How can talking therapy reduce anxiety and depression?
Like most psychotherapists I’ve spent many hours during my training undergoing my own therapy. I assumed that knowing about the model I was being trained in provided me with a ‘head start’ in knowing about myself. I was expecting my therapist to take up a ‘teacher’ role and tell me where I was going wrong and how to be a better ‘grown up’ and avoid getting hurt or being misunderstood.
Help…this is hard
At first it was difficult talking for an hour and I realised part of my anxieties was that I was having lots of thoughts about my therapist and significant people in my current and past life like…
Do you like me? Am I boring you? Am I entertaining you enough?
Am I saying too much? Are you angry with me?
Are you only listening because I’m paying you? Am I over-burdening you?
Do you think I’m stupid?
Had I not been in training I think I may have given up as I was trying so hard to be ‘The perfect client’.
I began to notice…
Through my conversations with my therapist I found that these anxieties were gently noticed and explored and I was surprised at how much emotion I was holding onto that was connected with ‘this way I was being’ with my therapist and other people.
In fact, the more I shared, the more raw emotion there was that my therapist heard and understood. She got me, and often in that space with her I felt truly known, and that was a comfort to me and somehow strengthening.
After a while I didn’t have to think about how to be with my therapist anymore. I found I wasn’t having anxious thoughts about her rejecting me for what I said and felt, or anxious thoughts about being too much for her or even that I was wasting her time……’another self-indulgent middle class woman’.
I began to feel at peace and comfortable with her. I could tell her anything without fear of self-indulgence or self-importance.
I even found that she noticed when I was upset with her, despite the very well disguised defences that I used not to show this, and how powerful it was to find and express words for my dissatisfaction and then to be heard and understood, and for her to ask what it was I needed from her. It was only a small thing, but it meant a great deal to me for her to listen and meet my need. I’d really not experienced that before in just this way.
I found my therapy to be the only relationship I had ever had that I could, in a totally unadulterated way, share all of myself, without fear of judgement. I realised that I had internalised so much of me so as to be what the other wanted me to be.
The process of therapy uncovered how my mind worked to suppress my actions and repress my feelings and emotions so that I took up as little space as possible in relationship, ensuring that the 'other' was more than adequately taken care of. I found out that I had all kinds of ways of providing this for the other, and explored why I was doing all of this - and so perfectly too.
I came to realise that, although I needed these ways of being whilst I was growing up in my childhood environment, I thrived and grew with these skills. I also now understand how I often felt alone, lonely, often anxious, down and resentful.
Talking, exploring, and just my therapist being with me when emotions flowed unexpectedly from me in our conversations, has all changed me.
Talking about my relationships - now and from different times in my past - has let me really look at them and me. Together we unpicked the inner machinery of my relationships and me, making sense of and evaluating what happened and why. How I thought about others and myself; how I would behave and what I experienced inside. I uncovered what triggers my dis-ease and how I got stuck in negative cycles, both with myself and with another, which increased my anxiety and depressed my vitality.
In therapy we did this thinking through together, and when emotions arose my therapist was right there with me, providing this empathic, safe space for all of me just ‘to be’.
My therapist and I uncovered all these inner workings and she helped me see how I was perpetuating my own inner hell. This was very powerful for me as it gave me choices to be different.
Through my therapists gently curiosity, I learned to challenge the parts of me that were now limiting me in my adult relationships. I learned to love all of me and use all my feelings to take care of myself and navigate my relationships so I was fully present in them and no longer invisible, alone or lonely.
Talking has opened me up to myself and changed how I think and feel. I feel alive, vital and healthy.
A journey towards change
Talking to my therapist not only radically reduced my life long anxiety of relating; it also changed me in ways I could never have imagined when I first sat down opposite her on that day long ago.
Therapy worked for me and has worked for others. It’s a unique experience between two people that is always intriguing because it’s the making known what is unknown. Knowing yourself is exciting and powerful and opens up potential and possibilities.
If you want to explore a talking therapy with me then call me on 07880668651 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About Fiona Brewin
I'm a qualified and experienced psychotherapist working with adults and couples. I'm accredited and registered member of BACP and a registered member of UKATA, UK Association of Transactional Analysis.
In my work I use and teach the skill of mindfulness through body awareness for stress reduction, relief from depression and emotional regulation.