It’s been a few weeks since I ended a year-long habit of going to therapy on a regular basis. The last time I ended my session, it was because graduation loomed and there was nothing else the counseling office could do for me. This time, though, I ended things because I felt that I achieved the goals that I’d set out for myself. For now, there is nothing else to unpack or dissect. Life can’t always be about introspection, sometimes it’s about living. That being said, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what I learned over the last twelve months because maybe it will help someone else see therapy as a viable path to healing.
Therapy is a place where you should feel seen and safe, but it shouldn’t be a place where someone never calls you on your bullshit (aka “distortions” is therapist-speak). It’s important to have someone help you look at your actions and emotions with more of an objective view so that you can understand whether something is true or not. By that same token, a therapist can also help you objectively look at other people’s behavior towards you, which can be especially important if you have a bad habit of internalizing everyone else’s shitty behavior as your fault.
Breathing has a huge impact on regulating your emotions. Remembering to breathe in moments of stress is still on my “to learn” list, but I’m trying. There have been moments when I was on the brink of total freakout that breathing brought me back to square one. Who knew breathing would be so complicated? I even have breathing techniques that I like more than others! 4-7-8 is the tops.
Most healing is done on your own. You can’t look to your therapist to fix you. You have to make those healing steps alone. If you need to think about it this way: Physical therapists help you walk but they don’t make you walk.
Your therapist isn’t omnipotent, and they aren’t always right. Sometimes a therapist will make a recommendation, and it just won’t resonate with you. That’s okay. It’s okay to tell them that thinking about your worries floating down a river isn’t a useful tool for you. You are doing yourself a disservice when you take every suggestion, especially ones that don’t feel right.
You’re the boss, which means that you ultimately decide how often you meet and when to call it quits. You should always formalize an ending to your therapy.
Start sessions with a goal in mind so you can have a way to mark progress. However, because things come up in therapy, be flexible and see where your healing takes you. I went into therapy to work on family issues and came out of it with a better understanding of myself as a creator and artist.
I want more people to go to therapy because I think it gives people the space to express themselves in a way that they don’t at home or with themselves. But as I’ve gotten older and been subject to insurance gaffes, I understand that sometimes it just isn’t a viable option. There aren’t enough competent providers in the world either. It isn’t fair. If you’re in this boat, I’m so sorry. Your journey towards healing and contentment shouldn’t be limited by whether or not you can find a therapist or support group. What I did, in the beginning, was read. Here are some books that might help you:
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine
If you’re looking for something more intentionally therapeutic, consider expressive writing/writing for wellness/therapeutic writing. If you are interested, please contact me. I have been facilitating writing for wellness classes for half a decade, and I know they are helpful in unpacking difficult emotions. You deserve to feel safe and heard.