It can be pretty intimidating to come to therapy for the first time. There are a lot of preconceptions that people fear: Will this person find all the things wrong with me that I don’t even know about? Will they determine that I’m permanently broken? Will they judge me? Will they or others think I’m crazy? I don’t even know what to expect, how do I know that I need therapy?
Well, I’m here to tell you no.
No. You are not permanently broken.
No. We’re not judging you or looking for all the ways you need to be fixed.
Nope. We’re not sitting there, silently thinking about how crazy you are.
There are too many other things on our minds while you’re talking to be sizing up your amount of “crazy”.
Namely, your therapist is busy listening.
Primarily therapists are listeners. You’ve always had that one friend in school, family, work life who does more listening than talking. It’s their comfort zone. Well, most therapists started out as those people and then decided, “hey, I should learn how to do this for a living,” so we went to college for a Master’s degree in psychology. If we’re giving you our full and undivided attention, listening to what you’re saying, we’re too busy in that mode than in “judgmental sizing up” mode. And that’s not really in our nature anyway – or at least not in my nature, or the colleagues with whom I associate.
Therapy is a place where you can have another person’s undivided attention while you download what’s been bothering you in your life. What hurts you, offends you, or exasperates you. You have the assurance of confidentiality, so it’s different than venting to your friend or family member, who might have a different ability to hold all those things you’ve stated to themselves.
People are provided various coping and life skills throughout our years. Who is safe. How to handle stress. What to do when you’re frustrated, mad, disappointed. We glean these skills from all the different people in our lives, but no one is fully complete with all the skills they need to handle what life throws at them all the time. Therapists spend their collegiate years studying the nature of relationships and mental illness. Then, atop that education, we seek additional training in various areas. Many have a special niche in which they really hunkered down, and many spread themselves through the gamut. Either way, we have required continuing education which keeps us from recycling the same strategies and continually learning new ways to help YOU.
We use all this training and education to help teach our clients how to relate to people differently, how to cope with what’s going on inside of them, and how to change their thinking. It all depends on what you need, and that’s what we’ll teach.
Sometimes life has been throwing curveballs your way for a long time. It’s easy to say, “my spouse has been doing this” and “my boss has been doing that” and “my kids’ teachers just don’t understand.” And probably, all of those things are true! But since we can’t change other people, the therapist can reflect back to you what you’ve stated in a way that helps you to have an “a-ha” moment to discover what you could do differently to start a domino effect with those relationships in your life. Wouldn’t it be nice to be the catalyst for change?
People who are in a state of distress tend to get caught up in a loop. There’s a topic that’s bothering them, and they are so determined to make sense of it and to grasp a hold of the issue that they go around and around on all the bullet points, what they should say, how they should have responded, what they would say if the person were to bring it up again, etc. We just play it over and over in our minds like a broken record.
The therapist can shine the flashlight on some of the options that the person hadn’t thought of yet – in a helpful way! This works in an effort to get a person out of the loop. I think of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, she’s going through the dark forest, all the trees are throwing apples, she can’t see her way to the yellow brick road because she’s so busy dodging the apples, and then I come along with a flashlight and say, “hey, there’s a clearing over there, would you like to steer that direction?” Dorothy still makes the choice, I just used my trusty flashlight.
To conclude, if you would go to a nutritionist to help with healthy eating choices, and you’d go to a personal trainer for help with your physical fitness, or a tax accountant for your bookkeeping, then going to a psychotherapist/MFT would make sense to go to for improving your relationship to yourself and to others. Yep, for yourself too. Anxiety, depression, stress management, family/parenting issues, work drama, you name it we can help. It just makes sense – and it doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with you.
by Jessica Wilkerson, MFTI #IMF69783
Jessica is a Marriage & Family Therapist Registered Intern
under the clinical supervision of Joe R. Taylor, MFT #46406
Jessica works at Chico Creek Counseling
to set an appointment specifically with Jessica, contact her at (530) 921-5122