This is my column this week in the New Zealand Herald. Click here for the original article…
At some point I will have told all my clients “there is no wrong way to feel when you’re sitting on that couch.” It’s a simple idea that in practice is very hard to follow, because so much of what makes us miserable is the ongoing struggle between ourselves and our feelings.
Often this conversation comes up when people talk about feeling dependent on therapy, relying on their therapist and missing them when they take a vacation. They can be left wondering “is this what it’s supposed to feel like?”
When most people go to see a therapist, it’s because they want help with a specific problem. This may involve talking about skills or techniques, it may involve problem solving, it may even involve some advice.
READ MORE: • How to help someone with depression
However, if you stick around for a while, you’ll likely discover just talking to a therapist each week is helpful in and of itself. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Recent “meta-analysis” of therapy effectiveness studies consistently shows that the common factor when therapy works is the quality of the therapeutic relationship: essentially how well you and your therapist get along.
This doesn’t mean all “warm fuzzies”. It also doesn’t mean “falling in love with your therapist” as many TV and movie depictions would have you believe (I’m looking at you Sopranos). It does mean feeling comfortable and trusting enough to talk about any feelings that arise when you’re sitting on “that” couch.
The thing about these feelings you may have towards your therapist is not only are they not wrong but they likely reveal something important about how you tend to function in relationships.
Freud originally coined the term “transference” to describe the feelings the client “transfers” onto the therapist from their own life and childhood experiences.
In many ways psychotherapy is designed to highlight and bring forth these feelings. This might be relatively benign emotions, for example a relatively straightforward warm relationship tends to help therapy. But for some they may feel inexplicably angry with their therapist, abandoned in between sessions or feel their therapist is bored and disinterested in them.
All of this can be helpful (if not challenging) information to help you understand some of the unconscious patterns in your own life and relationships.
So remember, there is no wrong way to feel in therapy. And while the feelings might make you feel “crazy”, talking about them will not only lead to more understanding, but ultimately better relationships.
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Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906 (Palmerston North and Levin)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.