The Five Critical Things You Should Expect From Therapy

The Five Critical Things You Should Expect From Therapy

The Five Critical Things You Should Expect From TherapyIn this episode, I lay out the 5 critical things high-quality therapy needs to provide when a client feels mired in a painful situation.

And if you have a question you’d like me to address on this podcast, come on over to my website, neildbrown.com and enter it there today. 

If we select your question this month for a podcast, we’ll send you a free copy of my book, Ending The Parent Teen Control Battle.

Today we’re hearing from Sharon from  Scarsdale, NY. And Sharon writes.

"Neil, I’m seeing a therapist to deal with my situation, but I’m not sure I’m getting everything I need. My therapist is very supportive and I feel safe seeing her, but I’m not sure I’m getting any place.  My situation is that I have young kids and an unsupportive husband.  I find my parenting compromised because I’m so frustrated by their behavior and the criticism and lack of support I get from my husband.  My therapist is telling me I should get divorced and she’s recommending I go on an anti-depressant.  I’m not comfortable with either of those options, at least at this point.  Should I get another therapist?"

Honestly, Sharon, I can’t tell you whether you need to change therapists or not but here are a few guidelines that we should all think about if we're going for therapy

Therapy Guidelines

First and foremost, of course, is that the therapist makes us feel safe, understood and not judged. Only under very rare circumstances should your therapist tell you what to do.  Generally speaking, if we are going to therapy,  we are in a situation that is uncomfortable, causing us frustration and pain, and we can’t see a healthy way forward.  We feel stuck.  This can happen to any of us.

When we are in a stuck situation it is hard to have perspective and an outside professional perspective can be extremely valuable to us. Click To Tweet

What a psychotherapist should provide is a way of seeing the problem and our place within the problem that can make things much clearer. Then when the therapist has helped us gain perspective, we can then think about what a healthy way forward might be.

In other words, what are some things we can do that we haven’t been able to see?  Now here’s the rub.  Some of our options do not come naturally to us.  Otherwise, we’d probably already be doing it.  Being able to make those changes will mean dealing with our own issues.  For instance, if we tend not to be assertive enough in our lives, it’s likely that that lack of assertiveness has participated in getting us into this position and learning to be more assertive will be an important part of getting out.  Then, of course, the next question is why do we lack a particular skill set for instance why are we not assertive when we need to be.  The therapist should help us understand that.  Does it have to do with our basic nature?  Does it have roots in issues from our family of origin, from our childhood?

Great!  Now we understand that our temperament is to be easy going and in our family growing up, there were a lot of fights, so we learned early on to avoid conflict and let others get their way.  Maybe we were given recognition for being nice and accommodating, not presenting problems.  That taught us that what’s loveable about us is that we don’t have too many needs, and we don’t set limits. 

Now, what do we do?

The Role of Therapists

The role of the therapist here would be to help you build your assertiveness skills set.  And there would be two ways to go about that:

One way would be to do some healing work on the issues from your family of origin and help you understand and feel empowered that what is lovable about you is far more than being easy-going, accommodating, not having too many needs or setting many personal limits. You are a whole person and deserve to be loved for who you are including your needs and your feelings.  Your limits should be respected and honored.

The second way a therapist could help you would be on how to apply these new skills in your day-to-day life, in the real world.  Having established that you are entitled to your feelings, needs, and limits, how do you express those? How do you set your limits? You might review situations and think through with your therapist what your real feelings were about a situation and what you really wanted.  How did you communicate that; was it assertive or was it your usual pattern of being conflict avoidant and accommodating. 

What We Should Expect From Therapy

In learning to set limits, you are sometimes even harsh because when you are learning something new it might come out awkwardly.  These are things that a therapist can help you think through, learn, and maybe practice.  So Sharon, here are the things we should expect from therapy:

  1. Feel heard, supported, safe and not judged.
  2. Offered clarity and perspective with respect to our situation; a way of seeing the problem and our place within the problem.
  3. A healthy path forward, not instructions on exactly what to do, but some ideas for how you can proceed to improve the situation you’re bringing to therapy.
  4. An understanding of our personal issues that support our participation in the problem.
  5. And finally, a therapeutic plan to help us productively address these issues.

Sharon, in your situation, divorce could be an option, but not the first thing for you to focus on.  Maybe if you make some changes in how you deal with your husband and children, your husband’s behavior will improve.  Perhaps anti-depressants are an option, but maybe a more empowered self and being more hopeful will reduce your depression.

Sharon, I hope this helps.  If your therapist can provide this for you, terrific, if not, by all means, find a new therapist who will.

Therapy should be a safe place to share our thoughts and feelings, but it should not offer pat solutions.Click To Tweet It needs to provide a path forward, both in our lives and in the therapy room.  It is by embracing the path forward and all the personal challenges, that we learn and grow. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?

If you’re enjoying and benefiting from HFC, please leave a review for me there on iTunes. For this month of May, if your question is selected for my podcast, we’ll send you a free copy of my book, Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle.

And please remember to take care of yourselves, you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it.

Bye for now.


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