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5 Things I Say Most in a Therapy Session

Originally posted June 19, 2017.

1. This is not a quick fix. I think it’s funny when programs promise great big “breakthrough” or “aha!” moments where you suddenly become this new person or jump up and down on the couch in ecstatic realization. Anyone of you who have been through therapy know this is just not how it is…

Therapy is actually deep, slow personal work. It’s a long, slow process of growth. And you can do the therapy for a while, take break and do life with this new perspective for a while and then come back to it again.

2. You will get out of it what you put into it. If you show up deciding to work on certain things when you walk in the door, that’s a good thing. We can co-create some goals together.

For example, you say you have anxiety and some panic attacks. First, we’ll take a look at what causes that? Is it stemming from a build up over the years from a single incident trauma, such a a car accident or a fall where your leg was broken? Or is it from the cumulative effect of a childhood emotional and physical abuse over a long period of time? Is your current life kind of unmanageable and busy? Is your relationship stressing you out? These different causative factors require different treatment options. So, we’ll come up with a customized treatment plan. And if you come in, resisting change, resisting suggestions, it will just be a replay of what you experience in your every day life. You’ll feel frustrated and resistant. But that’s information as well…Why do you feel resistant? What are you defending?

3. Be conscious of your inner critic, your super-ego. Who has imposed such critical and high standards for you. Who is that voice? Where does that feeling reside in your body? A simple exercise to see if your inner critic wreaks havoc in your life is to just get your journal or notebook or phone and write notes on what your inner chatter is saying for two hours a day, for three days or so. You’ll get the idea how you treat yourself by writing what you are saying to yourself and reading it.

4. We all have different parts residing inside of us, composing our authentic self. If there is a part of you that is angry and defensive, maybe that part of you is there for a good reason. Maybe that part protected you during times of abuse or stress, when you weren’t able to cope directly with the situation or person. So, that’s ok. I’ll say, Let’s let that dominant part of you recede and let the other part of you have some space to speak. That way, we get to the other parts of you that want expression or need to be heard.

5. Another hot topic I hear often in therapy, is “Everything happens for a reason.” Really? The children in Syria who were gassed by Assad were specifically individually chosen for some reason? But not the child who happened to be in a different location that day because he was away visiting relatives? And, as an individual, the baby who had his cord wrapped around this neck in the womb and suffocated as opposed to another baby was specially chosen for this biological situation? Tell me more, please….

Yes, as an individual, it’s healthy to develop personal meaning to one’s circumstances. It’s healthy to create a narrative around your life incidents and derived meaning from them. Indeed, Viktor Frankel, a Holocaust Survivor and psychiatrist, in his experience and in his work, found that this who were able to hold onto meaning even in the unimaginable horror of the concentration camps were more likely to survive. Many events are random in nature and it is we who ascribe meaning to them. The meaning we ascribe to them can cause us great pain or joy or acceptance.


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