08 Nov Patience, Please: Psychotherapy is a Process
As human beings in a busy world, we want quick fixes for things and we want them… yesterday! And, who could blame us? We are spoiled in many ways when it comes to problem solving, efficiency and instant gratification. And, as such, we don’t have to put in that much effort.
We want an efficient workout in 45 minutes (endorphins: check!). We want to hear any song we want to listen to on the spot (spotify: check!). We want to see that person we miss in real time (facetime: check!).
It is normal to feel a sensation or an emotion we don’t particularly like and have an urge to “fix it” immediately, and we are able to, for the most part. Lucky us!
- Tired? Coffee. Now.
- Lonely? Social Media or Text. Now.
- Hungry? Food. Now.
- Late and no taxis? Uber. Now.
- Bored? Netflix. Now.
When it comes to our health, we also want quick fixes, and sometimes we are fortunate enough to get them, like taking Advil when we have a headache.
When it comes to our mental health, however, quick fixes are less likely. It would be pretty remarkable if psychotherapy worked like a charm and you would feel better right away, and while a therapy session can make you feel great, it can also make you feel worse for a bit.
I reassure my clients that this is normal. While distress tolerance skills are incredible and effective in the moment, long-term solutions and change of behaviors take time.
Psychotherapy is hard work and it requires a lot of effort. Exploring emotions in a mindful, focused way with your therapist, without distractions, can be uncomfortable–especially at first. This discomfort is part of the process of growth and can actually be a wonderful thing. It can mean things are changing and progressing, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
Many people start psychotherapy with the expectation that it will make them feel good instantly, and then assume it is not working when it doesn’t. Unfortunately, they may end therapy because of this and rob themselves of the progress they can make over time.
I encourage my clients to consider psychotherapy as a practice, just like mindfulness, meditation or yoga.
It took me years of saying yoga wasn’t for me because it didn’t make me calm or less anxious. It also didn’t make me very flexible. Why? I would go to a couple classes here, take a break for a year, and then eventually return because it worked for others and I thought maybe it would eventually work for me. I never stuck with it long enough to see positive results, whether it be mental or physical, and therefore I would quit. Once I gave it enough time, I was able to feel and see the benefits, so much so that I decided to learn to teach it.
In my 200-hour yoga teacher training, I was taught that progress in a yoga practice can best be described like taking a huge, old phonebook and ripping the pages out one by one, daily. I immediately related this to the process of psychotherapy. You may not see a difference in one or two sessions, but if you keep going, you will eventually be able to witness a reduction of symptoms and marvel at the change that can happen.
Be patient, recognize the process, and most importantly, communicate with your therapist if you feel your needs aren’t being met or if you have doubts about the efficacy of treatment.
Authored by: Jaime Gleicher, LMSW