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What happens in therapy?

Some people can understandably feel a little uncertain about the process of therapy. TV programmes and films often portray therapy as involving a bewildered client's problems being analysed with razor-sharp precision by (an often rather smug-seeming) therapist who can 'read' people and who knows the inner workings of someone's mind simply by looking at them. Alternatively, it can sometimes come across that there are certain 'requirements' for being in therapy, such as crying a great deal or experiencing powerful, life-changing realisations during most sessions where, suddenly, everything is clear and life makes perfect sense. Sadly, many of these stereotypes of psychotherapy are rarely true. Or rather, parts of them sometimes are for parts of the time. Sometimes crying can happen, and if it does, it's okay and is usually a very healthy response to whatever is being felt and talked about together. Sometimes, even therapists cry, and this is also okay! Most psychotherapists try to avoid too much cleverness, purported expertise over and above that of the client's own, or excessive 'analysis'. This is because research and experience have shown that neither are conducive to a warm and effective therapeutic alliance which, so other evidence suggests, is actually the foundation for a successful therapy. At it's most basic, therapy works simply by the client attending each session with an open mind, tuning in as best they can, with the therapist's help, to what their mind and body are telling them, and talking about what comes up as a result. Sometimes things arise might not seem to directly relate to the issue someone came in with, but these detours or 'hidden' thoughts very often turn out to form essential parts of the work. There is nothing too big or too small for the psychotherapy hour. It is most helpful to come each week at the same time. And this also facilitates the important therapeutic processes which take place both inside and outside appointments. During the first session clients have the opportunity to talk fully about what has brought them to therapy. This is a chance to find out if there is a good ‘fit’ between therapist and client and to discuss how to work together most effectively. They will then meet each week until the client feels ready to end. The time it takes to reach this point varies greatly according to a variety of factors. In my experience it usually takes upward of 12 or more sessions to begin to see improvements with many common issues such as anxiety or mild depression. More complex or enduring problems such as trauma, major depression, or entrenched relational or personality difficulties tending to take significantly longer to fully address. The client will know when it feels the right time to end, and this is something they will talk about together with their therapist when the time comes. Therapy is an opportunity to talk openly and honestly about what's on one's mind. Simply talking to someone who is holding you in mind with compassion, non-judgement, and understanding can bring enormous benefits. It can also provide a chance to receive some useful insights and feedback. I work by developing a safe, empathic, therapeutic relationship which is consistent, boundaried, and reliable. Through exploring aspects which can sometimes feel the most difficult, awkward, or painful, a space naturally opens up where you can begin to feel happier in your own skin. This can offer an opportunity to live life more fully and feeling lighter, more grounded, and 'whole'.

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