WHAT’S IT REALLY LIKE TO BE IN THERAPY?
Many of you have never been in therapy. Maybe you wonder what it would be like. You may be curious about the kind of interactions that take place, and what can be expected. Here is one example of a successful therapy. If you noticed my write-up on the home page of this website, I outlined the trends associated with the beginning, middle and end phases. This is an example of a session in the latter phase of therapy where lessons have been learned and integrated. The learning is not over, the challenges will continue, but this person has the tools that he was missing before.
So here is an inside look at the process. Remember, each person is unique, each session is unlike any other. Here is one hour in the life of a therapist and patient:
Therapist: Hi Stan. How are you doing today?
Stan: I’m still doing well. Though it has been difficult to adjust to a life without chaos. I actually feel selfish because things are going so well. The one thing I wanted I’m getting. I have my mother back in my life and we are getting along just like we used to, only better. Better now than ever…. It’s hard to live without stress. It’s a learning curve. Ironically, it’s the hardest part!
Therapist: Harder than the chaos that you lived through?
Stan: It’s like climbing out of the mental web that I built. I became so accustomed to chaos dominating my day. It’s weird now. I have to be conscious all the time or I get caught back up in how I was, in how I reacted and felt then.
It’s hard being here now because my mind constructs a pattern of how to deal with the pain and chaos, even though my present life is good.
Like I drank this weekend. I stopped for so long and it felt good, but then I got together with the guys and I went for it. I drank. I had a decent time but yesterday I felt so bad that I wasted my time. I felt bad about myself.
Last night Mom and I talked. She was rational and made so much sense. She was calm and listened to me. She walked me through it just like she used to. It was so helpful. She said, “Don’t worry” and I felt better! I told her I need reminders that it’s OK, that I’m OK.
At times I feel like I’m 30 or 40 years old. The last three years felt like a lifetime. With my brother’s suicide I went crazy, and the whole family broke down. Now I see kids my age and they have moved on, they are farther along in college than me. My life spiraled down into the depths, while their educational life took off.
That’s what I told Mom, and she told me, “What is the alternative?” It made me stop. She said it all evens out.
Therapist: That is so wise. And you took it in?
Stan: Yea, but I’m impatient. I realize I have so much work to do. And Mom kept on reminding me, “You’re only 21″. But I don’t feel 21. I’m in a mental marathon and it consumes me sometimes…. I guess I’m a work in progress…. But I did one thing right: I asked for help before I started to spiral out of control. I knew I started to freak and I just asked for help.
Therapist: Good for you. You are starting a new pattern.
Stan: Sometimes I feel like I live two different lives. I’m here, then I jump ahead in my mind. Like, where will I be in two years? How will I ever do it? When I said that to Mom, she said, “Be here now, be in this semester, breathe.”
Therapist: Great advice again.
Stan: Now I have room to breathe. I have room to think because we aren’t in the misery and anger and chaos anymore. Ever since I wrote her that letter about how I really felt, it all changed.
Now I have a desire. I am starting to think about being in a good relationship. Before this, I was so messed up I felt I couldn’t put a woman through the complications. My life was just too complicated. So I decided just not to be with anyone. For years, it wasn’t even a choice.
Therapist: But something is happening to you now, something is opening up so you are starting to want a connection, a real connection.
Stan: But is it really possible? And would it be positive?
Therapist: Absolutely! If you are thinking these thoughts, then you are getting ready to let in someone special. In some areas “if you don’t use it you loose it.” Not in this area. You have the capacity to love, and now that you have worked through your loss, you are beginning to move on, and you are ready to open up to love. You can be open to all your possibilities now!
Stan: Really??!! This makes me feel hopeful that you say that.
Therapist: Yes, and when you feel ready you will send out a wavelength, a vibration – just like you can feel the energy of someone who quietly stands behind you. And you will attract someone of the same wavelength.
Stan: Ahh… Just like in the song, “Wavelength,” by Van Morrison!
Therapist: Right!!! It took healing with your mother and accepting the loss of your brother to be ready and open for a relationship.
Stan: I want to marry a woman who is like the best of my mother; someone who is strong, assertive, who is an individual with her own thoughts. I don’t want a passive and compliant woman. The way my Mom brought me up I have a healthy respect for women.
I realize that lately I’ve been thinking about writing about my experiences and what a young person goes through when they loose a family member to suicide, and what the family goes through. Then I wonder, who would care? But then I say, wait, so many people have to deal with the suicide of a family member or friend. I could write from the perspective of a young person who had to live through it.
Therapist: I didn’t realize that you had thoughts of writing about this. I encourage you to start taking notes. It doesn’t have to be in sequence, just jot down what comes to mind and you can pull it together later. That is a fantastic idea.
Stan: Yea, I have this urge to visit high schools and to be real and talk about my experiences, to give kids an idea about the consequences of a suicide, how it affects others. Coming from a young person it could be more powerful.
Therapist : Absolutely!
Stan: Even if I changed one mind, it would be worth it
Therapist: You have transformed your own pain into the gift of giving to others your hard won wisdom and love. I am so proud of you.
Stan: And I realize that I need to learn how to become a man! I like that my Mom taught me and was the one who brought me up. I feel that that transformation will be complete when college is done. Then I will enter life as a man. I know I have the perfect formula.
I want to become a wise person who is positive and helpful. I feel like I’ve already done the hard part. The next part is in accepting how well things are going. Now I need to accept the calmness.
I see that If I can put it together I have the potential to be a positive force in the world. It’s hard as hell. All I can do is hope and stay focused. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Therapist: Congratulations. You are transforming now into the person you have always wanted to be. I am so honored to have helped.
So that is one session. This is one hour in the life of a therapist and one patient! Sounds too good to be true? Actually, no. This session is the culmination of years of hard work. So young, yet he has worked through so much pain and loss, and transformed in a most amazing way. This session is a literal transcription. Amazing isn’t it? Amazing but true.