When someone comes into my office, typically one of two things is going on: they want help, or they’ve been told they need help and are being brought in to see me (mostly teens). What each client needs varies because their lives vary, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, to make the most of our time together, I ask each client and their families to do four things.
1. Show up.
Simply put, I can’t help you if we don’t meet (these blogs can be a start, but they are by no means a replacement for individual work). How you show up may look different session to session, even more so with virtual therapy being more prominent than before, but showing up is what matters. The only time I would ask you to put off showing up would be if you’re intoxicated or needing the ER. Then you need to show up for yourself in another way. Then, after that, we can talk and process.
2. Do your best.
This is something else that may look different day to day, or even hour by hour. Doing your best isn’t the same as demanding perfection of yourself. It means bringing what you have available for that task and putting it all in. Sometimes that means you meet your goal 100%, sometimes that means exceeding the goal, and other days it can mean just getting 1% of the way there. THAT IS OKAY TOO. I cannot stress that enough. Therapy is somewhere that effort counts. We’ll talk about what made whatever amount possible, and if you didn’t do as well as you wanted to, what kept you back from doing more.
3. Be honest with me.
I am not grading you. I am not judging you. If you tell me you reached 80% of your goal, but only actually made it to 15%, you’re not helping yourself and I can’t help you with that 65% difference. And that’s probably where the block that kept you at 15% is. Just like I can’t help you if you don’t show up, I can’t help with what you don’t tell me about. If you struggle to admit how little your best is, that’s something we can work on and process! Every bit is information that we can bring to your work and build on to meet your goals.
4. Trust your process
The hardest of the 4, probably. We’ll talk about building trust and what that needs to look like for you, but even that requires you to trust your own process. We trust processes all the time. We trust that when we get on an airplane, that it will safely take us where we want to go, even if there’s turbulence or a delay in take off. Trusting the therapeutic process is very similar, with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster-- and with a more lasting pay off. Talk about it when you’re having a hard time trusting the process! We’ve probably stumbled on an important “button”, if you will, that has been blocking you for a long time. It’s all information and part of the work.
Whether you’re looking to start therapy for the first time, or maybe the 10th, each therapist brings a different style and will come into your life differently from any other, simply because you’re a different person each time. It’s all workable.
My personal style is rooted in what is called Narrative Practices, which was started in Adelaide, Australia (noted that it is on Kaurna Land) at the Dulwich Centre. The premise of Narrative lies in our individual right to be the author of our own story, and how external influences (societal factors including oppression, traumatic events, neurochemical imbalances like depression and anxiety, and so on) have disrupted our focus on the narrative we intend to write for ourselves. The therapeutic relationship is between equals (one of which has target experience in listening and “asking the right questions”) to expand on the earlier story to pull apart the impact of those influences and begin re-authoring.
|“Narrative therapy seeks to be a respectful, non-blaming approach to counseling and community work, which centers people as the experts in their own lives. It views problems as separate from people and assumes people have many skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities that will assist them to reduce the influence of problems in their lives.”| -Alice Morgan, DulwichCentre.com.au (link above)
In addition to the principles of Narrative, I integrate other modalities (see my bio, and Psychology Today profile for list) to individualize how we reach your goals.