Before I write about the benefits of therapy, let me be clear. Your decision to go to therapy (or not) is a personal decision, and it is yours to make. Some people are intimidated, nervous, excited, relieved, anxious, or even resentful that they even have to think about going to therapy in the first place. Oftentimes, it is all of the above and more! That is completely understandable and human.
So, if you choose, what is the benefit of therapy? Why face all of these emotions? Here are my beliefs and thoughts about the benefits of therapy:
Confidentiality. Have you ever been worried that your most vulnerable story will be told to others after you have confided in someone? Or worse, has that actually happened? Therapists are bound by confidentiality regulations to ensure your safety and privacy. A therapist cannot share your story with others without your express permission. This can be a relief to a lot of clients who want to explore their experiences, but aren’t ready for others reactions who are close to them.
Empathy and Acceptance. Therapists understand that sharing your story takes a lot of courage and vulnerability. In therapy, you are not on trial. You are not being judged. The goal is to create a place of empathy and acceptance that encourages authentic emotional exploration. A common response that I hear from clients after the first initial session is “that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” One of the greatest benefits of therapy is feeling understood by someone. Recent research has found that the antidote for shame and vulnerability is empathy.
Unbiased. Everyone needs to confide in someone. For a lot of people that is typically a close friend or family member. While these people are important and needed supports in life, some things may not be appropriate to share with them and they may have a limited perspective on your situation. A therapist is more objective, will be less biased, and has training to treat specific mental health issues.
A New Perspective and Way of Thinking/Feeling. As your emotions and experiences are shared with someone, additional insight and perspective inevitably emerge. It is an enriching experience for both the story-teller and the one honored to hear the story. A client will often share what they view as a weakness and I am awed with the amount of strength and courage they exhibit. Collaboration is powerful. To put it bluntly, our perspective on ourselves is limited and can sometimes keep us trapped in our own vantage point.
A powerful example of a new perspective is from a client who had a dream that she was alone in a stormy sea, with waves crashing all around her, and her feet are stuck in a quagmire of rugged rocks. As she shared the story and explored the experience, she noticed that the rocks actually had small flecks of light and gold in them. As she looked further, the light and gold in the rocks opened up and she realized that they were not binding her down, but were actually those people in her life that she could whole-heartedly depend on. She was not alone at all, but surrounded with support and light.
Recommendations. Although a therapist provides a space for empathy, he or she also has the obligation to make recommendations that will help a client reach their therapeutic goals. These recommendations may be ways to consolidate what was shared in a clinical session (oftentimes the client themselves will come up with what they would like to do going forward). They may be to see another physician or mental health professional. It may even be a recommendation of slight changes of lifestyle that will be helpful to a client. Regardless of the recommendation, the intent of all recommendations is to be of assistance and support to the client.
Overall, the hope of therapy is that when you leave, you will have experienced empathy, understanding, acceptance, a new perspective, and something that will help you as you move forward.
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