The Course of Therapy
What to expect from our work together.
Adrian van den Bok, M.A.
Coming to therapy is a big step, it means you have acknowledged there are things going on in your life that are not okay, things that are undermining of your sense of self and perhaps your health, happiness, relationships, feelings about your future, and so on. Coming to therapy also means you are ready – perhaps tentatively at first – to do something about this.
I would like to acknowledge you for taking this step and assure you I will do all I can to help you work through your difficulties and to arrive at a better place in life.
The following is a very brief and general overview of how therapy works as I practice it and it applies to both individual and couples work. Of course, any questions you have about the process and how it relates to your particular circumstances are welcome at any time.
Although presented as a linear sequence, there is usually some going back and forth in the various stages of therapy. However, it nearly always starts with insight.
This is where you reflect, and I prompt you to reflect, on what is going on for you. It enables you to articulate and to make sense of what you are experiencing, why you are experiencing it, and what the consequences of these experiences are. You probably already have some ideas about this but ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’: talking about things in a safe and skilled therapeutic environment fosters a much deeper understanding and richer self awareness.
It is a chance to connect with, and give voice to, difficult or obscure feelings and neglected parts of yourself. This can be very healing and sometimes all that is needed – problems begin to dissolve or their significance diminishes. At other times more is required.
Insight includes shedding light on your visions and values, hopes and dreams, the knowledge and skills you have developed over the years, etc. These things need to be acknowledged as they can be recruited into managing current challenges.
Ideas & Inspiration
The above has us question taken for granted truths about who we are and about life in general, we gain awareness into entrenched beliefs and habitual responses… we begin to see how we see. And quite naturally, we then begin to envisage other way of thinking about things, other ideas about who we are or how life is, or what is possible for us. Therapy in some ways is a review of ‘what it means for me to be me’.
These ideas promise some freedom from whatever it is that brought you to therapy. You begin to see other way of seeing and other ways of being that could enrich your life… a doorway to a happier sense of self, better health, relationships, enhancements to your work, family, social or spiritual life, and so on.
From being vague hopes or fantasies these ideas gradually become credible and even inspiring possibilities. Sometimes this is all it takes for there to be movement at other times intention is necessary:
Mostly, we do what we do because we see as we see – behaviour is a function of perception and consequently insight, ideas and inspiration can easily translate into preferred ways of being. However, old feelings and well established not-so-helpful behavioral or thinking habits can inhibit this process and we need deliberate, conscious intention to bring those preferred ways of being to life.
Intention is a significant step and sometimes a challenging one. It may raise questions about your abilities, resources, commitment and entitlement, it may raise the spectre of failure, meanings about your identity, tendencies to defer or distract, etc. These in themselves are probably entrenched responses that have hindered you in life before and are worthy of exploration. Addressing what gets in the way of translating ideas into intentions and intentions into actions can be important work in therapy.
Either spontaneously or through deliberate intention, you start thinking, feeling and doing some things in a different way.
You find yourself going down a familiar track but suddenly realise you don’t have to do this, there are other more useful ways of responding; a familiar feeling that has habitually taken you where you don’t want to go arises… you question it and head in another direction; you discover you can be more of a friend to yourself; where there was tension you can steer yourself to ease; the voice of self doubt no longer has such authority; what you thought you couldn’t do, you start doing; where there was reactivity you can find a more measured response; your actions become more consistent with your values….
Of course, walking a different path – and literally building new neural pathways – is usually a two steps forward one step back process. That is why the review stage is important:
When things have gone well we ask how that happened, what part you played in it, what supported this preferable way of being, what might have undermined it but didn’t, how might you stay close to this way of being, etc. This is consolidating of going where you want go or being how you want to be.
It is likely that from time to time old ways of being will hijack you, you might feel stuck, hope and inspiration wane, unhelpful stories about yourself and the world return…. the whys and wherefores of this need to be investigated so as to sharpen your insight, hone your skills and reconnect with whatever it is that takes you where you want to go.
This review process gives you the best opportunity for the benefits of therapy to endure: to retain the skills, knowledge, self awareness and intention to manage or resolve problems, minimise suffering, enhance well-being and to live as you want to live.
For more information or to discuss your particular situation please call me on 0411 435 972 or email email@example.com. My practice is in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney; Skype sessions are also available.
Counselling & psychotherapy, individuals & couples: Supervision, individual & group: Workshops, seminars & education.
Copyright (c) Adrian van den Bok, 2017