Come join me and other sponsors at the Senior Health and Wellness Fair at The Regency in Laguna Woods on Thursday, September 18, 2014 from 10:30am - 4pm. It's free to attend, and will feature Orange County local professionals, such as myself, from all facets of health and wellness. I can't wait to see you...be sure to stop by my table for mental health tips and to say hello!
At the end of Elyn Saks' courageous and fascinating memoir about her struggles with schizophrenia, she reflects on what it was that helped support her along the way. I can hardly think of a better description of how the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client can be so transformational, and I wanted to share her words with you.
"Medication has no doubt played a central role in helping me manage my psychosis, but what has allowed me to see the meaning in my struggles - to make sense of everything that happened before and during the course of my illness, and to mobilize what strengths I may possess into a rich and productive life - is talk therapy. People like me with a thought disorder are not supposed to benefit much from this kind of treatment, a talk therapy oriented toward insight and based upon a relationship. But I have. There may be a substitute for the human connection - for two people sitting together in a room, one of them with the freedom to speak her mind, knowing the other is paying careful and thoughtful attention - but I don't know what that substitute might be. It is, at the heart of things, a relationship, and for me it has been the key to every other relationship I hold precious."
~ Elyn R. Saks, "The Center Cannot Hold"
By Marnee Reiley, Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
When a person is considering therapy for the first time, questions like these might pop up:
“I’m a smart person so shouldn’t I be able to figure this out on my own?”
“I have friends to talk to. Isn’t that what friends are for? To help you out when you’re in need?”
“Why should I pay a stranger to listen to me complain about my life?”
Yes, you may be smart. And yes, it’s wonderful to have a strong support system of friends and loved ones who care about your well-being. Often, just knowing that we have these relational resources is enough to get us through a bad day or a rough patch. Here are three reasons, however, why therapy can be a powerful tool towards achieving positive change.
1. Seeking therapy doesn’t mean you’re not capable or smart.
In fact, you could look at it as exactly the opposite. When you need a haircut or your teeth-cleaned, you probably go to a trained professional to provide these services, right? You problem-solve by identifying your need and selecting someone you trust to help you. Why should therapy be any different? Therapists are able to offer a different perspective on your thought-processes, ideally helping you to open doors to greater understanding of self.
2. Your friends and family members are not your therapist.
Friends and relatives are often loving and well-intentioned, wanting to offer support, love and advice when the going gets tough. However, as unbiased and self-aware as they might try to be, they are human. Just by the very fact of being someone close to you, they may have opinions, points-of-view and ulterior motives that reflect more about their own lives than yours. A therapist is someone completely un-involved in your personal life, making it easier to remain objective and impartial when hearing your story.
3. The relationship between you and your therapist is very unique.
With few exceptions, what you say to your therapist is protected and confidential. You should feel safe that what you share with your therapist will not be judged or criticized. The very fact that the therapist is not your friend, but a trained clinician, allows you the freedom to focus attention fully on your needs without having to worry about placing an emotional burden on a loved-one. The structure of a weekly session, time put aside solely for your own growth, can be an empowering step in your personal evolution.
Research has repeatedly shown that the fit between the client and the therapist is paramount; it has been found to be more important than what theoretical orientation the therapist might ascribe to or where he or she received their training. The therapeutic hour can be viewed as a laboratory, of sorts, for relationships. Therapy provides you with a safe place to try out and master new behaviors, ways of thinking, and communication skills before trying them out in the world. Do you feel like your new therapist is listening to you? Do you feel understood and cared for? Give yourself a few sessions with your new therapist to evaluate how you feel about the fit and talk to your therapist about these feelings.
Marnee Reiley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working with couples and adults in Irvine, Orange County, California.