I had promised myself a hike today. I haven’t been on one in a while and it felt like a good way to recharge and/or work some stuff out. It also got me thinking about the narratives people use when they first start counseling.
RAIN OR SHINE
I like things to look a certain way when I do them. Hiking is no exception. While I prefer a blue sky and comfortable temperatures, today was overcast and there was light to heavy rain. I was convinced that today was not the day I would be outside, until I saw a few others walking, working out, etc. I figured if they could do it and look okay, why not me.
Therapy is similar to that. Most people I talk to wait until they have reached some point within themselves where they are overwhelmed or in distress. This doesn’t have to be true all the time when starting counseling. Give yourself permission to engage in services without thinking that you need to be or feel a certain way. The therapist will typically meet you where you are at.
INVENTORY YOUR GEAR
I had packed some water, a granola bar, and a semi-charged phone to prepare for the hike. At the last minute, I kept just the phone (which ended up out of battery halfway through the hike). I do that- thinking that I can do things all on my own. It’s true sometimes, but I did notice today that I experienced heightened anxiety during the hike, so I wonder how my experience might have changed if I had those things with me.
When starting therapy, take inventory of your personal resources and self-care habits. Knowing this and regularly using them will help you identify when you need to recharge or when you have a full battery. It also might ease some pressure about relying on only therapy to make things better.
LOOK FOR TRAIL MARKERS
Trail markers are markers on the trail that help you find your way through it and to the destination. There were a few things that I noticed while I was on the trail: 1) breathing a sigh of relief every time I came upon a trail marker 2) tension building up in my body until I found the next one 3) giving myself permission to stay on the trail or take a different path.
How will you know whether or not therapy is working? Do you know what to look for or what you want out of it? Can you give yourself permission to stay on task and also to explore? There are strengths and resources to being process-oriented, goal-oriented, or somewhere in between.
A collaborative relationship with a therapist can help an individual with all these things- needs, wants, values, beliefs, and therapeutic goals. By doing so, this gives a safe exploration, beyond the comfort level, to discover yourself.