How do you "do" therapy - what should I expect?
The core of the therapeutic process is a collaborative, interactive exploration and assessment of your unique internal experience with the added luxury of focussing on understanding it in order to strategically induce change it rather than judging your experience with harshness, breavity and finality and thus resulting in shame and pain and depriving us of any sort of resolution and relief at all. Additionally, psycho-education and skills-training can offer a powerful way of not only shaping our future, but also decoding and potentially re-writing our past, and thus offering freedom from that past as well as relief, new styles of connection and the power to consciously shape our life the way we chose rather than life simply "happening to us".
What is reason enough to seek therapy - isn't therapy for people with severe mental issues?
This is something many of us have heard before. Seeking out counseling can be accompanied by a natural feeling of hesitation. I would like to offer a comparison to the medical profession. We seek medical help for a broken leg, a flu we can’t kick, or a pattern of unexplained diminishing energy. Our ability to enjoy the richness of life and simply take in everyday experiences depends on the strength of our overall health. In the same manner, discomfort whether physical or emotional and mental in nature greatly impacts our quality of life. The level of discomfort we feel that points us toward therapeutic services should be held with as much attention and concern as aches and pains of our physical bodies. And while some people may prefer to distance themselves from a potential issue until it might get out of hand, others may appreciate a more proactive approach. The choice is up to each individual's sense of timing. The question that may remain is simply: How is your approach serving you?
What can counseling do that I can't get of of a piece of good advice from a friend?
I have frequently heard that the utility of a therapist/counselor is simply a cultural consequence of "lack of friendship". Let me respond by offering a couple of relevant perspective for your consideration.
1. While I believe that there are a few (and I really mean "a few") friends out there that are actually able to consider the fulness of a situation, have the ability and sensibility to put themselves into your situation and actually conjure up a piece of advice you had not thought of yourself, internal conflicts typically don't come from a lack of perspectives. Most clients are quite clear on the plethora of options they have, the variety often specifically representing the struggle that is in fact holding them back from a solution. My primary goal with these clients is gaining a deeper awareness and insight into the forces that keep inciting these internal battles that are so painful to experience. How often have you heard yourself think or say "I know it's stupid, but I really feel like ..."? Our feelings, uncontrollable and thus annoying as they might be are often highly informative and once truly appreciated and understood carry monumental meaning, validity and importance. Once revealed, a decision with the conscious consideration of this meaning offer us open and conscious choice rather than seemingly automatic programs of acting that render us merely victims or our automated undoing.
2. For most therapists, including myself, completion of graduate school is only the beginning. Therapists focus on sharpening and adding to their tools continually. A productive collaboration between a therapist and his/her client as well as solid conceptualization of skills training and thus true forward motion in the therapeutic process takes a lot of training and commitment in the same manner in which your friend is perfecting his/her IT chops, sharpening his/her sales & marketing skills and making a commitment to long-term research in his/her field. Being a therapist is significantly more than sharing a room with another person for 50 minutes. It is a full-time job honoring my clients needs by committing to ongoing fine-tuning, whether it means spending countless hours in current research, conceptualizing the best way to attend to the truly astounding variability for each of my client's particular needs, attending lectures of some of the field's formost experts, or engageing in my own research.