Why are we attending psychotherapy?
Often times, a person resorts to psychotherapy because they feel stuck or lost at a certain level of feelings or behavior.
There are situations where a person is brought by relatives or friends because his feelings or behaviour appear to be irrational. Neither the person, nor the others understand why they so angry, depressed, obsessive, or what are they afraid of. Feeling that nothing is worth, that they are not understood by anybody, that no body loves them. They ruin their life with drugs/alcohol or washes their hands compulsively, are aggressive with their close ones, have an arrogant attitude that diminishes their professional or social chances; enter into masochistic relationships, supporting the abuse or insensitivity of the other.
Not realizing why they are acting like that, such people just knows they are not happy and that this behavior is not effective, but for some reason they cannot change. In fact, there is another motivation, other feelings that cause them to repeat these patterns of behavior. If people knew what it was, they could resist the impulse and choose another way to meet their needs.Usually these problems are expressed through so-called symptoms and defense mechanisms.
By a defense mechanism we understand that a person is obviously trying to avoid pain and at the same time maximize control over this uncomfortable situation. For example, a person may feel humiliated, rejected, accused; rather than becoming aware of these unpleasant experiences, they concentrates their energy to defend themselves, thus protecting themselves.
A person who begins to become "defensive" develops many symptoms - depression, drug abuse, various anxiety, insomnia, "personality problems", even paranoia.
Thus, a symptom is the consequence of a defence mechanism. The defence mechanism protects us from unpleasant experiences that attack our self-esteem. When these mechanisms fail, we escalate our efforts and develop other behaviours (i.e. drug use, phobias, panic attacks, etc.).
What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy often seems to be a useless process. Can’t you solve problems by reading a book about depression or talking to a friend? Can’t you just give up some behaviors that are not effective or are even hurting you?
The answer is that it would be too painful. A depressed person is blocked in depression because, incredibly or not, it is easier to feel depressed than to deal with pain. It is easier to believe that everything around you is meaningless than to cope with what is happening. That's why depression seems irrational - because it's a distraction from something else. All these behaviors, feelings, perceptions are not chosen or set to a conscious level. We do not engage in destructive or stupid behavior deliberately. The key to understanding these behaviors is the unconscious. Thus, only through psychotherapy can you reach this area. Learning at an intellectual level is rarely effective.
The purpose of psychotherapy is personal insight, self-discovery. This way of learning is often difficult, so psychotherapy lasts longer than a few sessions. Psychotherapy is a process of awareness; the less we are aware of our motives, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions, the more they will control us and we will remain stuck in the old patterns that are no longer working.
You will say "but I am aware of what I feel, do and think." If we were to be aware we would not have any symptoms. We have reasonable emotional responses to the ups and downs of life instead of having panic, anxiety, depression, we would be learning from our mistakes; we would not hurt those we love and would not get into situations that could hurt us.
Psychotherapy is rational and accessible. There is nothing esoteric or undefined; it is not a mystical process that only some people understand and others do not. It is a logical process that anyone can understand and follow. Moreover, in good psychotherapy, every step should make sense to the patient.
The only way to understand what is happening is to analyze the facts. The facts are not just external, they include feelings, reactions, perceptions.
In sessions, the client must have an active role in verifying the therapist's or his/her personal ideas. For any interpretation done by the psychotherapist, it is the client who decides whether or not it is true. The most important proof that an interpretation or suggestion is correct is its reaction to it. Correct or not, if he does not benefit from it, the interpretation is worthless.
Psychotherapy is a dialogue. The client presents the facts and the therapist gives his opinion on these and so on. Does the therapist help you to discover the truth about you, your life, your feelings, or is he speaking nonsense? If he is speaking nonsense, you have to draw his attention. No therapist is right all the time and maybe your expectations for change are unrealistic or poorly guided. You need to clarify this together. But the final word is that of the client. The therapist can say what is likely to happen to the client, which seems to be happening, but only the client confirms whether it is correct or not. Without an active client testing of the material, psychotherapy degenerates into a rational experiment, speculation and theories without any impact on the client's life, feelings, and behavior.
Of course the therapist must teach this active role. If the client does not understand how to do this and does not have a clear guideline, it's probably time to change his therapist.
What psychotherapy is not?
More than other professions, psychotherapy is often ridiculed. There are indeed incompetent therapists who contribute to people's negative perception of psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy is not always an "unconditional positive approach". The client needs to trust the therapist, but you do not need to always feel comfortable. In fact, if the psychotherapist's questions do not create a bit of discomfort, you will not get anywhere with that session.
Psychotherapy does not mean giving advice. The world is full of advice and you go to psychotherapy just because you feel lost among so many pieces of advice and you do not know who to believe. The last thing you need is another advice.
The goal of psychotherapy is to discover yourself and your priorities, to acquire the courage to act. A psychotherapist will not tell the client what to do about their marriage, job, anxiety, etc.
If the therapist helps him become aware of what is happening to him, of what is happening between him and the others, then the client will know better than the therapist what is best for him. For psychotherapy, the following aphorism is very well applied: "give a man a fish and feed him for one day, teach him how to fish and you will feed him all his life."
The difference between psychotherapy and advice, support, learning about feelings and behavior is that they do not provide insight.
Insight is not an intellectual type of learning. It is an intense and energetic personal experience that must be at the heart of each psychotherapy.
What happens in a session?
Sessions are often provocative, sometimes inconsistent, full of resistance that makes you want to quit, but at the same time, something new and exciting is happening.
You are curious to find out what makes you think, feel or behave in a certain way, and how certain aspects and events in your life are linked in a way you have not previously considered.
If nothing happens in the first 5 sessions, you will need to talk to the therapist about this.
Perhaps your resistance to psychotherapy at that time is too great, maybe you can not open yourself to that therapist, you do not feel connected to him and you are not interested in the process.
As we have already said, psychotherapy is insight. We will know when it comes to an insight when we feel clearer, more determined, more hopeful, more energetic and when the symptoms disappear.