All of us throughout life have had to cope with stress one way or another. Talking to friends, reading books that relate to our experience, getting physically active, planning and making lists are some popular ways to cope with distress.
People tend to seek professional help when their capacity to cope is overwhelmed, or they are feeling stuck; when their attempt at handling things is becoming more of a problem than a solution; when they’ve tried everything but the mental pain and behavior problems persist.
Some frequent examples of what I call mental pain include anxiety, grief, depression, flashbacks of distressing memories, excessive shame or guilt, fear of abandonment, obsessive thinking, indecisiveness and excessive anger, just to mention a few. The amount or intensity of the pain is unique to you, and depends on your resilience, life experience, the amount of available support that you have and the actual situation. Mental pain that doesn’t get addressed tends to get denied, the old push-it-under-the-rug strategy that may buy us time, but eventually grows, making us trip and fall – meaning the pain we denied gets manifested, for example, as anger outbursts, insomnia, addiction, withdrawal or impulsivity.
The Good News
The good news is that patterns and habits can be changed, through self-awareness, curiosity, clear strategies and practice! Human connection enhances this process. The sharing of one’s experience in a safe and validating environment makes the journey towards change extremely powerful. I believe that if you have an experienced, calm clinician with whom you connect well, you can co-create an environment where new understanding, acceptance and, finally change, can happen! Researchers have pointed out that our brain is “plastic,” meaning the actual brain structures are moldable throughout our lifespan – and this molding results from…experience. A good therapeutic experience depends on a good fit, safety, emotional attunement, respect, curiosity, information and collaboration.
This is a collaborative process. Your role in psychotherapy will be to share your concerns, your experiences and what your feelings and thoughts are during our sessions. My role will be to listen carefully, ask questions and offer new perspective on your issues.
Safety is a significant aspect of psychotherapy: without feeling safe with me – as a psychotherapist – you won’t be able to share your doubts, worries, problems, and fantasies. The suspension of judgment on my part is a crucial piece to establishing this safe space. Although I have legal and ethical obligations to provide a safe therapeutic environment (from the way I handle confidential information to my non-judgmental stance), it is likely that your own “gut feeling” – your intuitive capacity – will be primary in deciding to trust me as a professional. In fact, chances are that you have already been attuned to the issue of safety ever since you asked for a referral, or browsed the myriad names and photographs online.
Timing is also an important part of your process in psychotherapy. Is this the right time for you? A great number of clients consider psychotherapy months or even years before they finally pick up the phone for an appointment. I will honor your timing by adjusting my interventions to your own pace, and by creating the necessary safety for you to discuss possible mixed feelings regarding seeking help.