Is your resolution to start or return to therapy?
Perhaps your resolution is to start therapy, or maybe you need it after surviving 2017 + the holiday season. Finding a therapist can feel very overwhelming- you’ve gone through Psychology Today, talked to a few friends for referrals, etc. Now what?
Let’s take a look at a few tips for finding your therapist match...
Another subject to consider is what you want out of therapy. Now that you have found some therapists you’re confident in, now we can take a look at what to expect.
What should I expect?
Do I have to lay down on the couch? Not unless you want to, they tend to be comfy- and trust me we have all pretty much napped on those couches. Typically, sessions are done these days sitting face to face in an office setting.
Do I need to divulge everything on the first session? I’m nervous. You can go at your own comfort & speed. It’s completely normal to feel nervous, it can be helpful to explore these feelings on the first session. Many therapy styles these days are “client centered” which is a fancy way of saying that YOU are in the driver’s seat in control.
What if I think my therapist will judge me? Rest assured, therapy is no place for judgements. In reality, the more honest you are in sharing those more embarrassing moments/hard to vocalize thoughts & behaviors, the more productive therapy generally will be. Remember, it’s not our job to judge; it’s our job to support, help and guide towards self-realization. Chances are, we have heard it in some way shape or form before.
Do I need to go every week? Typically, therapy is a weekly process; however, some opt to come in every other week, while others may feel they want to be seen more than once a week. Some therapists may offer phone sessions or virtual sessions as well if the client is unable to attend regularly.
What can I expect from the process? You will most likely feel many things- there will be times where you leave the therapy room feeling as though you are 100lbs lighter, there will be other times that you may feel stuck and frustrated. Talk to your therapist about how you are feeling, it’s a help to both parties in the room. Just remember that therapy is not an overnight “quick-fix” process nor like refreshing day at the spa. Therapy is an emotionally committed process that may bring up feelings of discomfort, although therapy can also bring about feelings of being reassured, less alone and a place where you can learn what to do with all of your emotions. Therapy can an exciting, scary and ultimately empowering process for many.
When we think of the holidays, we often think of the cozy family snuggled up by the fireplace. So what happens to those who don’t have the Norman Rockwell painting of a family? The reality is, for many the holidays are a source of stress ranging financial stressors to highly charged emotions. Whether you are experiencing a holiday without a parent due to death, illness (physical or mental) or even seeing extended family member you’ve been anxiously awaiting all year.
So many of us fall into the mental trap of the holiday dinners or experiences that MUST be perfect. Seeing family SHOULD be easy, being back at our parent’s house SHOULD feel inviting, or having the kids decorate the house SHOULD be a fun filled family excursion. So when arguments about politics arise, when you end up feeling uncomfortable away from your home or when the kids end up breaking/eating most of the ornaments, we often find ourselves angry and frustrated that, yet again, we failed to live up to the picture perfect family standard.
Or perhaps this a holiday with a family member who is no longer present physically or mentally. While it can be wonderful seeing others around family members, it can also serve as a painful reminder of what we no longer have, or maybe what we wish we had all along. Many of these gatherings or this time of year is shown in movies, greeting cards, etc, has the potential to make us feel extra venerable and a bit of an outsider- as the holiday times are not often associated with deep feelings of grief and longing. This can be an emotionally straining time for those who are experiencing loss; this is the time of year so centered around family that someone’s lack of presence is amplified and becomes painfully aware to the individual experiencing the loss.
This season, as with every significant event, it is of value to remember that your feelings if they are good happy feelings, conflicted feelings of feelings of anger and grief, these are your feelings and nothing to be guilty for. Just because we are surrounded by sparkling lights and an atmosphere that tells us we need to project warm happiness, it does not mean we have to live in a false reality where we are pretending. Try to take each holiday event as it comes while allowing your loved ones around you to offer their support.
Within the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk and stories coming to fruition from the #metoo hash tag. As a therapist, the results from this have been both astounding, heartbreaking, hopeful and enraging. However, one thing is clear: sexual abuse, assault and harassment still very much need to be talked about.
As I was driving and listening to radio, a segment came up on the me too hash tag- the people talking on the radio were mocking the hash tag, stating how frivolous it was and how was a hash tag supposed to “stop men from sexually harassing and assaulting women?” This made me really evaluate the meaning of it- this #metoo movement is not for the perpetrators or bystanders- it is for the survivors, the victims and anyone out there who has experiences being sexually harassed. #Metoo is about coming together and letting other women and men know that we no longer need to live in the shame and silence of another person’s harmful actions. Abuse no longer has to fester in silence, rather we can use our voice to take something that took away our power and turn it into an empowering process- a process that can give us our voice back.
So what good exactly can come of all these people relaying multiple stories of trauma and workplace harassment? Abuse is often met with the notion that the victim is somehow at fault. It is common the victim will blame themselves for not doing something different as a means of asserting a false sense of control over the situation: if I was at fault, then I could have done something different to have changed the outcome. This is a false belief system that is allowed to grow and be reinforced with silence and the culture that normalizes sexual harassment and abuse. Through making workplace harassment, sexual abuse and assault a non-shameful and more prevalent topic, it allows the victims to know they are not alone. It allows these women and men to know there is nothing inherently wrong with them- this can happen to anyone.
We can use our voices to come together and empower each other. No one should have to go through an assault alone or feel it was his or her fault. We need to continue to press the conversation and discontinue the discourse that reporting sexual harassment is “being dramatic” or trying to downplay the events “It’s not like I was raped.” If it feels wrong or uncomfortable, there’s a reason for that feeling.
The more this abusive behavior is tolerated, the more it will continue to be permissible.
If you are a survivor of assault, abuse or harassment reading this, I want you to know that it was not your fault- there is nothing flawed or inherently wrong with you. Your story is not shameful- it’s a story of your own resiliency and power. It is YOUR story to claim.
In this day and age, it becomes virtually impossible to escape social media. Online lurking offers many tantalizing options- the ability to keep up and feel connected with loved ones, getting to see what everyone is up to without the awkward high school reunion parties and tacky dress code violations. ( We are looking at you, Carol, cat hair isn’t the new black).
According to recent studies, the more time spent on social media, the more our rates of depression increase. So why is it that in the day and age of cat videos that span across the internet , the more time spent on social media would mean an increase in depression? Well, there are a few different places to look at this from. The first part is taking a look at what we are seeing. Something I will often hear of is people confiding that all they see are how much their friends and loved ones looking like they have it all. Pictures and posts about how much they are so in love with their husbands and wives, family vacations of swimming with dolphins in the Hawaiian islands, and precious pictures of snuggling children while watching the sunsets. Why can’t I have those moments, they will wonder? Why can’t I also experience that same level of wistful poetic prose on a Wednesday?
The truth is we will never feel good about ourselves if we keep comparing ourselves to a false reality. It’s akin to comparing ourselves to the pretty airbrushed photo of photshopped people on the cover of magazines- none of it is real. What we don’t see on Facebook are the posts of the husband and wife who spent an hour arguing about where to eat for dinner, which inevitably lead to an even bigger fight about how he/she is incapable of making a decision for the family. What wasn’t posted in the family album was a picture of the toddler screaming until they threw up because they suddenly didn’t want to wear their red swimming shoes. Or the more realistic status updates “Samantha is….yelling at her child to do their homework for the 100th hour tonight.”
Another aspect of online emotional deception is the lack of intimacy of the social media friendships we obtain. There is a whole neurobiology behind the face-to-face interactions we have when speaking to friends, such as mirror neurons, the release of oxytocin in a hug from a friend, and important learned social skills. Speaking of social skills- online interactions make becoming cruel to others much easier when there isn’t a live human sitting across from you. So, we absorb all the trust from making friends across the world along with the bad feelings that come from finding out unwanted truths. We feel betrayed by people who we never actually knew in the first place, despite getting an eagle eyed look into their daily lives.
Is all social media bad? Not at all- social media can be a very engaging and convenient way to keep up with friends and family ( and a great way to remember birthdays!) However, once we start taking updates, hashtags and filtered pictures as gospel for how our own reality needs to look, we are in trouble. We need to keep a realistic expectation for how actual reality is verses online fantasy.
Alexis has been a part time contributor to the online website Patientworthy which is dedicated to education and awareness of rare and serious diseases. Links to articles written by Alexis: