The process of counselling
When you decide to see a therapist you are both together entering an alliance. This alliance is a serious one. You are both agreeing to commit to a relationship which is curiously like no other. Not only is it serious; it can appear to be a weird thing to do. What drives us to see a therapist is something that we do not find easy to talk about or admit to so the material we discuss is full of touchy areas; private things we don’t like to look at ordinarily, painful events or feelings we have tried in vain to forget. You may well have sat with this pain and these feelings for a long time and they just won’t go away. You can make no sense of them; they seem to appear from nowhere and confuse us but worst of all they stop us from leading the sort of life we would like to have.
We look around and see other people apparently enjoying themselves; they seem to have things sorted; they are successful; popular, confident and others like them. The comparison with ourselves makes us feel even worse. We experience feelings we don’t want to have because it makes us feel ashamed and unhappy: jealousy, resentment, even hatred and rage. These are the feelings the therapist needs to see so that he or she can help you to contain them. Nameless dread can be spoken about; the unsayable can be said and placed outside of us so that we can see it for what it is. We discover most often that these unwanted feelings and nameless dread is about the hurt and anguish of being human.
On your journey to the therapist you may feel like you do when you go the doctor: you try to persuade yourself that you’re imagining your symptoms and there’s no need for you to waste the doctor’s time. You might also feel that you will have to entertain your therapist by presenting her with a cheerful face; you may be so used to doing this in order to keep people from seeing you that it may take you a while to trust that this person may see behind the cheerful exterior. You may feel that you don’t know what to say, you may think about what you can talk about; this again, might be what you do in the outside world to hide from the awkwardness of human interaction where you feel nervous, inadequate or boring. You may simply think to yourself that you have made a huge mistake, that she will be annoying and irritate you like so many people have annoyed you.
It is a relationship fraught with things that can go wrong but with endless possibilities of going right. Don’t come with a prepared speech each time; ease yourself into it gently, like letting go of a piece of string bit by bit. Therapy is a chance for you to look at why you feel such pain, why you want to die, why you use food to punish yourself, why you cut yourself to feel something. It takes time and it can sometimes be scary but it is a way of allowing another way of thinking to enter your mind. Your life is like a book you didn’t understand the first time. You may have to go back a chapter or two before you can get to grips with the present chapter. Your life will have chapters which have been glossed over, ignored or left because it’s too difficult to digest. Our minds cannot always digest what has happened to us just as a meal can be indigestible.
The relationship with your therapist should feel meaningful to you; you should come away feeling that someone is holding you in their mind, respecting the painful material you bring them.