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What Makes Psychotherapy Challenging?

Knowing that we are ready to talk about our concerns with a psychotherapist, is an important step in starting the process of connecting with our wellbeing.

We may have felt distressed, confused or anxious for a while, or it may be something that we have noticed appear in our lives fairly recently. Whatever the case, it is likely we are seeking the support from a psychotherapist because we want to feel differently than we do in the moment, in order to feel able to move closer to where we want to be in our lives.

I would suggest that successful therapy is a process which supports the process of change, growth and development. Contrary to certain ways of perceiving change, this can take some time, which doesn’t always sit comfortably in a fast-paced world, that prioritises immediacy.

Often, the expectation at the start of the therapeutic process can reflect this impatience and feel conflicting;

‘I know it’s not a quick fix but I need things to change now and want to stop feeling like this.’

The impetus and necessity to change is important and understandable, so is the urgency behind it. However, what is also necessary is the need to spend long enough with our feelings, even if they feel difficult, to try to make sense of them.

By doing this, we can therefore recognise that our emotions are trying to communicate something(s) to us and what is required, is to pause long enough, to understand what they are saying. Part of the difficulty, is that the experiencing of these emotions, can often be painful, maybe even excruciating and our natural human need to withdraw from pain can encourage us to keep them at arm’s length. We may have concocted numerous ways in which we can distract from these feelings, whilst simultaneously knowing it is not good for our emotional health to do so.

We want desperately to understand ourselves, yet we realise we can’t do it alone. For it is precisely because the emotions feel so big and confusing, that we gravitate towards a professional psychotherapist, who, amongst other things can remind us that sitting with our feelings gets us closer to discovering who we really are.

Yet, as one can imagine this is not easy and although we know and trust that it is for our greater good, our weekly sessions may be the only time, where we fully feel what we have been attempting to distract ourselves from for weeks, months or even years.

We come face-to-face with aspects of ourselves that finally have a voice and we may hear ourselves say things that we didn’t expect, and with that, we can no longer hide from. It can be extraordinarily painful and often requires working with our therapist to discuss some of the challenges we feel are arising by encountering ourselves in this way. On the other hand, we may take relief in the fact that these parts are finally out there in the world and being explored.

Sticking with this process requires courage and readiness, as in order to immerse into this type of self- development, therapy requires a commitment to attend regularly. Without this frequency, we may notice that the earlier conditions which we are trying to break away from, continue to stay rigid and becoming distracted by things we have been distracted by in the past may reoccur. Moving away from who we were and connecting with more genuine aspects of our self, requires practice after we have been so well rehearsed in a particular way of being.

This investment of time, energy and experience is deeply valuable but it can mean that psychotherapy doesn’t always feel fun or easy. It can instead feel like a type of work, important work which, we know we need to do for ourselves but at times, perhaps we wished we didn’t.

This work can be tiring and we may find that we need to take some time after a session to rest momentarily before leaping to the next thing, as a means to process what we have shared with our therapist. Likewise, how we choose to enter the therapeutic space may also shift, giving ourselves some time to prepare and contemplate what we want to bring to the session and how we would like to use this time.

We may also find that by investing in this work, by taking time and space just for us, even just for an hour a week, we notice that we are prioritising ourselves in a new way. By taking our own needs, desires, interests and responsibilities a lot more seriously than we have done in the past. We may notice how these changes start to impact the structure of our lives and the choices we make. We form a connection to the creativity we didn’t know we had, re-remember that we are indeed ambitious people who want to strive for more and with that pursue relationships (romantic or platonic) with individuals, who we can identify care for us, are trustworthy and will support us in our growth. We may realise that the responsibility we have taken for our own wellbeing, can play a role in encouraging us to take self-responsibility in how we, in-turn, relate and support other people, including those closest to us.

The want or need for things to happen quickly is very pronounced in many of the societies in which we live. Yet meaningful change, the type of change which lasts, is something that can take time. This is so often because it isn't the end of therapy, where the learning takes place, the outcome isn't always the answer. It is instead the process of being in it, the process of meeting oneself and learning to hear, day-by-day, who were are, what we need and how we feel which encourages us to accept ourselves with greater ease and allows for more internal peace.


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