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8 Tips to Get the Most Out of Therapy

  IMG_9713If you are struggling to keep your New Year's resolutions, don't quit! Maybe what you are working on right now is not a one-person job.

Investing in yourself by starting therapy can be a great way to support your intentions for this upcoming year and beyond.

If you have never been to therapy it can be hard to know what to expect. I want to give you an inside scoop and share my thoughts on how to set yourself up for maximum growth and change.

  1. Be gentle. Yup, it's rule #1. The majority of the work I do with my clients is helping them become gentle with themselves; to get curious about their inner world and the way they are organized. You can't bully yourself into becoming Whole. You need to love yourself Whole. There is no way around this one.
  2. Transition. When we are working with material that is not yet conscious, it requires a certain mindful positioning. When you arrive to your session, find your feet on the floor, your pelvis in your seat, elongate your spine and find your breath. We are going inside to wander into non-ordinary places. This kind of work is greatly supported by transitioning out of the busy work day and becoming present so we can hear the whisperings of the soul.
  3. Challenge yourself. Take risks. Stretch for the uncomfortable material. Admit the inadmissible, speak the unspeakable. What you put in is what you will get out.
  4. Challenge your therapist. I love when my clients challenge me. My clients come to work on something, but they also come to teach me something about myself. Say the thing you are afraid to say. Ask questions you think you're not allowed to ask.
  5. Make a commitment. The therapeutic relationship is the foundation of therapy. It supports all of the work that we do together. By using our relationship as a guide, we come to more deeply understand the other important relationships in your life. The better I understand you and the safer you feel with me, the more deeply and effectively we can work together. Like any valuable relationship, it takes time and commitment to develop.
  6. Be consistent. Therapy is not like a doctor's visit where you only show up when you're not feeling well. Think of it like the gym: You don't build a muscle by picking up a set of weights once in a while. Consistency is the best way to get the most out of your time and money. All you have to do is show up.
  7. Keep a therapy journal. Journaling creates continuity between sessions. It is a way to keep the material alive. Write down thoughts, questions, themes, feelings, or something you want to meditate on over the course of the week.
  8. Stop thinking you're crazy. I hear some clients initially half-joke that they must be "crazy" to be in therapy. You are not crazy, ok? Therapy is hygienic. Inner exploration is an adventure and one that requires pretty important and mature faculties. Personal evolution and movement toward growth is sexy. Let's face it, the world needs more people who are willing to do the hard work of looking closely at themselves. This isn't a selfish or narcissistic endeavor. Healing, loving and accepting yourself is a gift you give to yourself and to the world around you.

If you are in therapy now, you can accelerate the change process by incorporating even one of these ideas. If things are getting stale with your therapist, shake things up and see what happens.

If you're not in therapy, maybe this is the year to finally get cracking on the work you have been meaning to do on yourself for ages but have put off. The work is waiting for you. It's not a matter of getting around it. You can choose whether to do the work now or later in life, but you might as well do it now.

I think you are so very worth it.

______

I hope this feels helpful. I would love to hear from you- What is something that helped you deepen the work you were doing in therapy?

Welcome The Work

   My mentor recently told me something that has been sticking with me.

She said,“We are here, on this planet, to work.” Uh oh.

She wasn’t talking about the rat race or where your career is going. She was talking about inner development.

I wanted to share this idea with you because I’m really interested in a conversation about how we cultivate and nurture our inner lives; how we create a relationship with our Self - our soul - so that we may heal, grow, evolve and live a meaningful and authentic life. This is what we are being asked to do.

So how do we do it? Mentally & physiologically, there needs to be a return, again and again, to a place of curiosity with ourselves. Attention directed inward. Investigating patterns and emotional vibrations. Staying close to our organizing material. And being really gentle with ourselves as we go along.

We also need to recognize the importance of attending to our spiritual life. Rudolf Steiner wrote that “If we do not develop within ourselves this deeply rooted feeling that there is something higher than ourselves, we shall never find the strength to evolve to something higher.”  I love this because it is such a great reminder to create a little space  to move beyond the physical world and what we think we know.

So if it’s true that we are meant to work, we might as well surrender and embrace it.

A simple reframe can be so powerful. Instead of:

“Ugh, God, I can’t believe I have all of these ISSUES I still have to work on! What is WRONG with me?”

Try:

“Wow, I exist in human form. I am so grateful and full of reverence for the opportunity to be here on this planet and to work on myself. To be alive in the Universe is the rarest- but rarest- of gifts, and I welcome the chance to deepen my self-awareness while learning to connect meaningfully with others.”

Which one made it easier for you to breathe? We need to remind ourselves that we are here to work, and that we are being gifted with this privilege, not sentenced.

Granted, not everyone is on this path. There are some folks who seem content to just chill and be who they are without much need, curiosity or interest in self-development-- they’re like another species to me. And it’s cool, it’s just not how I roll. And it’s not how my people roll. We are on a different path. We are seekers. We are walking the path of fire. And let me tell you, it burns really good.

Let us welcome the work the universe is asking us to do

Let us be so glad for it

Let us tend to the business of our souls

Let us be so thankful to be conscious and alive

Let us promise to stand shoulder-to-shoulder

Keep each other awake

Lift each other up

And rise

 

Soul school is in session. Brrriiinngggg!

 

What inspires you to stay on the Path? How do you commit and recommit to the work? If you're not sure, hang tight- I've got some good ideas I want to share with you this Fall. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter so you won't miss anything.

Photo creditCreative Commons License D. Sharon Pruitt via Compfight

The Body in Psychotherapy

 

Why would we want to include the body in psychotherapy? It’s actually pretty simple: there is no concrete distinction between your body and your mind. As Dr. Alexander Lowen said, "the unconscious is the body." Exploring body process, then, becomes an important way to understand how you feel the way that you do, not just your ideas on why.

We tend to over-identify with our minds while viewing our bodies as an “it” or a “thing” that shit happens to. We say “my back is killing me!” rather than “I’m clenching my lower back.” We disown, lock away, what we can’t tolerate. Unfortunately, when we say 'no' to pain, we limit our experience of joy at the other end of the stick. This creates the fragmentation and discomfort that brings people into my office. As a therapist my intention is to hold and revere the 'completeness' of my client, so that they might come to experience themselves as integrated as well.

Consider this: Everything you’ve ever experienced in your life is stored in your body. Your memories are only a part of the equation. The rest is coded in your cells. If you sit still in a safe place long enough you might trace a benign surface tension back decades, following the thread all the way to a hurt you experienced as a 5 year old. It’s the reason why you might find yourself bursting into tears in the middle of your favorite yoga class. Being a human is WILD.

In my practice, when it's appropriate, I invite my clients to get deeply curious about what their body is saying to them. The way you sit, how you breathe, and the sensations that arise and persist during the session--a knot in your stomach, tingling hands, numbness, dizziness, heaviness in your chest, etc--are not mere frivolous details. On the contrary, these bodily sensations, diffused like a soft mist or laser precise, are revealing the truth about who you actually are in that moment. This communication is the most accurate and reliable form of information-gathering that we have, as your body is no fool and it is no liar. When it comes to unfinished business, your body-- your being-- yearns to expose what's true, yearns to be heard, held, witnessed, so that old patterns, traumas, hurts can be fully expressed and released.

Attending to the body means not having to pore over every element of the past--because what is relevant will present itself as it needs to. You don't have to remember every life event in chronological order. When you use your body as a guide, you get to bypass the constraints of old thought patterns and risk stepping into a more authentic internal space.

The beauty part? You don't have to know what to do. You don't have to come up with an elaborate, intellectualized strategy for how to heal yourself. All you have to do is have the courage to show up and compassionately turn your attention inward. In the hands of a skilled therapist the two of you together will very respectfully find the meaning in what is being revealed. TRUST the wisdom of your body. The body knows what needs to come next in order to heal. 

Photo: Corie Howell via Compfight