Perhaps, you’ve asked yourself this question at different points in your life. It may seem like a simple question to answer, but I find it can be challenging for many individuals. Complicating things further are the numerous types of psychotherapy that are practiced by various clinicians. Additionally, there are many misperceptions about what psychotherapy actually is and what its aims are focused on.
The first two questions I regularly ask new clients are, “Have you ever been to any kind of therapy or counseling before,” and, “What brings you in at this time.” It is not uncommon for me to hear responses such as, “I’m not quite sure.” Now vagueness can be a way to defend against emotional experience, but it can also be a legitimate occurrence.
The Importance of Focus
For some, there is a gnawing sense that something is off to the point they need assistance, but they’re just not quite sure what it is. Our first objective in therapy then becomes getting clarity on what they need help with. This is the first difference between therapy and reaching for support from a family or friend: focus.
For therapy to be effective, it needs to be highly focused on the outcome you want to achieve. Real psychotherapy is not a conversation. Yes. We talk. But it needs to be more than just being listened to by a kind person. I am not saying there is not value in this or that it cannot be very reparative and healing to be heard and validated.
The Necessity of Therapy Being Experiential
Nonetheless, to truly experience deep transformation, therapy must be experiential. This means taking the things we identify and doing something with it, such as stopping and actually feeling your emotions, rather than just talking about them. This is what actually changes things and produces the results you came to attain. In order for significant change to occur, you must create what is referred to as neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change itself from cradle to grave.
If you are self-motivated person that is committed to personal development and growth, have acquired a great deal of knowledge and skills but cannot seem to DO what you KNOW, the chief reason is you have not changed at a biological level. There are now many well -researched and empirically-validated therapies that can create neuroplastic changes, such as Internal Family Systems, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, Brainspotting, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, etc.
Focusing on The Positive
Many of these experiential therapies were developed treating trauma and mental health issues but have been utilized effectively for peak performance goals, such as for professional athletes, entrepreneurs, and artistic endeavors. This leads into a common misperception about therapy: you go to therapy if you are ‘messed up’. Although people frequently enter therapy as a result of a pain point, such as anxiety or relationship distress, from my perspective therapy is about working to see how great my life can be in all aspects.
I work both as a psychotherapist and a peak performance coach. There is a tremendous amount of crossover with each of the populations I work with. I may be helping a client heal from childhood abuse who then breaks through to pursue a lifelong career aspiration after their trauma is resolved. At other times, I may be coaching someone on achieving a higher level of performance only to uncover a block related to a childhood trauma that needs processed.
I know this may sound a bit biased but I believe everyone should undergo deep, experiential psychotherapy at some point in their life. I have been a personal development junkie since I was a child. Although I have found tremendous benefit from many of the materials and individuals in this industry, I have never identified anything that can come close to what can be achieved in experiential psychotherapy.
Furthermore, in regards to spirituality, with the impact we can now have on the brain, nervous system, and body, you can take many of the spiritual practices you may engage in and turbo charge them so to speak. What may take decades to achieve in certain types of meditations or aesthetic activities can now be achieved in a fraction of the time by integrating experiential psychotherapies.
Therapy is For Everyone
My current and former clients would attest to this. They are often shocked by the level of awareness they develop and how rapidly they can break through certain blocks. I regularly hear comments such as, “I had no idea,” “Does everyone know about this,” “Everyone should be in here.” I know. I reply.
Contrastingly, there are things I would inform someone they probably don’t need to spend the time and money on psychotherapy for, such as things you could emotionally process with family or friends or educate yourself about and break through, which are not so deep-seated. If you are unsure if what you are dealing with falls into this category or would require more extensive help, you could do an exploratory session to receive guidance.
Science Not Theory
In my personal life, I have used coaches, consultants, mentors, spiritual directors, and psychotherapists. Nothing has impacted me more than the therapeutic work I have done and continue to do. It has truly changed my life and continues to do so for my clients. Psychology no longer consists of esoteric theories. Through fields such as, neuroscience, neurology, and interpersonal neurobiology we can generate rapid changes that were unthinkable a decade ago.
In my experience, many of my clients asked themselves for months or years if they needed to go to therapy and needlessly suffered. Don’t fall into the trap of things being a little better or tremendously worse and allow the window to close on your willingness to get help. Life shouldn’t be so hard.
If you are on the bubble, schedule an appointment to see a psychotherapist to get guidance and clarity. You may be pleasantly surprised by what happens. I love hearing comments from clients such as, “I didn’t realize I was going receive so much from this process,” or “I had therapy before, but it was never like this.” This last comment exhibits the difference between talk therapy and experiential therapy.
If you would like to find out more information about this topic contact me or schedule an appointment by calling Gateway Counseling Center at 561-468-6464.