Sometimes, when I call back in response to a message left on my voicemail, I can tell that the person has no inkling of what psychotherapy is. Other times, all the person knows is that they are overwhelmed, and have been told they need anti-depressants, or their intimate partner is insisting on therapy. So, here is a brief review of what I would like to say to such an inquiry.
After a few months to a few years of good psychotherapy, there are changes within a person. These changes are not just on the surface level of being heard, understood, and having a space to vent about the difficult things in life, although these may be very important for some people as they may have never experienced this luxury before.
For many people, it is an opportunity to look within and see oneself in a slightly different light, within a context of growing up in a set of circumstances. This can lead to change, and maybe even help them reorganize their concept of their self. Relatively lasting changes occur within a person. People begin to be more accepting of themselves and view themselves in a more positive light.
Additionally, a person learns to have better self-understanding, learn to speak in more nuanced ways, be less defensive, and modulate their replies to aggravating circumstances so that they have responses instead of reactions. People in relationships begin to allow for another’s experience of them, understanding that there are not just “buts” but even begin to look for “ands” by which I mean there can be space for curiosity and the ability to hold two (maybe opposing) sets of feelings. Two things can be true at the same time between two people. This leads to better knowledge of oneself and the other. The person feels more mature in their self-concept, and there is less dissonance and friction in life. Physiologically and psychologically, there is more comfort leading to less anxiety in interactions with others.
The changes in oneself with constructive psychotherapy with an experienced clinician who is a good fit with your personality, can be long-lasting and life-changing. The person is happier, a better employee, a more patient partner, a more capable parent, and overall understands and accepts themselves for who they are. This leads to better relationships.