Counseling and psychotherapy for everyday concerns as well as mental health concerns has gotten a lot of attention from the media, especially from movies.
The few that show it in good light also tend to show incorrect processes of therapy.
Some psychiatrists and other doctors have a negative view of counseling and tend to present it in a bad light.
Further, some therapists who are unprofessional, may conduct therapy badly and all of it gives counseling a bad name.
So, what happens in therapy? And what should happen?
It depends upon three things
a) the issue you present,
2) the therapy format and
3) the theoretical orientation.
For example, counseling for academic issues is very different from counseling for impulse control issues.
Further, the format can greatly differ as well. Individual therapy looks very different from couples therapy, group therapy and family therapy.
When the people are more in number and/or share a relationship, the dynamics affect the healing process and a lot can be learned from the interactions itself.
Theoretical orientation means the framework through which the therapist understands the problem, and more importantly, finds solutions from.
For example, the same problem of relationship issues may be seen as an unconscious desire to rebel under Freud’s psychodynamic framework, and maybe seen as faulty learning in Behaviourist frameworks.
Thus, the solution from the first framework would be to explore unconscious desires, but from the second would mean unlearning faulty patterns and learning new ones.
Given these three aspects differ, there is also a sort of general structure to therapy.
Usually the first session or two are where the client tells what’s bothering them.
It may feel like nothing much happened as the counselor didn’t speak a lot, but if they did, you would feel interrupted.
They will reflect and summarize and focus on your feelings and struggles, and that’s how you know that they heard you right.
You can also correct them if they are wrong and add to their understanding.
From the third session onwards, work begins as the counselor and you together work on suggestions and solutions.
There can be a lot of back and forth discussion, in-therapy practice and roleplay as well as homework.
Depending on the severity of the issue, therapy may be terminated in 6 sessions or may even go on for months.
It is a collaborative process and the more participative and truthful you are, the sooner it gets over.
A good therapist makes you feel heard and understood.
They don’t impose and try to tell your fate.
The whole relationship should have a feeling of positivity and hope, if the therapist is indeed good at what they do.
Soon, your motivation to change old patterns will increase and you would be on your way to a better, more fulfilling life.
If you do not see this happening, please inform your therapist.
It is important that you as a client know what you are getting into and what you would get out of the process.