How good it feels when therapy works.
Earlier this week, a family session was amazing. And earlier today, a client said, “I usually don’t take in other viewpoints, but I can see this really makes sense.”
How sweet when someone has been stuck in place for 60 years and now they really want to change!
When a moment like this is portrayed in popular culture, it is sold as a “therapy breakthrough.” An epiphany. A single, amazing moment where the patient goes from a complete lack of understanding to having a totally different worldview.
So this is what people have come to expect in therapy. Lightbulbs suddenly clicking on. Big, swinging pendulums of change.
Interestingly, this is actually a good analogy. Therapy is a lot like magic. But not the magic you read about in fantasy novels. Not even the magic you see performed on stage. Therapy is everything that happens backstage.
Let me explain a bit further.
People tend to become fascinated with Houdini because of the — duh! — magic of his act. The fact that he had the amazing power to free himself from chains. To walk through a brick wall. To make an elephant disappear.
But Harry Houdini had no actual magic. He worked incredibly hard. He practiced day and night. And slowly, with a great deal of time and effort, he learned exactly what he needed to do to make his act look like magic.
Look around and you’ll realize that hard work is behind just about every big, seemingly effortless or magical moment. Every breakthrough.
Do you think Evel Knievel just climbed on a motorcycle and jumped across huge abysses on his first try? Or that Mia Hamm was that amazing the first time she walked on a soccer field?
The same grinding effort is required in therapy. The same slow, upward climb to improvement.
That doesn’t mean you won’t experience breakthroughs. But they tend to come because you put in the work, and a lot of what you need to know and do to change has already been happening for a while.
The breakthrough is merely the moment you realize how far you’ve come.