What does it mean to begin a psychotherapy journey?
Walking into a therapist’s office involves entering foreign, unknown territory. Most people aren’t comfortable taking this step. Walking in means we’re admitting we want to fix a problem – and that’s pretty hard when most of us spend our lives believing we don’t have problems. Or if we do, that we should be able to handle them ourselves.
Very few people choose to come to therapy. Because picking up the phone means they must get past the voices inside telling them, “I don’t need any help. I don’t need this. I’m fine just how I am. Really, it isn’t that bad.”
Pushing past those voices and ending up in a therapist’s office for the first time requires humility, a bowing of the head. They have to admit — at least to themselves — that they can’t get through this crazy life on their own. That the old methods they used to use just aren’t cutting it anymore.
People get past the voices at different times and in different ways. Some have been thinking of it for a long time. For others, it happens suddenly, typically when some life circumstance hits hard. Some quietly tiptoe in, or come in the side door, or the back door, or are dragged in by another person who cares about them. Some are eager. Most are anxious — or even frightened. Some are breathlessly desperate, while some are just curious and want to play mental chess for a while.
Regardless, when a person makes the phone call, they know they can’t handle things themselves anymore. They must — reluctantly — admit that they need help.
But this isn’t a loss. It isn’t a defeat. In fact, by admitting this “need for help” and showing a willingness to potentially rely on another person, they cause a small seed of hope for relief to grow.
In making the phone call, there is the promise to be delivered from their suffering. To be relieved of the despair, tension, fear, inner hell, and self-doubt that is wrapped up in their pain. That maybe — just maybe — something can be better.
It’s not all hope, of course. I see their questions underneath. More voices trying to talk them out of going on this journey: “Can I trust you? Can I believe in you? Can I let you care? How dare I trust that someone will care about me or capable of understanding my unique dilemma?”
But I’m ready for them. They believe that they are trapped in a thick, impenetrable forest layered with weeds and vines and creepy crawly things. From my seat, though, it’s clear that in actuality only a vine or two is keeping them stuck.
And to me, merely represent another mystery. Another exquisite puzzle of human survival. I see it as beauty and dignity beginning to awaken in them.
Our excavation process will be tangled at first, and we must go slow, but there is a way out of that forest. You just have to get past the voices first.