I spoke to some colleagues the other night about this question: What brings anyone to begin therapy… now? Around our table, none of us could settle on universal agreement as to what drives people toward change. We did agree that, commonly, it’s as individual a choice & journey as any— there may be as many reasons to pursue therapy as there are individuals choosing to do it.
What makes a person want to change? What drives a person to ask for support? How do people decide when, how, and with whom to seek?
I recall my own earliest sessions as a client, and remember that only after many years of my own work did I decide on what I value most: a comfortable therapeutic relationship.
For me, therapy has to feel right—like a comfortable moment, or a feeling that’s alive—about as often as it feels challenging (sometimes even difficult). Personally, there’s an internal sense that I have which allows me to orient to such a new environments. At first, therapy may seem like an radically unfamiliar environment. In my experience, that changes over time, especially if that “right” therapeutic relationship can be discovered.
It has taken me time to develop a sense of familiarity, both as a client, which I continue to be, and as a practicing therapist. Entering into counseling from either perspective has seemed, at times, to be like allowing my eyes to adjust themselves to darkness at night; after a while, I can see my way again through what was once unknowable.
Perhaps finding a therapist is something like that process of seeing into once-dark space. And, one aspect of therapy that I believe can’t be substituted for (or really gauged ahead of time) is an assuredness of being in a room with someone that feels right. At times, therapy can be hard work—going into deepening inquiry about self, others, thoughts, emotion, behaviors, memories—and those experiences can verge on feeling intense. That’s when I suggest we pause and orient to that precise moment. Emotional & psychological discomfort, aside from feeling intensely, also may let us know when and how to look for resource(s), and, can be that moment when growth becomes possible.
For me, trusting that other person in a room can lend a resonant feeling at moments like those— trust can be therapeutic in itself.
Like a flow state—when novelty and challenge meet your effort and capacity—a supportive therapeutic relationship can nurture growth and transformation. How do you gauge what a balanced environment for growth and change looks like?
For now, we could try making this 2-dimensional inquiry experiential: What brings you to a point of empowered agency? Do you remember (either recently, or a while back) when you felt not-quite overwhelmed: challenged-just-enough to try something new? I’m curious about when you made a change you felt good about. Remember that? I’d love to hear about it…
[ Feel free to send me answers to these & any other questions via my ‘CONTACT ME HERE‘ (link top right) page if you have something to share. ]