I know, it’s an odd title. But what I want to talk about this month is this: people wait too long before coming to therapy, especially couples’ therapy. Therapists are skilled listeners, excellent communicators, seasoned mediators – but not miracle workers!! If a couple comes for therapy and one of the two has already decided to get divorced, it’s too late! The time to come to therapy was when the troubles first became persistent, not when they had become entrenched into their psyches like well-worn grooves of thought habits.
The issue in individual therapy is this: it is the client who does the work, not the therapist. There are no mind readers who can open the top of your head and read your thoughts (or put ideas into your head), just clinicians who can use their experience to help guide clients towards better choices, great freedom, clearer boundaries. If a person has waited until they are in agony to see a therapist, it is not logical to expect that the first session or sessions will relieve the pain. What takes time going in takes time coming out!
When a new client tells me that a situation has been problematic for years, I learn several things. The first is that this client has developed a great ability to endure suffering through the process of numbing, a skill that usually becomes generalized throughout their life and will need to be decommissioned before real work can be accomplished. The second thing I learn is that their self-image is one of suffering, so they will have to grow into a new self-image. Finally, I know I will have to help them find a new and healthier way to express their anger, because whatever they did with their anger was not working for them.
Even with all the ads for Prozak and other psychotropic medications, people still hesitate to get professional help for what pains them. Particularly here in New England, land of the Bootstrap Philosophy, people believe they can do it themselves, even after years of evidence that they can’t – or they would have done it already!
If you or anyone you love is suffering from a long term problem, please get help. There are many different kinds of self-help groups, several varieties of therapists, medications, hotlines and other ways to get help and stop suffering needlessly. You deserve to feel better!