Psycho-Babble Psychology Thread 366203

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How does therapy help you?

Posted by Dinah on July 14, 2004, at 17:00:28

I'll bet the answer is different for therapists who use different therapeutic models. Or maybe even at different times in therapy.

My therapist is rather eclectic in approach. At first he was a pretty standard combination of CBT and Stuart Smalley psychobabble. But now I think you'd call his approach "Whatever doesn't get Dinah to dig her heels in and argue" or maybe "firm flexibility". Maybe he uses a sort of Irvin Yalom-ish relational therapy with me.

And at first what helped most was learning that I wasn't crazy. That there was a name for what I was experiencing. I could organize my experiences around this new name "OCD", and the CBT exercises helped a lot in increasing my sense of mastery and helping me feel more confident in my ability to handle anxiety.

Then later what was more helpful was continuing to discover why I did the things I did, and getting to know my patterns better so that I didn't surprise myself so much. This also increased my sense of mastery over my emotions. So that now I can say, OK, I understand that this button has been pressed and that's why I overreacted. Or oh yes, I'm dissociating. Let me learn how to dissociate even better so that I feel some small amount of control over it. I bought a book on self hypnosis and practiced.

Then later (and also at the same time), therapy helped me by teaching me that it wasn't absolutely necessary to maintain emotional distance to be safe. That it was ok to take chances in relationships, and that while they didn't always work out, sometimes they did. This gave me a slightly increased sense of mastery over the totally baffling (to me) world of interpersonal relationships. My therapist continues to be my translator in this foreign territory.

And now, I think, therapy is helping me internalize a sense of safety, a sense that I can tolerate things, that I never ever developed growing up. I never experienced abuse or trauma, but my life was never ever safe. There was always the threat of loss hanging over my head. My parents' marriage wasn't stable. My parents' moods weren't stable. School wasn't stable. And after so many years of feeling safe so often with my therapist, I think I'm beginning, just beginning, to feel that I can feel safe within myself. Just beginning mind you. Nowhere near close to finished. :)

I'm almost positive that last step was only possible when my therapist quit resisting my demands for reassurance, for forever therapy. Now that I have a stable therapist/mommy that I know will be there for me, I feel just a bit capable of wandering off and exploring on my own, and just checking back now and again to make sure that he's there. Just beginning mind you, no where near there yet. No where near.

So if I were to sum up what has made therapy helpful to me, it would be a sense of mastery.

And the release valve. I can't forget that therapy acts as a release valve to keep me from blowing sky high when stress is applied.


Re: How does therapy help you?

Posted by daisym on July 14, 2004, at 19:53:35

In reply to How does therapy help you?, posted by Dinah on July 14, 2004, at 17:00:28

I'm glad I'm in space to answer this instead of railing against it saying, "It hasn't!"

Therapy has given me a vocabulary for my inner life. And allowed me the space and safety to explore long exiled feelings that have forced their way back in. It is the great container of all the secrets that I can no longer hold alone. And it provides space for ME, just mine alone. It is also a huge source of disorganization and confusion at times.

My therapist has provided all the right things therapist are supposed to: safety, security, frustration and support. But mostly he has provide a gentleness that I've never had before. He has reframed some terrible things in a way that I can live with them. He pulled out the little kid me and made it OK for her to exist, let alone talk. And he hypothesized that I was always sensitive, but made that sound like a good thing.

Mostly, therapy is teaching me to trust and like you, Dinah, helping me see that emotional distance isn't always necessary. I am learning to lean on people when I need to and to ask for help. Just beginning mind you, no where near there yet. No where near.

My therapist would probably agree that I have a ways to go in the reaching out department. After a two week struggle, we reached an agreement Monday on an experiment around allowing myself to need and reach out to him. He was asking why I didn't call over the weekend when I was having a hard time and I was giving him the same old reasons about not wanting to bother him because it wasn't a "crisis" and I felt I should handle the separation anxiety and little-kid-lost feeling on my own. Besides, I said I felt really stupid calling and saying, "Um, I'm sad, lonely and lost. But nothing is really wrong." Soooo, he made up new rules and I have promised to live by them for at least 3 weeks. The rules are if I feel anxious, sad, lonely or lost, I'm to call him. And I'm to say, "Hi, I think I need to touch base for a few minutes." The adult part of me is not allowed to add, "if you have time, if you don't mind, I'm sorry" or anything else. He wants me to just "cave in to it" and see what happens.

So I guess therapy has provided me also with my secure base. Something that's been missing my whole life.


Re: How does therapy help you?

Posted by Klokka on July 14, 2004, at 21:11:29

In reply to How does therapy help you?, posted by Dinah on July 14, 2004, at 17:00:28

I've only been in therapy for about six months now and I'm currently somewhat ambivalent about the whole deal, so this will be a challenge. Here goes nothing...

I think the most significant help it's provided to date is a place to vent which is my own, which won't be invaded when I need it most. At my high school (I graduated in June,) my teachers and guidance counselor were wonderfully supportive, but I had a good friend with greater problems than mine who was also much better liked by the staff. At times I would try to talk to one of them when things were really bad, and my friend would come by and completely take over the conversation with her problems. (Or the teachers would interrupt to ask about her and tell me to be there for her.) Then there was that time I had a much-needed appointment with the counsellor cancelled because she had later booked my friend in for the same time - she said it was a complete accident and I believe her, but that didn't help matters much! It wasn't a big deal at first, but over time added up to upset me, especially since I felt guilty for being bothered by it at all - my friend really did need the support, too. Therapy helped relieve that because I could be sure that my pdoc wouldn't do the same with me. I definitely needed that at the time. Even now, it helps me to get through difficult times because I can look to a specific time when I'll be able to talk about it.

It's also helped me learn to depend on others when I need to... well, somewhat. I called my pdoc in crisis a few months ago, he forgot my phone number at the clinic and because of the timing only called back the next week - that definitely set things back a lot, but overall I'm learning, however slowly. This one's fuzzy for me, because I'm still not sure that I don't tend to depend too much on others, but once in a while I see it more clearly.

Finally, it's helped to clarify some things and I imagine will continue to do so. My diagnosis of SAD has helped me make sense of the past few years, and now I know what to expect, more or less. It's also helped me to better understand a few aspects of why I act the way I do sometimes around friends and family.

Especially now that it's summer and I'm feeling better, I'm finding it hard to convince myself to keep seeing my pdoc, but those few things (along with attachment) have kept me from quitting, only to need help again in a few months.

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