(I'm late! I had exams, sorry- stress! Thank you so much for all of your comments on posts- they're amazing to read.)
I’ll be honest here: therapy is not always easy. I’ve spent a good proportion of my therapy sessions huddled in my chair, knees up and hugged to my chest, eyes down and refusing to talk. I’ve walked out of a fair few sessions too.
About half a year ago I started seeing my current therapist, and for one of the first times I’m actually getting something out of therapy. I’m making more progress now than I ever have before. Now, you might have never been to a therapist or you might have been to thirty. I suppose this is more aimed at people that are new to this whole scary ‘therapy’ thing, or who have kind of given up on it. Either way, I thought I’d just share a few things that have helped me out.
1) Find a therapist you like.
Due to various people coming and going, I’ve seen over fifteen therapists in 18 months. I’ve had to stop seeing a few for various reasons. Sometimes personalities clash. Sometimes techniques don’t quite work with you. And sometimes they’re just… without meaning to put anybody off, there are therapists out there who probably shouldn’t be doing their jobs. You may have encountered a few- be they rude, ignorant or triggering.
But for every one of them, there’s one hundred committed, kind, non-triggering people. You are fully entitled to ‘look around’.
But: make sure you think about why things aren’t working with the person. Is it genuine? Or is it just because they’re making you think about things you don’t want to? Make sure your eating disorder doesn’t use this as an excuse.
2) Experiment with different techniques.
I know people who freeze up completely when talking, but can do a lot of good work in art therapy. Or people that cannot stand family therapy, but found DBT helped them out of a relapse. It varies. Don’t think ‘I tried therapy and it doesn’t work’ because one method didn’t help. There are hundreds of methods and everybody is different in what helps them and what doesn’t. Try different things- you never know what mind end up helping.
But: again, don’t let this be an excuse. Don’t stick with one method because you don’t have to think about the hard stuff. Therapy should be as easy as possible- but it also needs to be useful, and that means you are going to have to do some difficult things.
3) Try non-verbal communication.
Give your therapist a letter, send them an email, draw something. I managed to get something very difficult across in the form of a typed letter, because I knew I’d find it too challenging to say out loud. And it worked. Sometimes writing something is a lot overwhelming than speaking words out loud.
But: by this, I do absolutely NOT mean ‘lose weight’ or ‘self-harm’. Using your body to ask for help will never work- people aren’t mind (or body) readers. It might seem clear to you why you’re losing weight, but if you don’t tell them what’s going on, they’re never going to know or be able to help.
4) Talk about what you want to talk about- don’t just nod along
Like I said, therapists can’t mind-read. If there’s an issue that you’d like to talk about, tell them. Say at the beginning of the session, ‘something’s come up this week that I’d like to talk about’ or similar things. They are there for you. It’s fine if they plan sessions or have ideas of their own- but nobody knows what will help you the most better than yourself.
Equally, you can say no. If they say something like ‘do you think you’re behaving this way because of X?’, you are fully entitled to go ‘no, I don’t think that’s right’. It is okay to say you don’t think something would help. Like I said, not everyone is the same. It can be very difficult to tell your therapist that you don’t think they’re right, but there is absolutely no point in agreeing with something that isn’t true for you.
But: Again, don’t just use this to avoid hard issues. Don’t just go ‘you’re wrong’ to anything that might indicate you need to change things. Take the time to fully consider what they’re suggesting before you decide whether or not it would help.
5) Give yourself, and it, time.
It might take a while to build trust. Don’t just go to one session and go ‘it was shit, so unhelpful, couldn’t say a thing, she was a bitch’. I’m not judging you if you do that, by the way- I’ve done that. But the truth is that it’s quite unusual to be able to open up fully to a person as soon as possible. Things get easier with time, and this isn’t an exception to that rule. Each session you might find that you can push things a little further, and get a little more feedback in response. Just because you can’t ‘get it’ at first doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, or that you’re ‘beyond help’.
But: don’t stay around in something that isn’t working for too long. If it’s been a good few sessions and you’re still getting nowhere- why are you staying? Is it honestly to give it a chance? Or is it just because it’s easiest?
Good lord, I write essays, don’t I? Hopefully the list format breaks things up a bit. I know this hasn’t been the most amazing post and it’s late, so I’m sorry- it’s been a busy week.
Anyway- do you see a therapist? If not, why not? What experiences have you had- best and worst?