Today, more and more people realize that psychotherapy holds benefits for them. Therapy has become part of our cultural mainstream and there are many types of therapy to fit clients different needs and personality styles. Yet, still, too many people hold to a belief they have to “go it alone,” and they wind up underachieving and suffering needlessly for long periods before seeking therapy.
Many clients enter therapy because of the anxiety, depression, or grief from disruptive life events or significant losses. Some come because of an awareness that they are not satisfied with life, despite working very hard at it. And still others from a realization that they keep repeating the same self-defeating behaviors with loved ones or at work. Clients often experience success as they embark on this process of self discovery and for the first time get professional feedback on their emotional functioning and decision making.
And with this success, many clients start to “get it” that therapy is not just about dealing with problems or crises. Therapy is also about emotional growth, healing old wounds and strengthening one's character through the painstaking work of vulnerably accepting who we are -our flaws and our necessary suffering- while letting go of shame and unneccessary suffering. Behavior changes incrementally and organically and we find that extra edge of motivation, confidence, or patience it takes to respond well to the lifelong challenges of work, family and relationships. Clients get it that difficult dilemmas never cease and that regular psychotherapy leads to a deeper, fuller, more balanced life with minimal pain, and greater appreciation of life’s riches.
The quality of life for you and your family hinges on you making good decisions, often during highly nuanced, stressful or competitive situations. Optimal decision making requires real-time self-awareness of your emotions and of your default reactions. In therapy you learn how your unintended behaviors and communications impact others and cause you problems. You work through emotions from past wounds so they don’t affect current judgement. My clients always come to therapy as well intentioned individuals, but inadvertently they keep repeating dysfunctional dynamics. When clients finally see what they are really doing, they are stunned and ashamed (only later are they appreciative), yet without help we can not break out of these patterns. As Freud taught us, this repetition of the past is part of the human condition. Our challenge, the challenge of psychotherapy, is to work hard to counter this natural repetition tendency.
I often tell clients the greatest gift they can give their children and spouses is their own personal therapy. Therapy helps you optimize the joy of life while minimizing the suffering, makes you a better spouse or parent, and in this way create a better legacy for future generations.