A Wildly Transformative Discovery About Therapy–From the Therapist who Tried it

My Perspective from BOTH Sides of the Couch “It all becomes beautiful when you know yourself”-Unknown This was the quote I saw every Wednesday at 12:55 pm for almost 7 years.  Where did I go every Wednesday for 7 years at the same time you wonder? That’s easy: therapy, where else?  But, I hesitated sharing…

Show Notes

My Perspective from BOTH Sides of the Couch

“It all becomes beautiful when you know yourself”-Unknown

This was the quote I saw every Wednesday at 12:55 pm for almost 7 years.  Where did I go every Wednesday for 7 years at the same time you wonder? That’s easy: therapy, where else?  But, I hesitated sharing this…

As a therapist, I was trained to be “a blank slate.”  Patients come to us and project their wishes, fantasies and desires, and as the theory goes (simplified of course), it is our job to help them make their unconscious conscious.

Knowing about your therapist has the potential to muddy those waters.(Again, this is the type of therapy I was trained to practice. I am not suggesting this is the only therapy or the only one that works, hence why I am writing this post.)  Therefore, if I shared with the world (and I am sure at some point a patient or future patient will read this), then they will know… I have been in therapy.

“So what? Who cares!”  you say, and honestly that’s what I say now too!  As a therapist if I cannot proudly proclaim I have been in therapy (for a long time – 7 years was my last stint), then why should anyone trust me?I know the process of therapy from both sides of the couch.  I know what it feels like to be open and raw and vulnerable and scared with someone who I know very little about.

I know what it feels like to sit on the other side of the couch and have someone feel that way with me.  I can honestly say I truly understand each of those feelings.

I know the circumstances are always different, and why someone is in therapy is different than my reasons for going.

What I can tell you definitively is that the changes I experienced were transformative and life changing.  And, I have seen similar changes be transformative and life changing for others.  Therefore, I am not truly doing my part in helping people if I shy away from talking about it.

I am realistic too.  I know that therapy is not for everyone.  I know that some people think it’s a waste of time and money, and everyone deserves their own opinion on the topic.

That said, think of how much time you invest in everyone else in your life.  Think about the time you invest in your friends; the dinners, the calls, walks, however you spend the time getting to know them.

Think about the time you invest in your partner or people with whom you have thought about possibly being a partner, only to get to know them and realize it is not the right fit.

Think about the time you have invested in your family, taking care of your parents, siblings or children.

Now think about the time you have invested in yourself.  How much time have you actually sat with yourself?  How much time have you taken to get to know who you really are?  Because once you do, I can promise you… “It all becomes beautiful … when you know yourself.”

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THERAPY: GO FOR THE CRISIS, STAY FOR THE GROWTH

“Everything is great and THAT is why I am here!” Said nobody ever when they walked through my office door. Nor do they claim, “I want to learn more about myself and continue on this path!!” Typically, crisis is what brings us to therapy when we can no longer continue with our own status quo. Usually, you…

Show Notes

“Everything is great and THAT is why I am here!” Said nobody ever when they walked through my office door. Nor do they claim, “I want to learn more about myself and continue on this path!!”

Typically, crisis is what brings us to therapy when we can no longer continue with our own status quo.

Usually, you can recognize a symptom.  Maybe it is anxiety and we are having difficulty breathing. Perhaps a panic attack resulted in a hospital visit and then no medical reason is determined.  These people often find themselves on my couch.

Sometimes, it is sleepless nights, difficulty eating or concentrating. These are also ways your body might be telling you there is a crisis and you better listen.

These situations may bring us to a therapist’s couch for crisis control. To get through the crisis we must reduce anxiety or the depression, we work to resolve the loss or understand and process trauma. Then, we have a choice:  to leave or keep working.

I get that some people may disagree (especially insurance companies).  But when we stop working on ourselves, we stop growing, and when we stop growing, we stop living.  

In my experience, the best therapy, the most productive therapy, happens just beyond the crisis when you can reflect on what brought you there in the first place.  What warning signs did you miss that could have prevented you from a hospital visit, from drinking more than you should, from not being able to get out of bed in the morning?

Could you have asked for help before the crisis? SURE.

Does it have to get to that point before you ask for help?

The answer to that is a resounding: NO.

If we can tune in and listen to ourselves (meditation is a great way to do this), if even for a moment, we can hear when our life is no longer within our control.

So what is the benefit of talking things out?

While this is not a quick fix, the power of healing happens through being seen, heard, understood. Then you can be challenged to move out of your “stuckness” to a place where life feels like it is back on track and headed in the right direction.

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MAKE YOUR RESOLUTIONS STICK, LEARN TO URGE SURF

Happy New Year!! When I can tear myself away from Chicago, I love to vacation near an ocean. I find the waves completely captivating, although I probably should be paying more attention to my kids, who are swimming in those swells. Every seven seconds and with nothing to stop them. The waves, I mean, and,…

Show Notes

Happy New Year!!

When I can tear myself away from Chicago, I love to vacation near an ocean. I find the waves completely captivating, although I probably should be paying more attention to my kids, who are swimming in those swells. Every seven seconds and with nothing to stop them. The waves, I mean, and, well the kids too.

What does this have to do with keeping your resolutions? I’m glad you asked!

This past week social media had been flooded with everyone’s resolutions and ways to reach your goals. I’m sure you’ve noticed too. (Don’t miss my post on goal setting) In reading so many of your resolutions it reminded me a of a strategy, based on research, that will help you actually make those resolutions stick.

So, Amy, what about the ocean is going to help with my resolutions?

In the field of mindfulness and psychology there’s an amazing concept called URGE SURFING, while it is typically used in treating addictions, it can be applied in SO many areas of our everyday lives, mine included.

The notion behind urge surfing is just like it sounds.  When you get an urge to do something, (which is usually what results in not meeting our resolutions), you surf that urge, you ride it out.

Let’s break it down a little more.

Say your resolution is to lose weight. Suddenly, you find yourself standing in your kitchen, late at night, desperately looking for something to eat.  You know late night eating isn’t good for you, but behind that behavior is a feeling.

This is the part to pay attention to! It is the feeling you are experiencing that you must identify but more importantly understand.

So what now?

You ride that wave, you learn to surf, you start to URGE surf.

Now you start to recognize the feeling and as a result of just recognizing it, the urge to engage in the behavior starts to reduce.

You could also step out of the kitchen just for a minute or so. Feelings typically don’t last much longer than 60-90 seconds, although that is not to say there isn’t another feeling behind it (sort of like a wave).

You can also take a few deep breaths. Did you notice you are about to engage in a behavior that is not healthy for you?

The crucial point of this exercise is: you are starting to learn to surf those waves. Try to put some time between the feeling you are having and the behavior you are about to partake in, (likely not a healthy choice).

As you see, urge surfing can apply to behaviors such as; making poor choices around food, alcohol or other addictive behaviors. It can even deflect a fight with a partner, friend or even your child.  Whatever the feeling, “You can’t stop the wave but you can learn to surf.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

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