When I was younger (before I was a clinical psychologist), I wanted desperately to see a psychologist so that I could tell them all my problems. You see I had what I now would term ‘adolescent angst’ and sometimes I did not get along with my parents, which is pretty normal. I had a view of what therapy was back then and most of this came from television. I saw people laying down on or sitting on a couch, talking about what was bothering them and then feeling better. Amazing. This then became a driving force behind my training in becoming a clinical psychologist. I wanted to make people feel better – what a great job! I now know that this view I had was not quite accurate. I have now done eight years of university training in addition to many, many courses and workshops on therapy. Therapy is very different to what I thought it was. However, this does make me think about what many of my clients’ perceptions of therapy are and where these perceptions come from.
Many people come to see me thinking that they are going to talk about their problems (otherwise known as ‘venting’) and then they will feel better. Although this can sometimes be the case, more often than not, clients do not get better just after talking about their problems. Sometimes this may happen initially but the problems return. Other times, clients may actually feel worse because they spent their 50 minutes talking about all the things that bother them but nothing changes. If this is what therapy is then seeing a psychologist means seeing someone forever because nothing is changing and the same patterns remain and probably always will. This is not very promising for the profession of psychology and is definitely not very helpful when you consider that Medicare allows for only 10 rebated sessions per calendar year.
So what is therapy? Therapy is an active process of making change. But who makes the change? It is the client that makes change. The psychologist acts as a guide to help the client makes changes. This includes identifying patterns present and working through collaboratively how change can happen so that clients can begin to have a more fulfilling and rewarding life. Therapy is not meant to be an ongoing, forever process. If therapy is done well and done collaboratively then the client should make improvements and get better, thus no longer requiring therapy. Also known as the psychologist’s ultimate goal – to no longer be needed.
Some of the big things that I see as important in therapy is a psychologist who is actively involved – not just sitting back, listening and reflecting. Of course there is a time for this in any therapeutic intervention but it is not all that is involved. But most of the change comes from the client. Clients that get better attend sessions on a regular basis and do the work in between sessions. The more work done between sessions, the more practice undertaken by the client, the better the outcomes are. Therapy is HARD. Often clients want to avoid therapy because of this but avoidance leads to more problems.
Working through the initial hard stuff can mean a client gets to have a better life and isn’t this what it is all about? There is no easy answer, no medication that will magically make it better. Therapy is HARD but isn’t it worth it? You only have one life. Let’s make it the best that it can be. Only you can choose happiness. No psychologist, GP or any other person can create that for you.
If you are ready to make changes for the better in your life, give the team at Broulee Psychology a call to discuss whether therapy is right for you. There is no time like the present – let’s work together to make change.