Although I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go I couldn’t imagine how change would, or even could happen when I started my therapy. I trusted in the fact that psychotherapy is scientifically proven and that I had the will to change things but I simply had no idea how “just talking” was supposed to do anything. I guess that many people feel like that – after all we all know how it can be good to speak about something that makes us unhappy but such a conversation is not yet a therapy session. So what is it that helps me so much?
For me the most important thing is the perspective from outside. My therapist can assess things much better than any friend ever could which is why I believe her when she says “But that was really awful!” or “You should take that seriously!”. If she says it from an objective point of view I can accept it.
This acceptance allows me to think about certain things in the first place. I am really, really good at trivializing things. While this can be quite funny at times it doesn’t help with actually working on problems. My therapist doesn’t give me any oppurtunity to belittle anything but at the same time she doesn’t dramatize (friends tend to either being deceived by my humour or worrying horribly).
So how does this thinking help? After all I used to brood a lot before therapy as well. But this is different. For example I slowly start trusting in my ability to find triggers for certain symptoms. Everything used to be blurry, I felt like symptoms just “happened” to me and I experienced them as unchangeable. Most times that’s still the case but not always. Too often have I seen how things suddenly became clear with the help of my therapist and how I suddenly knew where something came from – and therefore what I needed for it to go away (keyword schema modes). It feels incredible! At this point I hardly ever manage it without help but at least I know that it’s possible. And therefore I think, ask myself questions my therapist usually asks, write down which situation has occured before a certain symptom set in or where I know the feeling from. And sometimes I can find a solution.
The word “solution” leads to my next point: Such a solution can look quite unconventional. Therapy encourages me to simply do stuff that helps me even if it comes across as weird. Nobody has to understand why I’m talking to myself or why I run up and down a staircase or why I sit down with lots of colourful modelling clay and listen to nursery rhymes. The only thing that’s important is that it helps. Everything that helps without harming is good. Period.
This summarizes what therapy has changed for me in general. And I could never have achieved this by “just talking”.
Very important for me is that I connect with my therapist – without that it wouldn’t work. If I didn’t feel safe with her or we had a different sense of humour or I would feel pressured – no way!
Furthermore it’s important for me, personally, that it’s not “just talking” after all. If we can’t make progress by talking my therapist has lots and lots of exercises that help with working on a problem: describing interpersonal relationships by using coloured buttons, sitting in different chairs that symbolize different parts of me, imagination exercises…. I think there wouldn’t be any progress without these exercises. This also applies to the exercises, questionaires etc. I get for home – for me, personally, behavioural therapy is much more suitable than other approaches simply because I have the urge to do something instead of constantly asking why. It’s important for me to learn how to live with my disorder and for that I definitely need to know where it comes from. But exercises that help me handle my life are more useful than the “just talking” most people think therapy consists of.
As most of you who are reading this might have some experience with this I’m probably explaining things that aren’t new. But in my life I often meet people who can’t imagine how exhausting therapy can be, what is different from a “normal” conversation – and why it helps. And as I felt exactly like that I’m writing this for everyone who hasn’t dared try therapy so far or who (like me) was disappointed by the first try. When therapy works you can feel things click into place and change. For real.