Archives for Relationship Therapy
I have to admit, as a therapist with many years of training, and still aiming to improve my work every day, it always frustrates me when I hear people equate the delicate and challenging nature of psychotherapy with talking to a friend. Sure, therapy can at times involve a venting quality, and this is completely welcome as part of the process. However, this isn't the extent of what therapy is about. Therapy isn't simply an ear and a supportive voice, even if listening and support are part of the picture (and sometimes listening and support is what a person needs; and it's also important to hold in mind that not everybody has an ear or a supportive person in their lives).
I posted this a few years ago, however it is always good, as we approach a new year, to improve the ways we approach our relationships. With the New Year, people often take the opportunity to re-evaluate who they are and consider the changes they'd like to make in their lives. This is something people would benefit from doing year round -- reflecting on the choices we make, the way we treat others, and our commitment to self-care. One of the mistakes people often make in their relationships is attempting to change their partner. Eventually, they end up realizing that the more they push their partner to change, the more resistant their partner becomes to that change. One of the secrets of a successful relationship is for each partner to continue to improve, both as a person and as a partner. If each person make the effort to be a good partner, the relationship takes care of itself. You each focus on taking care of each other, rather than worrying about how the other should take care of you.
Based on my previous post about the usefulness and necessity of anger at one's therapist in the treatment -- rather than abandoning the treatment in these moments -- it was brought to my attention that a follow-up could be helpful to explore when switching therapists may be a good decision. It can't be overstated how complicated of an issue this really is. What makes changing therapists so complicated is understanding the greater picture of what's triggering the urge to leave. Is it something the therapist is specifically doing? Is a pattern being re-enacted by the client -- with the therapist --that happens in their own lives outside therapy as well (a very common phenomenon that can actually enhance the treatment)? Is it a dynamic that's triggering past emotional states that could actually be useful to understand in the treatment? Is the client wanting to leave the therapist for actually not being a good therapist, or is it more about the difficulty of facing the negative emotions within an overall good treatment? And so on. Basically, how does a person determine when the therapist is problematic, versus when the difficult emotions of an otherwise positive treatment are triggering a desire to leave?
This topic can take an entire book to talk about, so this post alone will probably not do it justice. When people think of therapy, many people think that "good therapy" means that you feel good in therapy all the time, and that if you're not feeling good in therapy, then you're receiving "bad therapy." This is far from accurate, and this perception can prematurely end treatments for people that may have been very useful and effective if this phenomenon was better understood. On a fundamental level, therapy obviously does need a foundation of safety, support, trust, and caring between therapist and client. But therapy is complicated. Change is complicated. Life is complicated.
Maybe "misused" isn't a great word since it implies a form of external judgment. Therapy is generally whatever the person seeking therapy needs it to be. The purpose of therapy is different for each person; and what is therapeutic is also different for each person. Some may desire a person to be with them through the various daily life issues that present, and have someone to turn to who will fully hear, understand, and care for them no matter what comes up in life; someone else may want a deeper understanding of themselves in order to change repetitive and painful life patterns; others may want help with a more concrete approach to changing a specific behavior; some others may desire to have a person to whom they can show the most vulnerable parts of themselves, even if these parts aren't "pretty". Or it could be a combination of all of these, and more. The list goes on... However, it is worth giving further thought to a point I've seen come up from various perspectives in the therapy world.
Happiness is quite complicated, yet at the same time it really doesn't have to be. The problem with happiness is that there are certain fantasies that people hold onto that really distort a healthy sense of happiness. That being said, when it comes down to it, "happiness" is whatever it means for each person. However, movies, tv, media, and others have strongly influenced unrealistic expectations for what some people expect happiness to be.
I'm not naive enough (at least I don't think?) to think that I have the one reason that depression is such a difficult state of being. Depression has a different root for everyone -- and it's often a collection of sources, rather than just one thing contributing to depression. That being said, there is an overarching theme that I see with how people who are in depressive states experience depression, versus how people who are not in depressive states feel about depression.
Taking things apart can be such fun. It's a behavior often observed in children as they sit on the floor, building blocks, doing puzzles, etc., just to then turn around and destroy it, and then start over again. Or sometimes, it's taking apart household items and then attempting to restore them. Either way, this isn't only seen in children. Adults can also possess the drive to create, destroy, re-create, and so on. This can be in more obvious ways (and not all enactments of this process are 'unhealthy'), such as updating and re-updating a home, or having strings of relationships in which each new partner seems good at first, but then becomes expendable in favor of the newer, theoretically upgraded version of the last.
It's one of the most subtle, underlying questions that I hear in various forms nearly every day in my office. Some version of, "Am I going to become like my parents?", or "Please don't let me turn into my parents." Some people believe that they are doomed to the fate of carrying on their parents worst qualities, while others try their hardest to be as different from their parents and their parents' values as possible with the hope of drowning out any possible identification with their parents.
A while back, I wrote an article about why relationships break up. Though that article still stands, there are certainly things that could be added to it. Why do relationships actually break up? In another previous article, I discussed what causes attraction. In short, we as people tend to cut-off parts of ourselves that are unsafe or threatening in some way. For example, if we figured out when growing up that we would be scolded for being open and free-spirited in certain ways, it's possible we may become more reserved and close-off. What tends to happen with attraction is that we subconsciously find people both who remind us of "home" (family environment), emotionally, while also bringing in those previously cut-off parts of ourselves that we unconsciously crave. So if the closed-off person finds someone who is free-spirited, that's often an attractor because the person has learned that it's too risky to experience free-spirited feelings inside, and is now able to live out the free-spirited feelings externally, through another person.