What is psychotherapy all about- for individuals? What will you do to me? What is the process?
How do I Answer?
These, and more, are questions that people have asked, whether in casual conversation or when deciding whether or not to come to therapy. The way I’ve answered has changed a bit over the years but I’d like to think that they’ve been consistent. [Ed.: of course you would! 🙂 ] Perhaps I’ve been changing perspective on the process or emphasising different aspects (another way of saying the same thing).
This blog is the description that I seem to be settling towards.
Diagnosis or description of experience?
One aspect of therapy that perhaps you might find off-putting shows up in the question “Will you diagnose me as crazy/mentally ill/…?” Dr. Jeff Rubin has two interesting blog posts looking at this here and here. He classifies psychiatric diagnosis as “name-calling” rather than diagnosis for cogent reasons. He sees the common DSM “diagnoses” more as classifications of “expressed personal concerns”.
I like his remarks because they fit well with how I describe the psychotherapy process [Ed.: of course you would! 🙂 ]. Many people who wonder about doing therapy function at least well enough to hold down a job, maintain an intimate relationship and find at least some enjoyment in life.
What is psychotherapy all about?
However, there may be aspects of our experience of ourselves or our relationships which we’re uncomfortable with. We also may feel that they hold us back from greater enjoyment of life, greater engagement in our work, less contentious relations with our loved ones or friends. These are all “personal aspects” with which we are “concerned” in Rubin’s language.
So what is therapy like with that orientation? Therapy then becomes an exploration, with you controlling the process, in conversation and somatic experience of
- how you can feel safe in the therapy setting
- what your personal concerns are
- how/when the behaviours or feelings show up
- how they relate to those aspects of you which you feel work well, your strengths
- how they might work as a protection for you and why
- how to move these aspects to a position in your life which you feel is, at least, less concerning.
Therapy when there’s significant disruption
For people whose aspects of concern cause significant life disruption, the basic pattern is the same but the process may be longer and may involve exercise to trauma integrate traumatic or disempowering experiences and memories, once you are able to feel safe doing them.
That is the high level description. In this setting, per Dr. Rubin, depression is a description of how you experience yourself, as also is anxiety. These certainly have bio-chemical and physiological implications and addressing them, at least in part from that direction, can definitely help therapy.
They are never a final statement about who you are.
Are You Looking for Help?
If you would like help dealing with difficult emotions or strains in your relationship , then please CALL me to see if we can work together or send me an email via my Contact Page. I look forward to hearing from you.