In a field where there are so many conflicting theories, approaches and viewpoints it can feel daunting to understand what psychotherapy is all about and how it actually helps. Whether at infancy, learning how to crawl, or adulthood, learning what it is we want in a career and life, we are constantly involved in our own evolution and growth, and psychotherapy is designed to be a catalyst for that growth. I will use my personal story to illustrate an example of how I feel psychotherapy can transform and heal.
I have used psychotherapy in three different times and contexts in my life.
1. When going through a painful transition period of trying to “find myself” and feeling like I needed additional support in my process.
2. For learning how to be in better relationship and communication with my then partner, now my wife.
3. And thirdly, to come into greater depth, harmony, and understanding with my unique drives, fears, and longings.
1. Support Through Difficult Transitions
It has been my personal experience that psychotherapy, at its heart, attempts to give the person an ingredient of validation and connection. In my case, in the first situation, I named I needed to hear that the painful transition of ending friendships and my feelings of doubt were normal. I was 21 years old and had spent most of my young life trying to be someone who I thought people would like. I did this in most situations, but particularly with my family and friends. I created a persona that was always the life of the party and could be the glue to any argument or ill feelings. While inside I felt awful, depleted of all my energy and unclear why I resented everyone around me. Therapy taught me to hold the mirror to myself and to see that who I was so afraid of showing to everyone else was in fact my salvation for healing. My first time in therapy allowed me the space to see how much of what I presented to the world was out of fear that if I were to be myself, I would end up alone and unwanted. So far I have been able to disprove this belief over and over again.
2. Learning Better Communication
Psychotherapy can help learn the ins and outs of communication with others. Words suck at communicating, plain and simple. But it is what we have, so we might as well learn the best way to use them. In my case I never knew the power that words can have in a relationship. I realized quickly that didn’t know the first thing about how to communicate my feelings and needs, let alone how to be present with someone else’s needs as well. Couple’s therapy allowed me and my partner the safe space to break up our vicious cycles of bickering that really stemmed from poor communication. By getting to the core of what I was trying to say, which in fact had little to do with the argument, both I and my partner learned that it is more about how to communicate love and affection than it is about who is right.
3. Deeper Exploration of One’s Self
And thirdly, psychotherapy has been an incredible aide in my own personal exploration of the darker mysteries that life has to offer. I wanted to have the experience that all the parts of me, the good, the bad and the ugly, were valuable. And not only were they valuable but they were essential in order to have a sense of wholeness. Psychotherapy provides the platform for this kind of exploration through its use of unconditional positive regard. In other words, LOVE! It is, in fact, what makes therapy actually work and why it can be so transformational. Psychotherapy gave me one of the greatest gifts, the gift of love of one’s self. Sure, I forget it all the time, but it is always there waiting for me. Psychotherapy has showed me, and continues to show me, that by loving the range of who I am in all my flaws, imperfection, and in my talents and strengths, I can have greater empathy and compassion for others and their uniqueness. In the end, we are all human just trying to do the best with what we have been given.
I have devoted my life to the art and practice of psychotherapy because I believe in its power to transform and bring light into peoples lives.