What Goes on Behind Closed Doors?
OK, so on here there are articles about the differences between counsellors, psychotherapists, coaches, psychologists and psychiatrists. There is an article about the different methods, approaches and frameworks used and what these terms even mean. There are articles about why you’ll thank yourself for booking an appointment and how I specifically practice and also on why so many mental health practitioners are so private and secretive compared to the many loud life coaches on social media, telling you how to live your life.
Well, I can only speak for myself but I do know that how I do it is not hugely unique, so it’s probably a good enough measurement of what a session looks like.
First and foremost, you need to find a practitioner that offers what you’re wanting.
That in itself can be tough, take time and be a bit overwhelming, to be honest.
Whether you’re in the UK, US or in tiny Denmark there are different online directories where you can look up practitioners and their profiles. Otherwise, a quick Google search can help you identify individual people’s websites, like typing in ‘counsellor Glasgow’ or ‘life coach New York’ or ‘psychologist Copenhagen’. Depending on the size of your city, you may get hundreds of hits or only a few.
Are you looking for a counsellor/psychotherapist, a psychologist or a coach? If you don’t know the difference, you can read about that here.
Do you know what you want to talk about? Is it a problematic past, to get an ADHD diagnosis or to plan your future success? A counsellor or psychotherapist can help you with the first, a psychologist with the second and a coach with the third. If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed then all three might be able to help you, depending on how you want to go about dealing with this stress.
Get a feel of the person via their website or online profiles. Do they seem relatable?
Set up a free or discounted first chat with them and see how you get on. Do they explain how they work? Did they make you feel safe and comfortable? Would you recommend them to your best friend? If yes, book another session. If not, find someone else. Don’t waste time on ‘giving it another chance’. Trust your initial reaction and follow your intuition.
Now, each practitioner out there will handle each session differently.
Confidentiality, respect and kindness should be a the heart of it for all though.
But generally speaking, you’re expected to do most of the talking. The focus is on you. And it’s about going deep and not wasting time on small talk and pleasantries.
It’s not about listening to the therapist dispense advice or tell you how to live (bummer, I know! But there’s a reason for that! I’m working on an article about that which will come out soon). You need to figure out solutions for yourself so that you can go and apply them later in life on your own. It’s kind of like getting a personal trainer to get fit and hoping to achieve this by simply watching him do the exercises or by being told which exercises to do. That won’t work. Nor will therapy where you’re told what to do. It needs to make sense from within you or it won’t work. If being told what to do worked, there’d be no therapists as everyone would be fixed by reading a self-help book. Because the reason self-help books don’t work in the long run is that the insights gained didn’t come from within you.
And that’s really it!
We talk. Well, you mostly talk and the practitioner listens. They will reflect on what you say, they’ll challenge you, or offer a different perspective, and they might offer you some resources to engage with between sessions, depending on their methods and approach.
Some sessions will feel harder than others, some will come with more insights than others.
There are no quick fixes and those who claim there are, are out to sell you something really overpriced (or are potentially in denial about their unresolved issues).
There is no fixed timeframe for feeling better, even if someone offers you a 6-package deal. It takes whatever amount of time it takes for you. Some people have more time to reflect and ‘do the work’ in between sessions than others. Some people have more resources – energy, money, support – than others which might slow down or speed up their process. Some have harder lives to deal with than others. And some are faced with sudden and unexpected challenges.
There are no big secrets, there are no magical cures, there is no one answer that works for all, and there is nothing dramatic or otherwise mysterious going on in talk therapy. It’s all rather dull on the one hand, and super exciting on the other (if you like reflecting on your life, that is – otherwise, it might be your idea of hell!)
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, or didn't, or want to add something or have a question, feel free to comment below (but try and be kind about it - I'm a terribly sensitive soul).
Don't forget that this is just my opinion. You don't have to agree. These pieces of writing are just here to make you think and take from it what you like and find helpful and ignore the rest. At the end of the day, it's your life and, therefore, what you consume, what you believe, and what you think and feel is your choice.
Also, this article has been brought to you by a perfectly imperfect, flawsome dyslexic. I hope any potential spelling or grammar mistakes didn't take away from your enjoyment.
Meandering thoughts about life and the meaning of everything, from a know-it-not-all!