relationships

10 Things to Know About Therapy Before You Decide if it's for You

Let’s spend some time today unpacking the idea of therapy and what it is. I have noticed that for many people, there are too many unknowns for them to be fully comfortable seeking it out, and this is a shame, because therapy is an incredibly powerful tool that we can use to live our lives more fully.

I hear it all the time! “What do I need therapy for when I have friends and family who love me and want to hear what’s going on?” There’s a misconception that therapy is supposed to meet the same need that friends and family do. Having a strong social network is incredibly important, and frankly, even the most skillful therapy cannot replace these connections. But the opposite is also true. Regardless of how kind, and loving, and present your friends and family are, they aren’t a replacement for therapy.

But that doesn’t really answer our questions. What is therapy? What will it be like? And what is a reason to go to therapy? These and so many others are the ever present questions that prevent us from accessing all of the tools available to live the life that we want to have.

Think about the last time you were having a hard time. Maybe you were having issues in your relationship and you were trying to decide if you were going to try to make it work or move on. Sure, you talked to your friends and family about it! But your mom never liked him anyway. You’ve been together for 3 years and your mom still hasn’t moved past her first impression. You talk to your best friend about it, too. And it’s not that she isn’t helpful, she definitely lightens the mood. It’s just that drinking mimosas made the conversation veer off course. You felt a lot better after hanging out, you just didn’t have any answers. So you’re left to sort through all the fighting and the feelings by yourself, and you’re just as lost as you were a week ago.

The thing is that therapy isn’t just for people who have experienced trauma or have severe anxiety (although it helps for them, too). It’s also to help us learn more about ourselves so that we can make decisions that feel more authentic and move us closer to the life we want to have. Everyone, at some point or another, has a hard time sorting through confusing and often conflicting feelings. Even the best of relationships will have moments when you consider walking away, and every breakup, even those that are the healthiest comes with grief. Life is messy. And we don’t always take the time, or even know how, to sort through our feelings.

Therapy may feel like a big, scary thing, but it’s actually meant to help you feel more like yourself and make decisions that fit what you want out of life. Whether it is trauma, anxiety, life stress, or relationship challenges getting in your way, therapy can help you feel good about the direction you’re going. Here are ten things about therapy that can help you make a decision about whether or not it’s for you.

Keep reading for these ten things to know about therapy to help you decide if it’s time to try it.

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CAN’T MAKE A DECISION

Therapy certainly isn’t for everyone, or for every situation. But it helps a lot of people with a lot of different issues. If you don’t know what it is then how can you determine if it’s the right thing for you in that instance? I’m a big believer in having enough information to make the right decision for you.

CONFIDENCE TO KNOW WHAT YOU NEED

The idea is to give you enough information that you can confidently move forward with your decision about how you want to move forward. Let’s get you enough information to be able to make a decision that is right for you, either to engage with therapy or not, but also to find a therapist whose style will really meet your needs.

TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THERAPY

Therapy may seem a bit too mysterious for you to comfortably engage in it when you are struggling. The key to making solid decisions about when and how to engage in therapy is to know what you’re getting into and what you want to get out of it. So let’s take a look at ten things to know about therapy to help you make good decisions about if therapy is right for you right now, and if so, what you want it to do for you.

Check out these 10 things about therapy to help you make your decisions.

#10 You will build a relationship with your therapist

The thing is that therapy doesn’t work if you don’t feel safe with your therapist. They will be there while you are struggling. They will support you in learning about yourself and making sometimes uncomfortable perspective shifts, and we just aren’t open to this type of change if we don’t feel safe with the person in the room.

This may sound kind of strange, but often you will see your therapist for one focused hour a week. That’s more than you’ll see most anyone else in your life. Building a relationship will happen one way or another. If the therapy is going to be productive for you, it’s important that you basically like and trust the person guiding you through the process.

#9 Therapy should be uncomfortable, but not painful

This is so important. Therapy is not just idly chit chatting for an hour. There may be some chit chat in there, but it is punctuated with moments that are intense, or uncomfortable and challenging. There should be a good balance. This is part of what makes therapy different from just leaning on your friends and family. A therapist is going to find the spaces where you can grow, but not shove you into those spaces without your permission. Hence, therapy should not be painful. . .at least not for extended periods of time. If you trust your therapist, then you know that they are going to gently guide you through the hard stuff and get you back to a space where you feel back to yourself before you leave the session to do your life.

#8 Therapy should be focused

There might be some veering off in different directions, especially if you have a particularly difficult week that is unrelated to the issue that brought you in in the first place. But for the most part, there should always be a pull towards working on the issues that originally brought you in. Otherwise it’s hard to make any real, focused progress.

#7 Therapy is directed by you

Many people don’t realize that you are actually the boss in the therapy session. I am there to guide you and I will gently nudge you in a direction if I feel like it will be helpful, but you have veto power. We are there to talk about what is going to be the most helpful to you. Also, you know yourself and your family better than I do. You are the boss of your life. I’m just here to support you in uncovering what you already know about how to move forward.

#6 Therapy is best when you can be consistent

Typically your sessions will be scheduled for one hour a week. There are limited instances where you and your therapist may decide that sessions might be spread out a bit more or less than this depending on your specific goals. Your consistency in coming in to sessions will make a big impact on the speed of your progress. If there are sometimes multiple weeks in between sessions, there can be a lot of time spent just catching up about what has happened in the meantime, and that’s not a good use of your time.

If you are able to come consistently to your appointments, you will be more able to be consistently building on what you have been working on in previous sessions, and you’ll find that you are able to see more change more quickly.

#5 There are a lot of different types of therapy and therapists

You’ll hear this a lot. Therapy works the best when you find a therapist and a style of therapy that fits your personality and your needs. My personality and style works beautifully for a lot of people, but I am certainly not the best therapist for everyone. The way I think about mental health and relationship health heavily colors the way that I work, and this is true of all therapists.

For this reason, you may choose to try talking with a few therapists before you settle on the one that works for you. Most therapists will offer an opportunity to ask them questions and get to know them before you commit to sessions, and this is a great way for you to learn more about what does and doesn’t work for you.

#4 Some challenges take a long time to deal with, but others can be very short time

Every so often someone will ask how long they will need to be in therapy. And the answer to that is actually rather complicated. Honestly, it mostly depends on what you are trying to get out of the therapy. Do you have a stressful situation you need help navigating? That might take a few months. Are you trying to sort through a pattern you’ve noticed in your relationships that isn’t working for you? That might take a bit longer to sort through. This leads me into my next point.

#3 Therapy can help you make decisions, but your therapist isn’t going to tell you what to do

You are the boss. This is your life. You know more about your family, your life, and your feelings than I ever will. I will listen and be engaged. I might even have opinions (I’m pretty opinionated), but therapy isn’t about me telling you what to do. It’s about helping you get to a place where you can confidently make decisions that really serve your interest.

#2 Your therapist won’t judge you

Really though. If you feel judged by your therapist that is a problem. Everyone has weak moments. Everyone has aggressive impulses. Everyone has dark thoughts. Everyone thinks and does things they are not proud of sometimes. Therapy is about being really honest about what you are feeling and doing and identifying how to move forward in the way that is going to help you feel better. There’s no room for judging there.

#1 There is a therapist who will work with your schedule

I know you’re busy, and it can be hard to set aside the time for yourself. I get it. It can feel like the time might be better used doing something else. I would argue that if you took the time to take care of yourself you’d be able to make better use of the rest of your time.

But that aside, therapists work all kinds of weird hours. It is super likely that you will find someone who can work with your schedule. I mean, this is part of why I do online therapy. No one has to drive anywhere, and it allows for a ton more scheduling flexibility.

Making the decision to try therapy is a big one. It can take you some time to identify who would be a good fit, and get through the fear that might be stopping you from moving forward. Hopefully having some more information about what therapy is and what to look for might help you feel better about making a decision for yourself.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, let’s schedule a consult. I’d be happy to brainstorm with you about what you are looking for in a therapist, even if I’m not a good fit.

Email me today to get started.

How to Set a Boundary with Someone You Care About

Setting boundaries can be really scary. For one thing, you may not be able to trust yourself to set the boundary in a way that feels good to you. Even more than that just the idea of hurting their feelings is enough to make you cringe away from the very idea.

It’s just that when we don’t set boundaries regularly, things build up.

You may think you are preserving the relationship by not saying anything (you’re strong enough to deal with it, right?), but what actually ends up happening is that when you finally get fed up and set the boundary it comes out of you in. . .let’s just say not the most ideal way.

I see this cycle play itself out for so many clients. The client wants to be kind and forgiving not make waves. So they don’t set any boundaries. At first it feels fine. Little by little things start to feel more aggravating. Eventually a small thing feels like a big problem and the client gets snappy, or loud, or mean when they set the boundary. The person the client set the boundary with feels like the client lost their shit for no reason.

Nothing the client said was heard.

They end up feeling not only like boundary setting doesn’t work because no one listens, but they also end up feeling ashamed of the way they handled the situation. Unfortunately, this causes the client to swing all the way back to being passive and not setting any boundaries out of guilt. And the cycle continues; no boundaries with building aggravation swings to aggressive boundary setting, which leads to shame and guilt about boundaries.

Here’s one way it can play out. Imagine for a moment having a mom that you love very much but she drives you up the wall regularly (far fetched, I know). You appreciate her and like to talk to her regularly, but it seems every time you talk with her she seems to feel like she needs to tell you something else that she thinks you need to take care of or do differently. It makes you feel like you can’t relax around her, and often you end up cutting your time with her short.

Honestly there’s a part of you that feels really good about the fact that you don’t lose your temper with her, but you are starting to realize that the time you spend together doesn’t feel good and your relationship has been feeling more superficial and forced. One day when she makes another one of her comments you just can’t stand it anymore, and you end up snapping at her and telling her to get off your ass! But now her feelings are hurt, and you feel like a jerk.

So you feel like an asshole, your mom’s feelings are hurt, and you certainly don’t feel closer to her or like you protected the relationship.

All you ended up doing by not setting the boundary in the first place is ensured that the way you set the boundary was not the way you would have wanted to communicate with your mom.

If you can’t set boundaries and feel like things go to hell when you try, you end up avoiding the people you care about.

Look, boundaries are hard.

Finding the balance of making sure you communicate what you need in a way that is kind and neutral is hard. It’s really normal to feel overwhelmed by boundary setting. A lot of people end up just trying to suck it up (until they blow up) or avoiding the whole deal in the first place.

Difficulty with boundary setting can make you feel touchy and maybe even make you feel crazy sometimes for blowing up. If you can learn, step by step, how to set a boundary that is not dependent on how the other person responds, you can start to trust yourself to handle these situations more smoothly. When we follow these simple steps for how to effectively set a boundary, we can start to feel more in control of our communication, and we can feel heard in our relationships.

Keep reading to learn how to feel comfortable and more confident setting boundaries today.

Why bother? No one listens anyway.

The worst thing about not setting any boundaries is that your only options are to avoid people you care about or lose your temper when you can’t stand it anymore. This means you either lose intimacy in important relationships or end up feeling like a lose cannon.

At the very least you end up feeling like what you need doesn’t matter and you have to “suck it up”.

Living like this is not fulfilling at best and frustrating at worst.

Be in control of the way you communicate in relationships.

Although you struggle with the guilt that comes with knowing that you are going to hurt the feelings of someone you care about if you set a boundary, you have the potential to feel calm and in control of the way that you are communicating.

You can communicate your boundaries in a way that enhances and protects your relationships.

When we choose to set boundaries in a way that empowers us to communicate what we need with no strings attached, with recognition that we don’t get to affect the way that what you say is received or responded to, you can finally feel ready to take on your relationships in a more honest and authentic way.

This is an opportunity for you to communicate kindly and effectively so that you can feel empowered and authentic in your relationships, regardless of how capable the people in your life are at respecting your boundaries.

How to Set Boundaries Kindly and Effectively

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Yes, you might be feeling frustrated with setting boundaries and communicating your needs in relationships, but the key to feeling empowered and authentic in your relationships is to set kind and consistent boundaries. It is scary to think about communicating things that are possibly upsetting to people you care about, but it feels a lot better when you can trust yourself to communicate in a way that you can feel good about. When you follow this simple, step by step path, you will start to notice that you can be more authentic and kind in your relationships.

Take a look at these steps to see how you can feel more authentic and comfortable communicating in your relationships.

Authentic, Consistent Communication

One of the main reasons you struggle to communicate your needs to the people who are important to you is fear of hurting their feelings or upsetting them. It makes complete sense that you feel guilty for making things worse or hurting the relationship when every time you try to set a boundary it ends up in flames. But it doesn’t have to stay this way when you start implementing authentic, consistent communication.

1) Identify the common thread

When you are regularly getting upset in one of your relationships, the first step is to try to understand what it is that is happening, or what you feel is getting communicated. It’s really easy to just act as though these are stand alone experiences that you can get over. When you start to pay attention, though, you’re probably going to notice that there is a theme. Maybe you get upset when you are given unsolicited advice. Maybe what really gets to you is when people flake out on plans. Maybe the really hard thing is when you feel like your feelings are dismissed.

Whatever it is, it is very likely that it happens often in the same relationship.

In sessions we will examine the instances when you feel that your boundaries were crossed or your needs weren’t met by the people in your life. We will explore other times when you have felt similarly and then find the common thread together. What we are looking for is what actually upset you and why you don’t like what happened. It’s not usually enough to just know that you didn’t like that the person was late to meet for coffee, but it is more helpful to be able to say, “I don’t feel like you respect my time.”

When you are able to identify the common thread in the instances of being angry or upset with a specific person, it will enable you to communicate more fully and precisely what it is that isn’t working and what you need next time.

2) Communicate honestly, and kindly

The two issues that I see most often that are impeding communication are either not communicating honestly or fully (“Of course I don’t mind!”) or communicating aggressively because we have waited until we are full on pissed before we said anything. Ideally we want to communicate what we don’t like and why, what we need to be different next time, and how we will react if this trespass happens again. We want to do that as neutrally and kindly as humanly possible, so that regardless of how the other person reacts, you can feel good about what you said and how you said it.

I recognize that this is very difficult. This is why in session I support my clients not only in identifying what they want to say, but also practicing how to phrase it.

We identify potential ways to respond if the communication isn’t received well, and we walk through step by step identifying how to respond in different scenarios.

This is a really important part of the process. If you can identify and feel good about how you are going to respond if your boundary is received really poorly, you are empowered to engage in the relationship only in a way that feels good to you. This is a big deal! You get to feel good about your boundary, what you said, and how you said it, regardless of the way that the other person responds to you.

3) Be consistent

This is where things fall apart for most of us. We wait until we feel like it’s a big deal before we say anything. We let it slide. We say we’re not going to put up with it anymore but then we do. In a lot of ways it is easier to just not deal with it until it feels like a big deal. The issue with this is that you will notice yourself either avoiding your relationships, or blowing up every so often when you want to set a boundary. This is why you end up feeling like no one respects your boundaries. Because you aren’t enforcing your boundaries, and that is the bulk of the work.

When you schedule a session with me I will talk with you about what boundaries you might be overlooking and how that might be impacting your relationships. We will explore what happens when you decide to let things slide, and together we will determine which boundaries you feel you need to start enforcing, and which you feel can be put on the back burner for a while.

You don’t have to take on every issue in every relationship, but when you make the decision to take it on, it’s good to stay consistent.

Make sure that you know exactly how you will respond when your boundary isn’t respected and then you and I will hold you accountable (gently and kindly of course) for staying consistent in the way you handle it.

Adding this boundary setting technique to your life will help you feel more in control in your relationships. You will notice that you don’t feel as though you have to censor yourself quite so much because you trust what comes out of your mouth. You will start to notice that you get to be more authentic in your relationships because you are comfortable with what will happen if someone doesn’t like what you have to say.

Being able to set boundaries in a kind and consistent way can be invigorating.

You absolutely can feel authentic in your relationships and still take care of yourself.

Therapy can help you to sort through what is and isn’t working in your relationships, and identify exactly how you would like to handle it from now on so that you can feel empowered and confident moving forward.

Schedule a free consultation now.