Are you an ideal client for therapy? I’m sure you’re surprised by this question. Shouldn’t the whole therapy exercise be about finding the right therapist? Why should one have to worry about being the right client? The answer to that is – to make sure that you find the best opportunity for healing!
Let me explain.
Over the years I have had a few clients who signed up for therapy expecting a “quick fix”. Nothing wrong with that. We all want relief as quickly as possible. However, a “quick fix” is usually not the ONLY wany to find relief. These clients would get worked up if at the end of every session I don’t give them a “tool”, “exercise” or “technique” to DO. Then after a couple of sessions they will discontinue because they feel like they are paying to just talk and are not getting any “take home” or mantra for resolving everything.
This expectation is understandable. Decades of the medical model of treatment has led us to expect the “pop a pill” mode of rectifying problems. Therefore, while people are aware that psychotherapy involves a lot of talking, the decades old conditioned mindset still leads them to expect a psychological equivalent of a pill.
Also, we as humans learn to be action oriented all our lives. We feel compelled to act on our emotions. So we believe that the way out of the emotional distress we’re feeling is by doing something about these emotions. The truth is, emotions just need space and awareness. They need to “be” rather than to “do”.
Some people are more able to get past these psychologically conditioned responses to avail the real benefits of therapy, some don’t give it enough chance.
So with that background, lets check if you’re a good client for therapy and if therapy is the right fit for you!
What is your commitment level? Therapy is deep work. If you’re seeking help through therapy you have to commit to that work. Its like a fitness program. When you start a diet and exercise regime, you don’t see immediate results. And if you quit in a few days you still don’t see results and that’s not because the regime wasn’t working. There wasn’t enough commitment. Therapy is exactly the same. You commit to it and stick to your treatment, you will see results for sure!
How do you cope? If you’re someone who is used to coping with problems using distractions and avoidance, then you might find therapy difficult. Therapy brings you face to face with your deepest fears, uncomfortable thoughts and past experiences and then the therapist holds your hand as you walk through them with new coping skills to put them to rest. If you want to avail the true benefits of therapy, you’ll have to gear up for some deep uncomfortable reflections.
What is your locus of control? Locus of Control (LoC) refers to how strongly you believe you have control over the situations and experiences that affect your life. I recently had a client who would use every session to talk about how the constant construction in her house was her biggest problem, how her husband was not letting her live in peace, how her family was not letting her live the way she wanted to, without realising that she too had a role to play in her own peace of mind; that she could choose to respond differently to these people and events, and she continued to believe that if all these things get sorted, she will be alright. But a therapist’s job is not the change your environment. A therapist’s job is to make you believe that YOU can change your own environment and equip you with skills to do so. So if you want therapy to help, you’ll have to accept that there are other ways besides constantly placing the blame on others.
Are you ready to make your own choices? Most often people believe that a therapist will tell them what to do. Yes, we do that, but not in the way you think. For example, if you are struggling with a decision about breaking up with your partner, and you ask your therapist “What should I do?”, the therapist will NOT tell you to break up or not to break up. What he/she will do is to help you explore the pros and cons, to help you prepare for the consequences of each option and then make peace with the option that you choose. Why do we do it like this? Because one of the many reasons people experience distress is due to not owning up the responsibility of our actions and always putting it on other factors, hence we never find peace, because we should have the reins of our own lives!
Finally, are you really ready for change? Change is uncomfortable. We are always tempted to go back to familiar patterns even if they are unhealthy. This leads to the vicious cycle of effort – discomfort – retreat to old patterns – guilt – repeated effort! So if you want results you have to bear the discomfort long enough to see actual change. But the good news is that you won’t have to do it alone. Your therapist will be there to guide you, motivate you, and see you through. However, you will have to hold on. The responsibility of change is on you, not on your therapist. This willingness to change is what will make you a good fit for therapy because people who are truly ready for change recognise that there are no shortcuts!
Once you anwer these five questions given above, you’ll know if you’re an ideal client for therapy and they will also set your expectations for when you finally decide to embark on this journey!
To start your healing journey by choosing the right therapist, click here.