Individual therapy helps people identify their beliefs, attitudes, and models of the world for themselves and other people. These beliefs influence the kinds of experiences they have in their life.
For example, let’s say that you have a belief that none of your friends care whether or not you show up at their parties. This belief might influence you to show up late to the party, or missing the party and thinking it doesn’t matter whether you call to tell them you aren’t able to make it. When you attend future parties, you might notice that people act distantly towards you, and this might in turn reinforce the belief that no one cares.
Individual therapy and counseling can help you identify these deeply held core beliefs so you can begin to develop more expansive, satisfying, and nourishing approaches that give you more freedom and connection.
How will individual therapy help me to feel better within myself?
I have heard clients talk to me about feeling like they are at war with themselves. Therapy can be an opportunity to look at those beliefs, values, thinking patterns and behaviors that contradict themselves.
Early childhood trauma can influence a person’s way of seeing and relating to the world. For example, someone who was abandoned as a child may expect people in his current relationships to abandon him, regardless of whether this is happening. He may investigate abandonment cues and messages with the intensity of a detective who is investigating a crime. The problem is that he may be too emotionally attached to the outcome of what will be discovered to see the situation objectively.
If a person withdraws from him a little, he may expect the worst, and overreact. His overreaction may scare potential partners or friends away and the situation can become a downward spiral. This type of thinking is called emotional thinking because the person’s emotions become too intense to see the situation realistically.
Will I benefit from talking about my childhood in therapy?
Some clients fear that if they begin talking about their childhood challenges that they will just feel stuck again the way they did as children. I believe it is of the utmost importance that you and your therapist become aware of issues that you found challenging in childhood, if some of these issues are still present in your adult life.
I have heard clients say that they do not see connections between their past issues and current life problems. Other times I have heard them say that these issues are just part of their personality which is never going to change- so why talk about them. This goes back to the saying that history is bound to repeat itself.
Some therapeutic approaches negate the influence of the past and present problems. I have found that for clients to experience the deepest changes, it is eventually necessary to look at their past history and how it manifests in their present life.
With all that said, I also believe that it is important to wait until my clients are ready to discuss these issues; in some cases it may take a while to develop a sufficiently trusting relationship.
What is most needed from a therapist in order for the therapy to be successful?
The first and most important ability that a therapist needs to offer to a client is the skill of accurate empathy. Hearing what is in the client’s heart may have more relevance than what he is saying verbally; unless he’s already connected with himself in this way.
When a therapist is able to express what he hears or senses is going on inside the client, and it is accurate, the client feels understood. It is not always necessary for the therapist to communicate verbally in order to be empathic. In some cases it may be effective to communicate non-verbally or just listen.
The therapist’s responses do not need to be accurate all of the time, but they need to be substantially accurate enough of the time so that a client is able to feel deeply understood.
Should my therapist offer me advice or suggestions about my decisions?
I believe this is one of the most challenging areas for therapists in working with clients. It is important for clients to know my thoughts about issues they are currently facing in their lives. I do not make their decisions, but I can be a sounding board for them in their decision making process. This is another way that I see individual therapy as a reciprocal relationship. I will help you consider the consequences and ramifications of any decision you make to help you make decisions from the deepest parts of who you are.
Do you want your therapist to fix you?
Some clients come to therapy with the expectation that the therapist is going to fix and resolve their problems for them. It’s quite difficult for this to happen, because although therapists are experts in human relationships, they are but students when it comes to your relationship with yourself. So it is of the utmost importance that you lead the way or walk side-by-side with your therapist along your path of life challenges. By working with experience we can access deeper parts of the brain where experiences are stored.