Driving with the Brakes on

“Driving with the brakes on,” is a rather lovely metaphor therapist Fred J. Hanna uses to describe individuals who would love to talk about their issues all day, but do not feel inclined to actively make any modifications.  I love this illustration because it defines one of the principle difficulties most individuals face at one time or another.

When you’re a new therapist, the client you hope for the most is the one who has a good deal of awareness about his or her issues and complaints. You love the individuals who present with beautifully-worded monologues about how these maladies have managed to hold them back. That is, until you realize that with many of those people the buck stops there. These are the daydreaming uber-clients who don’t really want to develop an ability to tolerate change. They just want to editorialize about it. In fact, therapy in the past may have been about endlessly analyzing the reasons for the trouble without making any concrete steps to forge a better life. We therapists can unwittingly reward this kind of perceptive client for standing still.  It’s like watching a carefully-planted garden wither and die when you’re standing right there with the watering hose. I believe that it’s that delicious moment of understanding paired with your own sense of agency that makes life really hum.

Make no mistake; sometimes, it makes good sense not to change. Life may be uncomfortable, but at least stable. You may have attached some piece of your identity to the issue that has gotten you under its thumb. Or, maybe you’re just scared. So, I challenge you to really take a look at your own self-work. Are you taking advantage of that big engine or driving with the brakes on?

Your Partner in Healing,  Holly

If you would like to scheudle and appointment or a free, 15-minute phone consultation please call 407.913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com


A Quick Note about Brief Therapy

If I thought something was going to take a long time, I would put it off until I was sure I had racked up enough hours on my schedule to do it the right way. I am, in fact, really familiar with this idea. It sort of permeates my long-term struggle to develop a strong taste for fitness and healthy eating. “Well,” I logic to myself, “I might as well get started out on the right foot—right after the New Year’s.” Has the New Year ever become July or October for you too?

In my experience, folks struggling with some sort of emotional or spiritual distress run up against this same dilemma when thinking about coming to therapy. It does make sense, if you think about it. Why start counseling when you are too stressed, frazzled, or over-committed to “really” take advantage of it? Why open up old wounds when you’re already spread thin and your resources are committed to just hanging in there? These are good questions; I have a few answers.

There is a mythology out there that therapy must be long, intense, and full of soggy Kleenex in order to be effective. While there are many instances in which it is helpful to get at the architecture of the bad stuff (the experiential and emotional blue prints informing the hurts so to speak) there is also something to be said for starting from the here and now. Therapy is not just about pathologies of individuals and relationships. It is also about figuring out what is already working, developing a plan to do more of that, and charting a course for the future based on the strengths you have right now, this very moment. That, you can start today. You don’t have to switch into your marathon gear. You don’t have to plan your next three years around it. Get started recognizing that nobody ever changes because he or she is too comfortable. You already have some knowing about what it will take to get back on track If you allow yourself to get in touch with it. Besides, some research shows that therapists are far more enraptured with long-term work than clients ever are.

Good luck giving yourself permission to accept that this moment is a good enough time to start.

Your Partner in Healing,   Holly

If you would like to schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute phone consultation call 407.913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

How to be a good client

Let’s talk for a moment about the care and keeping of the rare and wonderful beastie we call the therapy session. Most people are not prepared for what it will be like to undertake therapy. Why would they be? We live in a society that still stigmatizes those who seek help, and often information about how therapy works is given second-hand by a friend or family member who has had treatment.  So to that end, I am writing a bit today about how to best take advantage of your session.

You can expect any therapist to do some pretty routine things when you come in for your first appointment. Most of us will ask you to fill out paperwork stating that you understand what kinds of risks and benefits clinical work presents, explains the limits of confidentiality, and tells you how that clinician will keep your private health information safe.  In addition, we usually want to know something about any past history of treatment you have had, and how helpful or not that was for you. We ask this so we can better tailor your treatment to your preferences. And, we want to assess for any other professionals we might need to refer you to in the course of our work together. Sometimes, I refer clients for a medication evaluation, or back to their family doctor to rule out physical problems that can masquerade as mental health issues. Finally, we will ask you to talk some about your hopes for how therapy can be helpful to you, and what goals you would like to work on in session. Often, family therapists inquire about your family of origin and other important relationships to understand in a systemic fashion how you relate to the world around you.

Now that you know how to get started, let’s look at three of the best ways to get the most bang for your therapeutic buck.

<!1)      Therapy is a team sport: Some clients are able to take better advantage of the therapy or life-coaching process. It’s not that these clients have less difficult problems, rosier histories, or even better coping skills than others. They simply do better because they are active participants in the process. While therapists are trained to ask good questions, we’re not mind readers– we’re facilitators that can help make the ‘stuck’ patterns in your life more transparent. If I assumed that I knew everything about you or had all the right answers for your life, I would be a pretty terrible therapist.  And, that would rob you of the important task of knowing that you have the strengths and insight to confront your troubles in a head-on fashion.  I have never met a client who does not have more success when they are able to take some ownership over the process.

<!2)      What’s the issue: Before you come in, think about what, specifically, you would like to be different in your life when the problem is not so powerful. Though it’s sometimes very comforting to think about merely the absence of the issue, what will really make your work more focused is articulating how your experience of yourself and others will look when you have become successful. Many clients have their “Ah-ha” moments when taking a considered look at what they are working towards, not what they are running away from. This can take several different forms. For example, I ask couples what, specifically and behaviorally their partner will be doing differently when the problem does not have as much influence. I often ask folks with anxiety to name 3 things they will be doing that will let them know they are on the right track. It’s best if these are very small things. Folks have told me everything from, “I will be smiling 3 times a day,” to “I will be telling my boss more often when I feel she is taking advantage of me.”

<   3) Be willing to cut yourself some slack:  When people ask me how long therapy will take, I often answer, “As long as it takes.” I tend to work briefly, and most of my clients find some relief from their presenting problems in around 12 sessions. However, if you have delayed coming into therapy for a long time, have experienced trauma or significant mental illness, or you need continued support as you implement changes, you might be charming me with your presence  for a bit longer. If you are able to give yourself permission to work at your own pace, you will be able to take better advantage of the time we spend together. You are trying to make changes in the way you think, experience, and behave. Whew, that’s some heavy lifting. Your whole life has trained you for the problems you are bringing in to resolve. Just as you wouldn’t want to tell the guy laying the foundation on your house to just hurry up, realize that you are laying the foundation for a better life. Love yourself enough to savor the courage it takes to undertake this kind of effort. 

Your Partner in Healing,  Holly

If you would like to schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute phone consultation please contact me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com or call 407.913.4988