Therapy has often been called the “talking cure,” since the exchange of words between the client and therapist can appear to be the most obvious form of communication that is going on. In reality, therapy can offer a much richer experience than the simple exchange of words and advice. The thoughts and feelings you share and the professional techniques the therapist uses are not nearly as important as the relationship you build together. Because the relationship with the therapist is so essential to the effectiveness of the process, it is very important that you find someone with whom you feel a comfortable connection, a therapist who makes you feel understood.
As therapy progresses and your trust in the therapist’s non-judgmental acceptance of your thoughts and feelings is established, you will actually use the relationship as an opportunity to reshape significant emotional experiences and work through problems in your life. In therapy, you intentionally make yourself vulnerable to another human being and you may talk about some things that are very painful for you. However, it is the very process of trusting that it’s safe to release your feelings (the good and the bad) and knowing that the therapeutic relationship permits you to safely explore deeply felt sources of conflict and dissatisfaction that will finally allow you to make lasting, positive changes in your life.
Anxiety and reluctance to enter into therapy is normal. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. The first step of asking for help is one of the hardest things to do. You will be talking about very personal things with a person you do not know well. People often confide things to their therapists that they may not confide in any other people, or at least a very select few. Being a little anxious about doing this is a good thing; it’s healthy.
Therapists often encourage clients to “sit with their feelings”. This is a basic therapeutic strategy used to help clients learn more about themselves by learning to listen to themselves more. Sitting in sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, or despair isn’t a fun thing to do. After doing this in therapy, it is common for a client to feel vulnerable and want some distance from the therapist. This is natural and self-protective. It is a healthy and natural response to experiencing pain. This doesn’t mean it is time to leave therapy; in fact, just the opposite. It means you are doing some of the major work of therapy and are in the middle stage of your treatment.