What happens to us during the therapy process? How are we different after a course of therapy?
Often clients come in with specific issues that they hope to improve: anxiety, depression, isolation, emotions all over the place or numbed out, work stress, marital conflict. And through our therapy work together these issues are improved.
Underlying those outcomes, however, are more broad changes to the client. I recently re-read On Becoming a Person, written by Carl Rogers, founder of client-centered therapy. He eloquently captured the following 4 ways that clients are different after therapy.
(1) Clients feel confident that they can take on all aspects of life and all of their feelings. Rather than avoiding life or feelings they have the confidence and skills to take what comes and be with it. Rogers wrote:
“clients who have moved significantly in therapy live more intimately with their feelings of pain, but also more vividly with their feelings of ecstasy; that anger is more clearly felt, but so also is love; that fear is an experience they know more deeply, but so is courage. And the reason they can thus live fully in a wider range is that they have this underlying confidence in themselves as trustworthy instruments for encountering life.” On Becoming a Person, p.195
(2) Clients learn about the different parts of themselves and accept all of them. This isn’t to say that parts of themselves are all working well for them but the first step in change is to accept these parts and understand why we needed to develop them. This self-compassion helps the client to risk to live less from these parts and more from their self.
In Rogers’ words:
“as therapy proceeds, he finds that he is daring to become himself, in spite of all the dread consequences which he is sure will befall him if he permits himself to become himself.”
3. The third way clients may be different after therapy is they become an active agent in how they live their lives. They live in a proactive way rather than a reactive way to others and to even their own thoughts and feelings. In Rogers’ words:
“Involved in this process of becoming [her]self is a profound experience of personal choice. [She] realizes that she can choose to continue to hide behind a facade, or that she can take the risks involved in being herself”
4. The 4th way clients report change after therapy is life feels more meaningful and exciting because the client is fully living in her life. She’s living “the good life.”
Here’s Carl Rogers again:
The process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be.” (all quotes pp. 194-195).
I got re-inspired re-reading this classic psychotherapy book. It is a rewarding privilege to witness clients moving towards self-awareness and self-acceptance and through that process become better able to live more fully in their life and relationships.
Email me or book online to start the first steps towards relief. I look forward to working with you.
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