therapy was beneficial to me, rather than just rely on my (often rose-tinted) memory. If no positive difference has been made then you can choose to persist and see if you need a few more sessions to really get into it or consider that it may not be the one for you. If it’s positive, great! Stick with it for as long as you continue to get what you need from it.
Am I still getting what I came here for?
Firstly what are you going to the particular therapy for? If you’re going to have your symptoms treated then regular sessions may be useful and necessary, that’s how I use sports massages – a good way to manage the problem of my tense shoulder that can sometimes become unbearable. However, if you’re looking to heal then it might help if therapy is seen as an opportunity to receive tools that help you solve your problem, which is how I view the sessions with my counsellor. Of course sometimes, I just need a non-judgemental space to release some pent up emotion but I also need an objective perspective to point me towards new ways of thinking or to train me to reflect (an immensely useful tool in trauma recovery).
I found that after quite a few sessions I reached a point where I felt like I’d attained all the tools that I needed from this counsellor and that particular therapy. It was the signpost that I didn’t need any more sessions because I was no longer getting what I went there for so I decided to thank my counsellor and call it a day. I take comfort in the fact that I know a good counsellor who knows my story and can be there for me as and when I need more sessions, for now, though I feel quite capable of processing on my own.
What does my intuition say?
Ultimately all therapists are only human and are still susceptible to human traits, such as mistakes, misjudgements and their own emotions. The most important role of a therapist is to create the security for you to be able to get what you need from them, whether that is emotional security in a meditation workshop, physical security in salon environment or psychological security in a counselling session. If you don’t feel safe then you won’t be able to indulge in the therapy. I found however, that the fear can either be a resistance to the therapy for fear of expression (usually because of the shame that our society associates with expression of emotion) or that it’s a legit message from my intuition that is telling me that this person/therapy isn’t right for me at this moment. I always air how I feel to the therapist and give them the opportunity to make me feel secure, just in case the feeling is fear based, rather than my intuition. If the therapists answer fills me with integrity and security then I know that it was a fear of vulnerability/expression popping up but it’s always worth sense-checking this because I have had a few experiences where I’ve not been satisfied with the answer and I’ve upped and left the therapy altogether.
For example, my first experience with a counsellor after being violently attacked was not positive but I fought my intuition and went back a second time and told the counsellor of my expectations – of being able to get on a boat in 4 weeks time and sail from the UK to Mallorca, in winter, with three men I’d never met before. The answer I received rang my alarm bells “I would never recommend for any young woman to get on a boat across tricky waters with three strange men, let alone in the state that you’re in” she said to me. What happened here was that the counsellor had measured me by her own limitations when in reality our risk factors and capabilities are completely different. As a trained counsellor, she should have been able to extract her judgement from her professional opinion but in that moment she couldn’t. I can’t control what judgements are passed against me but I can, choose to leave a therapist that doesn’t understand me and find one that does, which I did because ultimately I am in control my healing, no anyone else.
For the record, I got on that boat and sailed across those ‘tricky’ waters with those three ‘strange’ men.