The aim of therapy?

Why do people engage in therapy? Or more specifically, why do I attend therapy? What do I think I can get out of it? It’s the day before my first appointment with psychologist number three that I’m pondering these questions.

I’ve been asked something along those lines before. Why am I seated on the couch in their consulting room? My honest answer? Because my psychiatrist referred me to you. Because apparently therapy is the *should* thing to do for depression, anxiety, self harm and overdosing.

Even better is when I’m asked by the psychologist what I’m hoping to achieve by engaging in therapy. What do I want out of therapy? To cease my self harm? Nah, but I don’t see all that much wrong with it in the first place. To learn how to cope with my depression and anxiety? Yeah, a reduction in the symptoms would be nice, but nah, too much effort involved with achieving the outcome and frankly I can’t be screwed. In the past I’ve answered, ‘To learn to cope better,’ coz ya know, I had to give some sort of an answer. But then they want to explore this further. How would you like to cope better? Well, I don’t know!

I was once questioned in a session with psychologist #2, ‘What would help you? What can I do to help you?’  This was met with umm-ing and ahh-ing and the session finished early as I was unable to provide an answer and we therefore ran out of things to talk about.

I’m envisioning that if I’m asked these sorts of questions tomorrow, there will be a whole lot of  I-don’t-know-ing coming from me. I don’t know how therapy can help me, I don’t know what I’m hoping to achieve by being there, I don’t know what the point is in seeing a psychologist, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

I swear I say ‘I don’t know’ more than I do anything of actual importance.

11 thoughts on “The aim of therapy?

  1. I share a lot of the same thoughts as you. But from my experience with D, I can say that one of the most important things I get out of therapy is the fact that D is my advocate. Especially when dealing with other professionals and uni, D has been on my side and basically helps my opinion and desires to be heard when others won’t listen to me. Maybe that could be something you get out of therapy?

    Have a good session!

    Wishing you well,

  2. I’ve had therapy assessments in the past and always ended up ‘i don’t know’ing loads. When they ask what would help, I usually reply that surely that’s their area of expertise, not mine!

  3. I hate it when they ask these wanky questions. C used to always bollock on at me about what I “want[ed] out of this therapy” and I wanted to batter his face in. The point is to feel better, is it not? Why is that simple concept so difficult for them to comprehend?!

    Seriously, if the only reason you’re there is because you were referred, I’d tell them that. Certainly, you have a responsibility to make an effort with them (if they’re an appropriate therapist for you anyway), but they have an even bigger responsibility towards you, and should be willing to help you work out your goals.

    Good luck tomorrow! xxx

  4. I think asking these types of questions is to get to the heart of why you’re there, what your goals are, etc, so that you can sort of direct the therapy. If you don’t want to work on the self harm stuff, than just say you’re fine with that aspect.

    My T’s asked me this in a different way of “What is therapy doing for you?”. I replied that it is something to help me push through the week, that T offers me a different perspective on things, and it helps me to see the other sides of the issue.

    Probably the biggest reason I go is for the support and so I don’t feel alone. Blogging is great, but ultimately, other bloggers will remain only internet friends or acquaintances. I really need someone in real life that I can connect with and be supported by. The more alone I feel, the greater the risk for me to make an SA.

    Sorry – long comment!

  5. I think the issue is to work out what you want, identify what’s missing, and what the routemap to get those things are. But that’s assuming you can *see* what you want- if you’re depressed then there’s a *really* good chance that’s not likely. And you also have to ‘give a dog a bone’, in terms of language/ideas they can understand. (which again, sucks- they’re the experts aren’t they?)

    I think it’s reasonable to state aims of therapy in terms of questions which taxes their professional skills. for example, (and sorry if this is answered properly elsewhere- it’s been something I’ve been hoping to find in your blog but aside from the issue of feeling overwhelemed re starting uni haven’t found ‘the answer yet!) one question might be is to understand why/what leads you to OD.

    Or if it’s a literalist psych, they might need proper goals, so re: anxiety & coping. what is anxiety stopping you doing that you might want to do? Or maybe, that you can do a bit but want to do better. “being able to get through a morning of classes without a panic attack/crying in public” So then they can work with you to chunk it down into achieveable parts toward the bigger goal. (just make sure they do- my last therapist thought it was OK that my goal was ‘to start my PhD’ ignoring that such a big goal was overwhelming which only creates a vicious circle of perpetuated anxiety/self doubt/depression).

    Sorry I’ll shut up- I’m in a literal mood at present; and I *know* how annoying that is!

  6. I can relate. I frist went to a mental health agency in late 2006, and the first question they asked me was what I was coming to them for. I didn’t have an answer. I am now in therapy and have been for two years, but it took us very long to figure out what I needed. (I was intially seeing this psychologist just because it’s standard practice when you’re in on my psych ward.) I want to wish you good luck with meeting this new psychologist.

  7. It might help to change to a psychotherapist who works with Attachment, I have found psychiatirst and psychologists to be pretty useless when it comes to SH and OD and all those other symptoms of early attachment wounds

  8. Your first two psychologists sound a bit lost. I hope #3 is more competent.

    People come here because they want their symptoms to go away. If they didn’t want that, they wouldn’t come. Sometimes the symptoms are not very clear-cut, perhaps just a strong feeling that life is not right, but even so, that kind of feeling is a symptom too.

    People keep coming back because they start to experience definite improvements after only a few sessions. Indeed, many feel a lot better after the assessment, just from having someone make the effort to understand them. There’s no “What would you like to talk about today?” or “What are your goals?” because the agenda is always clear from the outset, and there’s always a plan of action to make permanent improvements in the patient’s life and end the need for therapy.

    Unfortunately there are many psychologists who have read about that kind of thing in books but have no idea how to do it in real life. I agree with Pandora and others that professionals have a responsibility towards you that they should take seriously, and not just insult you with wanky questions.

  9. Loved this too. Couldnt agree more that therapy is very much a *should do* thing for anyone with a mental health issue. People see it as cause and effect. Sick+therapy= not sick anymore. Even while im studying psychology just now, i am hugely dubious of every single therapy that ive ever been in, and everyone that ive had brought to my attention in my studies. Theyr all problematic for me in twerms of what they can achieve and even what it is they aim to achieve. Everyones different arent they? For some they all work, for some theres a specific key to helping. For me, therapy does nothing. I did a post on it, dont know if you saw it. xxx

  10. “I don’t know” has become such a likely response for me in appoinments, that my GP literally put “and I don’t know is NOT an acceptable answer” at the end of EVERY question!! I agree though, I’m only seeing my therapist because my GP told me to. Some people get something out of therapy, and that’s great, but everyone reacts differently and sometimes therapy just doesn’t cut it!

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